On Saturday, the Durham hip-hop legends will share a stage with Lute, Kooley High, Indigo De Souza, and Rafael Saadiq.
In 2010, the legendary Durham hip-hop group Little Brother announced they were breaking up for good. So last year, when Phonte and Big Pooh took the stage together at Durham’s Art of Cool Festival along with their former third member, producer 9th Wonder, their surprise reunion caused quite a commotion on the Internet. In August, fans rejoiced when Little Brother, now the duo of Phonte and Big Pooh, dropped May the Lord Watch. A tightly produced collection of songs about reconciling your dreams with the passage of time and the responsibilities of adulthood, it was the group’s first album in nine years.
On Saturday night at Hopscotch’s City Plaza stage, Little Brother will headline an evening of music they curated especially for the festival, featuring fellow NC-based artists Lute, Kooley High, Indigo De Souza, and Raphael Saadiq. We caught up with Phonte on the phone about putting together a lineup that bridges generations and why he never left North Carolina.
What’s your personal history with Hopscotch?
I’ve been there as a spectator. I saw Solange there two years ago. But I was called in as an emergency performer in 2017 for Makonnen. He had to miss the gig because of the hurricane, and they called me at the last minute and were like, “Yo, you want to come do a show?” And that was it. It was fun. I was just like, “Alright, let’s go.”
What would you say is your favorite Hopscotch memory?
I think that’s definitely my favorite Hopscotch memory.. I also really liked seeing Solange at Hopscotch. That was really dope.
Tell me about the bill that you put together for the festival this year. Why did you pick the artists that you picked? Were there any kind of commonalities that you were trying to highlight in them?
We just really wanted to have the people that we thought represent some of the best of what North Carolina hip-hop had to offer. So all these people like Kooley High and Lute, these are all cats that we feel are kind of extensions—or like fruit from our tree, groups that we definitely helped inspire and influence. We felt it was important to bring it all full circle and create that bridge from the older generations to the newer generations.
What do you love the most about being an artist here in North Carolina?
You can really just focus on your craft without a lot of distractions with that kind of solitude—or even, somewhat, the isolation. You can really hone and develop your craft here, and then move it out to the rest of the world. That was something that was really important to me. It’s why I never moved away. I stayed here.
How does living here influence the music you create?
Here in the South, it’s a slower pace of living. It’s just a different way of life altogether. I think it’s living around trees and the scenery we have here. It’s just that solitude—it lends itself to a lot of reflection. So a lot of our music is observant. I guess that’s the best way to say it. There’s a lot of observation and a lot of self-analysis. A lot of it is really kind of digging inside yourself and just working [through] your thoughts and examining things. I think that’s something that’s very unique to North Carolina and very unique to the South. We take time to really look at things in detail, because we have that time to think. I think that shows in the records
Catch Little Brother at City Plaza on Saturday, September 7, at 7:15pm: Buy Tickets
– Sarah Riazati