Interview with Rapper Pooh
I’m all right today.
Your new album Getback is scheduled to drop in a few of weeks. Are you happy with the early feedback on the album so far?
We had the one listening session in New York and the response from that was pretty good. A lot of the people are saying the things we felt in our hearts when we finished the project, like that this is our best record yet and that it shows Phonte and myself growing as MCs. It’s just one of those records where it’s like everybody’s been on pins and needles waiting to hear what the record would sound like and what direction we went in in the post-9th Wonder era. It’s funny that people are surprised and shocked. People are like, ‘It’s different, but it’s still Little Brother.’ We know how to make records.
Are you frustrated that the whole focus on Getback is on 9th Wonder not being a part of Little Brother anymore?
To be honest with you, it’s not even frustrating. It’s just sad. It just shows you what we’ve come to. It shows you that you have people who just want to focus on everything but the music. They don’t ask questions about the record. Everything is about 9th Wonder, which is crazy because niggas are saying the same shit in every interview. You’re not going to hear anything new. I’m not talking about you specifically, but you’re not going to be the one to “break me down” and have me just give it all to you like, ‘Ahh, this is what happened.’ That’s not going to pop. It’s like, let’s get over it already. I understand that people are going to have their questions, but let’s not let that be the main focus. Let’s talk about how this is a record that we have coming out and the future projects that me and Phonte have coming out. We can talk about some other shit. We broke up. We probably won’t be back together as Little Brother with Pooh, ‘Te and 9th Wonder. We had our run, which was great. We wish him well and he wishes us well. Let’s keep it moving.
The third album is always a big album for artists because it shows longevity and is supposed to show growth. What kind of growth are you showing on Getback?
That we’re just getting better. With each record, I can only speak for myself here, but with each record, I just try to work on certain things and certain aspects, like Pooh the MC or Pooh the Rapper. I go into each record listening to what I did on the last record and I try to improve upon that. I try to become a better songwriter, songmaker and a better writer, period. I work on my flows and different things and try to apply them on each record, so if you listen to the record, you can say that I got better. I want you to say, “I can listen to The Listening and The Minstrel Show and Getback and I can see the growth.” That’s the kind of growth that I’m talking about. On our records, we put so much of ourselves out there that you can hear our growth as people. On our first record, we might approach a topic one way. As we come to the third record, niggas have been through a lot. It’s been five or six years and we’re approaching things differently now. You kind of get a mixture of all of that as we get to this third record and that’s what I mean when I say that you can see the growth in us as a group.
You mentioned how you’re always working to get better. What do you do to improve yourself?
I just listen to a lot of the stuff that I’ve done prior because I have a habit of not listening to our albums after awhile. I’ve gotten into a habit of not listening to The Minstrel Show and I damn-sure don’t listen to The Listening anymore. I go back now and I listen to how we were putting songs together and I look at what I need to work on, like maybe my flow was off for a little bit here with the majority of these rhymes and I need to get in the pocket here. It’s just little things like that. I approach it like I’m playing football. You have to watch the film and go back and see what you did bad on and what you did good on. That’s kind of what I do. I just go back and I listen to it a couple of times and listen to songs that I’ve done in the past and try to work on those things that I need to improve on.
What kind of beats did you want for Getback?
We just wanted a different dynamic in production. We wanted some loud records. We wanted some quiet records. We wanted some records with changes in it. We wanted some fast records. We wanted some slow records. We wanted to be able to play some instruments over records. We wanted a variety of things. We wanted to change the dynamics on this record because often when you hear a Little Brother record, you can get in that one groove and you can nod your head the same throughout that whole record. That’s how our first two records were made and we wanted to change that up on this record and I think we did a good job of doing that.
Did you want to break out of the music that you’re known for and prove that you can rock over anything?
It’s not even necessarily that. We can rock over whatever we want to rock over. That’s not even a question. That’s not even a point that we were trying to prove. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you get it in your mind, you kind of have a vision of where you want to go and you know that one person is not going to maybe be able to deliver what you need. That’s not no knock on that person. It’s just that sometimes you need variety and the best way to get variety is by having various people. It’s not even the soul aspect. We just wanted something different.
How do you balance showing growth while still pleasing your hardcore fans that want what they know and love you for?
