Retrospective: Little Brother's The Listening vs The Minstrel Show

Two albums that both have a great legacy attached to it. Little Brother, the trio from out of North Carolina, solidified themselves as a legendary group with their first two albums, gaining love through the underground, along with some mainstream attention too. Which album is better? Today, the team, along with Ring of Honor Professional Wrestler and hip hop enthusiast ACH sit down to discuss both albums and decide which album is essentially better.

The Listening

1. Morning
2. Groupie Part 2
3. For You
4. Speed 
5. Whatever You Say
6. Make Me Hot
7. The Yo-Yo
8. Shorty On The Lookout
9. Love Joint Revisited
10. So Fabulous
11. The Way You Do It
12. Roy Lee, Producer Extraordinaire 
13. The Get-Up
14. Away From Me
15. Nobody But You
16. Home
17. Nighttime Maneuvers 
18. The Listening


The Minstrel Show

1. Welcome To The Minstrel Show
2. Beautiful Morning
3. The Becoming
4. Not Enough
5. Cheatin
6. Hiding Place
7. Slow It Down
8. Say It Again
9. 5th and Fashion(Skit)
10. Lovin' It
11. Diary Of A Mad Black Daddy(skit)
12. All For You
13. Watch Me
14. Sincerely Yours
15. Still Lives Through
16. Minstrel Show Closing Theme
17. We Got Now

This is a tough one... It all depends on which one has the more classics IMO. The Minstrel Show was my first Little Brother album and it shows their growth as artists. Dude, honestly I'm going to have to pick The Minstrel Show. I think this album did more for them than the The Listening. If it wasn't for The Listening, we wouldn't have gotten the Minstrel Show, but after this album they really blew up and solidified themselves. I think the message overall of The Minstrel Show is what also makes it the better album IMO. Plus, it also hipped me to Elzhi, who killed his verse on "Hiding Place". The album also featured hilarious moments too and I can't listen to "Cheatin" just once, I play that shit like 4 times! I love that joint! When it comes to The Minstrel Show, I think Phonte's charisma outshined Pooh just a bit and 9th Wonder was killing it on the beats. Yeah, I'll have to go with The Minstrel Show.

Both albums are pretty important to hip hop if you open your mind. These are easily Little Brother's best albums. It's as if they channeled Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders respectively(Editor's Note: Another Roundtable Coming Soon). I actually can't decide which one is better because they both are equal in my eyes, but for the sake of the discussion I'll say The Listening gets the edge by a hair.

Classic tracks like "Groupie, part 2", "Shorty on the Lookout" are too strong to overlook. ""Speed" is like a coming of age type track where Phonte is just pouring out his soul. It helped me get through some things as a teen no doubt. "For You" is my 2nd favorite song on the album because the beat by 9th is just so addictive and the back and forth by Pooh and Tigallo is great. Shit takes me back for real man. "Whatever You Say" is my favorite track by them and especially on the album. It's too much soul on that beat which made everyone take notice of 9th Wonder. I would have even been satisfied if just the instrumental was on there.

The Minstrel Show is also a classic and "Lovin' it" is an all time track. That Stylistics sample gets me everytime, it's so clean and crisp. If you wanted to make the argument that Minstrel Show is better for the production, I would agree with that. I think 9th went with more focused soul samples instead of the sparse boombap of the Listening. I think Minstrel Show is a great concept album and it's lean and concise.

While I personally think the Chitlin Circuit mixtape/album is their best work, it's to be noted that both albums are great and LB should be credited with bringing new light on the soul hip hop alternative scene in a time where there was pure snapping and other filth going on in rap.

This is always a tough choice, since both of these albums hold a pretty solid place in my hip-hop loving heart. The Listening is the album which introduced the world to LB. The Minstrel Show was the "controversial" album that drew in even more mainstream attention. Both have their pluses and minuses. So, which one's a better album?

As cliche as it may sound, I can't pick. Why? Well, The Minstrel Show is, in some ways, the evolution of The Listening. The concept, a parody of hip-hop tropes and BET, hits as hard in 2015 as it did ten years ago (wow, it's been that long?!). However, it is the evolution from the WJLR days two years earlier.

9th hits on the beats. Pooh and Phonte hit with the bars. And we're taken back to the days when Little Brother were essentially the Mid-Atlantic answer to OutKast. So, instead of saying eeny, meeny, minee, moe on this roundtable, just get 'em both and make your earholes happy.

With two near perfect albums like The Listening and The Minstrel show, its hard for me to say which one is better overall. The concept behind both are executed perfectly, from the radio to the stage. It reminds me of when people say which volume of Kill Bill is better, when they're both part of the same complete movie. Without turning this into a full fledged review, I personally like The Minstrel Show better.
The Listening is one of those "breath of fresh air" albums in hip hop, but this is typical in the underground. The Minstrel Show was a harder concept to execute without sounding too preachy, but it was done perfectly. Phonte especially is always on point and 9th Wonder shines on both, but the lyricism is deeper and more introspective on The Minstrel Show,  and we hear this on tracks like "Sincerely Yours". Even the skits and interludes shape the whole album perfectly without taking away from the message or sounding corny. I love the laid back smoothness of The Listening, but I will say The Minstrel Show is better all around.

Little Brother is one of my favorite hip hop groups. Personally, I think they have an amazing catalog, and these two albums are their best work. This is an extremely tough choice, but personally, I have to go with The Minstrel Show.

The Listening is an amazing album, a classic. It features relatable songs such as "Speed", dopeness like "The Yo-Yo", "Nobody But You", and more. There isn't a bad song on the whole album. I listen to this album all the way through and I love it more every time. I first discovered The Listening around 2003-2004 while in a record and tape traders store, but I had heard of them beforehand on a few underground rap forums. The Listening was my introduction to them, and while I loved the album and became a fan, it was The Minstrel Show that put them on my favorites list.

The Minstrel Show is a conceptual album that musically is flawless. 9th does his thing on the production, Pooh comes with great rhymes, but Phonte is the MVP of the album as he spits two of my all time favorite verses on this album. His verses on "Slow It Down" and "All For You" are both so real and honest that they instantly connected with me. The album is so cohesive, concise, and is just a bit ahead of The Listening. One thing about The Minstrel Show is that it infused the skits to continue the album's narrative while also bringing comedic elements with them. Check the "5th and Fashion" skit out for evidence of that, along with the hilarious Phonte/Percy Miracles song "Cheatin", which has to be replayed a few times, as ACH mentioned.

Two great albums, both classics. I just lean towards The Minstrel Show.



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