Saturday, September 24, 2011
Album Review: Phonte- Charity Starts at Home
Phonte doesn't make superficial music, he doesn't make trap music, pop music, horrocore music, or gangsta rap. Phonte makes working man music. Essentially, the North Carolina MC is not so different from you and I. He's a working class man trying to pay his mortgage and feed his family, also side stepping all the challenges and temptations that come his way. And like the rest of us, he still has his own dreams, as he wishes to finally receive praise he feels he deserves in a game where this is not place for the harsh realness he brings with his music. Enter Charity Starts at Home. Famous for his work with his group Little Brother, now one half of the group The Foreign Exchange, Phonte is finally stepping out with his solo LP, due to release 9/27. A leak has been out for some days now, and I have listened thoroughly, so I will now make my attempt to give readers the most accurate assessment of what the album sounds like and what to expect from Phonte on this piece, far as subject matter, flows, features, etc. This is a review of what I have heard, but i encourage you to all BUY THIS ALBUM so you can make your own assessment. Lets get started...
1. Dance in the Reign (ft. Sy Smith) [prod. by Swiff D]- This intro track works perfectly imo. Really sets the mood for what is to follow. Phonte says it best..."This is for Hip Hop! Fuck am I kidding, I do this to pay my mortgage n shit." He then digs into a very unique flow, piercing through the beat with tough but very subtle lyrics. "You niggas is better off playin hop scotch in a mine field." An impressive balance of lyrics and flow. He focuses primarily on his spot in Hip Hop and even says " I done seen the world, and if you ever saw hell, yo wouldn't want either", expressing how although he raps, he is a man 1st, and ideal that gets lost by other rappers who abandon their responsibility as men. Very dope track, but I feel its just a little short. But it serves its purpose.
2. The Good Fight [prod. by 9th Wonder]- This is everyday working man rap right here. You Big Sean fans won't understand or feel this shit. "Everybody has to do a job that they hate." Phonte loves hip hop, but knows his chances of selling like he SHOULD is far outta reach. Its like clocking into work everyday, knowing you work harder than most of the employees around you, but you the one that management won't consider giving a raise. So you keep fighting the good fight. "What the fuck is sellin out if aint nobody sellin?" I like the content and message of this song, the beat left me wanting more but it was good that it was simple because it made me focus on Phonte's words. Very good track. I can relate to every word Phonte spits here.
3. Everything Is Falling Down (ft. Jeanne Jolly) [prod. by Khrysis]- "Don't needa new style, bein dope is always in fashion." WHAT NIGGA? Phonte is not only spittin tough shit here, but he is also venting. So far these 1st 3 tracks have been real heavy far as Phonte's ambitions vs his responsibilities. He still drops lyrical gems like "heavy on the block like offensive tackles", "why rage against the machine when you can unplug it?" Jeanne Jolly on the hook meshes very smoothly on this joint, and the beat is smooth yet has a hectic feel to it, setting a mood like shit getting really really real, like everything is REALLY falling down. I love this track.
4. Not Here Anymore (ft. Elzhi) [prod. by 9th Wonder]-
9th Wonder did wonders on this beat. At this point, this is easily the beat that knocks the most, and the content lifts as Phonte doesn't wanna knock you over the head with his frustrations. This song is a bit more lighter, gives intricate flows and lyrics, and Phonte showcases his vocal skills on the hook, showing where exactly Drake got his inspiration to sing. Everything sounds hard knocking yet smooth at the same time. And Elzhi destroys his verse. You know when you hear an Elzhi verse, you're gonna hear unique patterns and a brash delivery, and that's exactly what he did. Perfect single for the album, and I love this track more and more I hear it.
5. Eternally (ft. Median) [prod. by 9th Wonder]- This is just pure spitting right here. I don't go around using the term "real hip hop" because I believe that's corny, but if I did, this tracks would perfectly personify that. I nice change of pace here as it doesn't have a hook, no real changes in the beat, just straight back and forth between both emcees. Phonte really blacked out on some parts of this song, and Median added his own style to this track. He didn't really grab hold of me like Phonte did, but it wasn't a bad addition. Brought a good feel to it.
6. Sendin' My Love [prod. by Stro Elliot; intro by Affion Crockett]- Songs like this makes you zone out and just connect to a man and his battles with love. I love the hook, as it has so much soul, much like the beat. Phonte questions our views on relationships and how we interact with the opposite sex this day and age. "People want what grandma n granddaddy had...but they aint have options nigga, we do." I enjoy how this track ended with the harmonizing vocals and with Phonte addressing his conflicting emotions, telling himself to go home and be strong...."be real real strong."