For me, I just look at it like as long as I’m making a dope product and putting out a dope product, I don’t look at it like I’m alienating my fans. I look at it like this – I’m an Outkast fan and I’ve been riding with them since day one and on every album, they changed to a new direction and my perception of them didn’t change and how I felt about them didn’t change when they went from Aquemini to Stankonia or Stankonia to the double album. Dre rapped probably two verses on The Love Below album but I feel that as long as you’re making dope music, if I’m your core fanbase, then I’m going to fuck with you regardless. I just want to hear you make dope music. A lot of people today don’t feel that way. They buy your records or they buy your t-shirts when they come to your shows and they feel like they own you and they can tell you what you need to be doing. They feel they know the best thing for you to be doing. I feel like as long as I’m doing dope music, that should be enough to keep my core fanbase happy. If that doesn’t keep my core fanbase happy, then are you really my core fanbase?
You kept Getback to 11 songs, which is an incredibly short hip-hop album by today’s standards. Why did you keep it to 11 songs?
For a couple of reasons. When we started making this record, we wanted to make it a short record. That was one of the goals that we had. We didn’t want to do a 14 or 17 track record with skits and themes and a whole bunch of stuff running through the record. We wanted to try something different, so we scaled back and we made a shorter record. We ended up with 11 tracks and we were still trying to add another track, but it just wouldn’t work. It just didn’t work. It kind of fucked up what we had going, so it just came to a point where we decided that 11 was enough. 11 was enough. That said everything we needed to say and it got done everything we felt we needed to get done. It’s still almost a 50-minute CD.
People look at 11 as being short because they’re so used to seeing 18 or 20 tracks on a record and when they see something with 11 tracks, they feel like they’re getting shorted. It’s nothing like where we have an intro for the first track and an outro for the last track. Nah. It’s all jams. It’s a straight 11 jams. Look at Common’s CD. This is not to take no personal shot at him, but he had an intro which didn’t have any rapping on it. That was his first jam. His thirteenth song on his CD was a song that was on the soundtrack to the movie he was in, Smokin’ Aces. So in actuality he had 11 jams. And then he had a song on there that he had done awhile ago but he had redone the verse. You can count that or you don’t have to. If you look at it and you really break his CD down, he had 10 to 11 jams on it that you haven’t really heard before. That’s the new thing. People are shortening up their albums. The attention spans of people are very short. You’re competing for listening time with hordes of music. You have to get in and get out. If you can’t make a listening impression with 10 to 12 tracks, then what are you doing this for? It just came to a point in time when we decided that there was no need to add anymore. 11 was the magic number.
“Good Clothes” is a different take as a lead single. What inspired that?
That was just one of those songs, man, it was a feel-good record. Everybody should be able to relate to that record whether it’s your first day of school, you haven’t been clothes shopping in awhile or you’re in college and you have football games and you go get that outfit to go out with that night. It’s just one of those jams almost everybody should be able to relate to. That’s just one of those joints where once we did it and once we listened to it, we were like, ‘This is one of those joints that people can just vibe to.’ I heard people saying, “If that’s the best song on their record, then they’re in trouble.” We didn’t feel that that was our best song on the record, but it was the right song to put out. People are putting out their best three songs on a CD and the rest of the CD is garbage. That’s a product of the times that we’re in. This was just one of those joints that we felt everybody should be able to relate to.
Are you happy with the overall response to “Good Clothes”?
Oh, yeah. I’m happy with it. A lot of people loved the record but some people don’t think that it’s the right record to put out first. Some people are still mad that 9th isn’t in the group no more and they decided to hate on the record because he didn’t do it. It is what it is and I’m happy with the record. I’m happy with most of the response with the record and I’ll just keep it moving.
Not to focus on 9th, but from interviewing you in the past, it never seemed like 9th was that involved in the album-making process to begin with. Why do you think fans are so hung up on him not being in the group now?
It could be a variety of reasons, man. A lot of people don’t read, so they might not have read those interviews or they’re under the impression that he was doing more than what they really know. Nobody really understood or knew how Little Brother worked behind closed doors, so when they heard that he wasn’t there anymore, the first thing they thought was that he was the brains behind the operation and he made the car go and he was no longer in the group so they were going to falter because he put everything together and that really wasn’t the case. It was a three-man effort and in the later stages, me and ‘Te took on the responsibilities of putting everything together and I’ll be the first to admit that ‘Te is the actual brains behind the record. The people assumed who was doing what and who wasn’t doing anything. When you assume, you make an ass out of yourself. They didn’t know that The Minstrel Show was recorded with me, ‘Te and Khrysis. They don’t know that 9th hasn’t really toured with us since 2003. They don’t know that we all pitched in to make the records work. They speak without knowing the truth.
Even if you feel that that’s how it happened and that’s how it went, what about ‘Te putting out Foreign Exchange? 9th wasn’t involved with that. What about me putting out Sleepers? 9th wasn’t involved in that. And that’s not to take anything away from what we’ve done, because without The Listening, who knows where any of us would be. All of us might not be where we are today. We all helped each other ascend to another level and it wasn’t a one-man show or one man did this or one man did that. It’s that all three of us came together and made it happen together.
