28 October 2011

Review: Phonte, "Charity Starts At Home"

After running the 2000s with classics between two different groups, splitting and beefing with his partners, and squashing the beef to give us more, the rising king of the underground finally blesses us with his debut solo effort, and it does not disappoint. From Little Brother to The Foreign Exchange, Tigalo has shown his versatility with the pen being able to flawlessly hop between raw lyricism and neo-soul almost like the forever-M.I.A. legend L-Boog. He displays his range all over "Charity Starts At Home" by finding a way to blend all of his styles onto twelve masterful tracks. After a few listens, it feels like this album is somewhat of a compilation of the many faces of Phonte, and as a hardcore fan of the underground circuit, I can say that this album could not have come at a better time.

The standout tracks shine like the best of the best from his catalog. "Everything Is Falling Down" and "Not Here Anymore" bring the classic 9th/'Te sound that we've fallen in love with over the years. It's hard to find fault in lines like "He told me to peel, broke free of my deal and left shackles / racing like petty in the stock now we heavy on the block like guards and left tackles / see where I come frometh, you and yours and up in arms like gun runners / and you are confronted with 99 problems and can't keep it 100 / then at the days end you ain't really done nothin / I made a new lane for myself and said "Fuck It." Why Rage Against The Machine when you can just unplug it?"

REAL. RAP. RAW. (Say it wit ya CHEST! lol)

If "Everything Is Falling Down" is not the strongest track on this album, then it's easily "Not Here Anymore" featuring the half-sized lyrical giant known as Elzhi.
"My DC niggaz say 'You Bammas Lack Experience'." Possibly my favorite line on the entire album, lol (DMV STAND UP!). Elzhi aka the "Syllable Sensei" holds his own and sounds like he feels right at home over 9th's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" sample. I hope we hear more collabs from these two in the future.

Phonte also manages to sprinkle in a bit of his Foreign Exchange influence on a couple of tracks on the second half of the album, finding the inspiration for the perfect transition
from his relationship with his wife, which works out well without watering the album down with an excessive amount of sappy R&B. "Ball And Chain" focuses on staying strong regardless of the temptation to creep which exists within all dudes, especially those who are locked down. "It's cool to be grounded, you know what I'm sayin? Just don't get used to being on the ground. Let's GO!" That pretty much sums up the vibe from the next couple tracks including "To Be Yours," which is probably the strongest song on the album vocally.

'Te quickly reverts back to hip-hop for the final three ride-out tracks. Pharoahe Monch makes a cameo on "We Go Off" and he comes through with the typical rewind-calibur shit we've come accustomed to from this cat. The only problem with this track, and a few others is the repetition of some of the sampled beats. I almost feel like 9th and a few other producers were playing it safe on the production side, but that might be nit-picking because the lyricism is so strong throughout. If I was to find a flaw in this album it would be that, though, but it hardly detracts from the fact this album is a bona-fide classic.

Phonte and 9th Wonder reconciling their differences might just be the most important thing to happen in hip-hop in the past fifteen years. Who knew that we would get TWO classic albums this year, one from Phonte and another from 9th Wonder? Hip-hop is alive and well, people. From 2004-2008 it was on life support from T.I., Lil Wayne, and Kanye West, but it has been fully revived the past couple of years. We can thank artists like Phonte aka Phontigalo for continuing to satisfy the hunger from true hip-hop fans worldwide. It's becoming more and more difficult to choose "Album of the Year" for 2011 after this stellar effort.


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