7. Ball and Chain [prod. by Swiff D]- Drake needs to take notes here, cuz although I like Drake a lot, this is how you sing on a track while not sounding like a pre teen girl finding her inner woman. This is grown man R&B, but the beat knocks like a hip hop joint. Phonte further addresses the battles of love, primarily focusing on his own woes. And when he raps, he uses a very loose flow, riding effortlessly on the beat. His wavey delivery really adds to the song, adding a certain bounce to it. Once again, a nice change up from earlier tracks. If you not a fan of Phonte's singing, this track may change your mind. He makes it work like magic here.
8. To Be Yours [prod. by Zo! & Phonte]- The instruments are throbbing, providing a light jazz mood like you're watching a performance in a coffee shop with the lights dimmed, and Phonte is on stage singing with so much soul. Not really a full track, almost an interlude, but it goes so smoothly.
9. Gonna Be A Beautiful Night (ft. Carlitta Durand) [prod. by S1]- Sticking to the R&B feel, Phonte even further addresses relationships, but this time with a better view, a more positive and optimistic one. Phonte and Carlitta are almost talking directly to each other, portraying us and or own interactions. When things were uncertain and troubling in Ball And Chain and Sendin My Love, now its uplifting, reflecting the ups and downs of relationships. This is definitely the upside, as the singing by both artists just lifts your mood. A subtle but still pivotal change in tone here, ending the relationship joints on a very positive note. Phonte took you on a journey, and ended it with putting a smile on your face.
10. We Go Off (ft. Pharoahe Monch) [prod. by Fatin 10 Horton]- BACK TO HIP HOP! Phonte blacked out from the 1st verse, with the flow and lyrics. "Niggas lookin like fools punchin outta they weight class/ lookin like food under pressure they breakfast/ its lookin like school and I'm the invincible principal/ Joe Clarken you niggas, sign in get a late pass." Phonte just spitting bars yo! This lyrical barrage makes you nod your head heavily, and you know it gets even crazier when Pharoahe comes in spitting nonsense with his knife like flow, cutting through every inch of the beat. My only gripe, was that its too short and ended abruptly. They went off, but they had a moment to really do more with the track. Because of that, this track may at some point become a skippable track, as it really just seems like a filler joint.
11. The Life of Kings (ft. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T.) [prod. by 9th Wonder]- 9th Wonder did wonders on this beat....AGAIN. I love this beat, so soulful and also hard knocking. By this time, Phonte seems to spitting on cruise control. Not to say his verse was wack, but you can tell he didn't want to overwhelm the track. He just rode the beat. Evidence did his part, I can tell he wanted to add to the smoothness of the beat, but while Phonte kept it moderately up tempo,Evidence took it down,which I was not too fond of. But it was by no means a bad verse, just very dry. In comes Krit changing the whole mood of the song, using impressive wordplay with a different flow we are used to from him. He definitely shined on this song. Overall, this is a good song. And yall said Krit isn't lyrical. Smh
12. Who Loves You More (ft. Eric Roberson) [prod. by E. Jones]- I LOVE this beat. Its a very big beat and has a lot of layers to it. Phonte really did a great job using imagery to bring us into the home where man and woman STILL struggle to co-exist in a happy home. He also addresses young men in the hood making tough decisions, leading to consequences that will change their lives for the worst, almost giving them words of advice. The verse really sealed the whole album. Phonte as an artist really has evolved into something great. This track SCREAMS that.
Overall: I really enjoyed this album. Charity starts at home, the charity being everything you give to someone or something you love. GIVING. Taking care of home being more important than any materialistic fantasy. Relationships, bills, and work can all be stressing, but hard work will rectify any bad situation. It just takes time and effort. Phonte really showed his range, from rapping, to singing, he even made one of the beats, fantastic piece of work. The album is also very cohesive. My only gripes, a lot of the album was too short. Some songs ended too quickly when he could have really added other elements to them. And some tracks were just "what you see is what you get" sort of tracks far as production and other layers not being included. But I still highly recommend this album. 9/27 is going to be a great day for hip hop with Cole World, Cats & Dogs, and Charity Starts at Home all being released on the same day. No need to argue about which will be better, I think we all can agree all 3 albums are good for hip hop. Phonte's album just brings a unique feel to it, and has a lot of replay value. If you love Phonte, you will love this.
Favorite tracks: Not Here Anymore, The Good Fight, Sendin My Love, Everything is Falling, and Beautiful Night.
Go and get it on 9/27, and support good music. Til next time, holla at me with any albums you would like for me to review in the future. Be easy. Whurlin