What’s Getback’s next single?
Not sure. We’re not sure right now. It looks like it might end up being “Step It Up” featuring Dion. My man Hi-Tek did that one.
Your last album was The Minstrel Show, which focused on buffoonish rap music balanced with quality hip-hop. Is rap more like a minstrel show now or when you came out with the album?
When we came out with the album because since then, Nas has come out with Hip-Hop is Dead and after that album, that’s when everybody started talking about bringing hip-hop back. We were five or six months ahead of our time. Now people are trying to bring balance and change back. It’s just that we were ahead of our time. Who knows? That may have sparked some sort of movement. It’s like we were the forgotten forefathers of that.
After what you’ve been through with Atlantic, would you ever do another major deal?
Me, personally, I probably wouldn’t, man. I would have to get some ridiculous offer because in my eyes, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be. I’ve been through the process and I’m one of those artists that wants to put out music when I want to put out music. I don’t want to go through all of that red tape. I know all of the things that being on a major can bring you, but it can also have you sitting on your ass, waiting for your album to come out. I’ve been on both sides and at this time, I would just prefer to do my thing independently and go about and live my life. If somebody gave me a ridiculous amount of money and my record sat on the shelf the whole time, that would be a different thing, but I don’t see me getting that type of money. I would rather just keep it independent and keep it moving.
How did Getback change since it was coming out on independent label ABB and not Atlantic?
Right now we’re going through all of the same bullshit that we were going through on a major. At this point in the game, it’s no different, real talk. The only difference with a major label is that the money is bigger. From my perspective, that’s what it is. They open a few more doors for you, but you’re dealing with the same bullshit. You still end up frustrated at the end of the day and you still want to choke somebody because they don’t understand that they’re fucking with your livelihood and that they’re fucking with your life at the end of the day and I don’t think that people who are not artists fully understand that. That’s why you see so many artists freaking out and running up in their buildings and airing out their label in the press. You’re fucking with their livelihood. This is how we eat. This is how we live. This is how we make money. And when you don’t put that record out, you’re fucking up the money. It is what it is, man.
Why did Getback get pushed back from its original September release?
The label, man. A lot of people, when they heard it, they were saying that it was probably for the good. Ain’t no new songs getting added and ain’t no new shit getting added. Little Brother did what we had to do. We had the album done. We turned the album in to get mastered. We had the artwork. We went on and got that done. It’s just that the label, instead of being honest, they kept giving us assurances that it was going to work or that it was going to be a week later. Even we saw that the date wasn’t going to work. Then we found out that it was a month later and it takes the wind out of your sails. It wasn’t a distribution problem. We have distribution. It’s that they didn’t move in a timely fashion and now we’re in the situation that we’re in.
How’s your solo project coming?
It’s almost finished, man. I’m actually putting out a couple of projects next year. The first one is called Dirty Pretty Things. I’m trying to wrap that up. I go on tour in October and I want to have that ready to go for February. I’m just working, man. I’m grinding out. I have my other projects. When I get off this tour, I’m going to work on this project called The Measure of a Man. Me and Nottz officially decided to go ahead and do this project Home Sweet Home. It’s going to be Nottz on production and me rapping. I’m trying to get Nottz on the mic a little bit. It’s going to be with all VA artists. I’m trying to link up with Fam Lay out of the Star Trak crew and Pusha T and other artists out of Virginia.
Dirty Pretty Things will hopefully be out in February or March and with the rest of them, I have no idea. It depends on how Dirty Pretty Things goes.
What are your goals for Getback?
Just to touch more people than we touched with The Minstrel Show. That’s all I ever wish, to touch more people than we touched the time before. Hopefully even with our setbacks and our limited resources, we can accomplish that.
What advice would you offer to artists when they’re looking for a label?
Try to go with the label that believes in you the most and believes in you as an artist. Go with the label that’s going to give you the most exposure. Right now in 2007 and coming up in 2008, it’s not about getting more upfront. The music is really what it’s about. It’s really about getting exposure because it’s hard as fuck to break into the game in 2007, even if you’re making that bullshit. It’s hard as fuck. It’s one in a million because everybody is rapping and everybody is making music and you have to stand out from the next person. You just have to stay consistent and go with that label that wants to give you the most exposure and believes the most in what you’re making and hopefully that ends up being the right decision.
What do you want to say to everybody?
For those that are still supporting Little Brother, we appreciate it. Thanks for grinding and riding with us and we’re not going to let you down with this next record.