In 2003 a trio based out of North Carolina came on the scene with a sound that was reminiscent of the golden era of Hip-Hop, but all their own. Phonte, Rapper Big Pooh, and producer 9th Wonder comprised the group known as “Little Brother,” as in the little brothers of artists like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Although LB is primarily an independent group, their influence reached artists who are thriving today in both the underground and mainstream Hip-Hop.
Bronx emcee Prince Wiser and producer Album Kutz are influenced by the group and pay homage to them on a release called, “I Learned From Little Brother.” Released on Wiser’s very own Young N’ Proud Records, I Learned From Little Brother is produced entirely by Album Kutz. The 5-track EP features appearances by Nico Woods, Pat Rzl, and Sikai.
Prince Wiser spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about his new EP, I Learned From Little Brother, working with producer Album Kutz, and what he learned from Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder.
TRHH: What exactly did you learn from Little Brother?
Prince Wiser: With Little Brother, they just had such an amazing sound. I’m a student of boom bap music, lyrical creativity. One of the things that I did learn from Little Brother was that it’s not always what you say, but the way you style it — stylistically how you say things. Specifically, that’s the case for Phonte. He has a certain rhyme style and rhyme pattern. There was a while in the beginning stage of my career that I modeled my style and rhyme pattern after him. You understand what I’m saying? I learned a lot from them metaphorically and just in terms of making music. They were doing boom bap music at a time where that wasn’t necessarily the most popular thing to do. It was 2004-2005 and we had a lot of dance music, T-Pain, and a lot of rap guys were trying to go pop. They seemed to be doing something a little bit different. They were sticking to the guns and roots of traditional Hip-Hop, while keeping it modern with the sound of 9th Wonder. Stylistically how all of that was crafted, I learned a lot of from them.
TRHH: Artists like Drake have also been inspired by Little Brother, what about LB makes them so influential?
Prince Wiser: Yes, absolutely. That’s the reason why I even had a song like “Blank CD’s” on the tape because I’m also influenced by Drake and I also understand that he is a student of Little Brother. What I think makes them so influential is just pretty much like I said – the rhyme style, the wordplay, and they were just doing things a little bit differently in terms of Hip-Hop, and as a Hip-Hop duo even. Just the fact that there was a duo out at that time creating some of this music and wanting to reinvent boom bap as it was during the 90s and have an evolution of that. That’s what makes them the most influential. They were one of the few people to do that at the time.
TRHH: You mentioned “Blank CD’s” and that song is about your journey in Hip-Hop; what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your time in Hip-Hop?
Prince Wiser: It’s one that I’m still learning and getting familiar with and it’s that you’re going to get a lot of “no’s” before you get a couple of “yes’s” [laughs]. You’re going to see a lot of ups and downs throughout this thing. The important thing, and the thing you should always remember is to remain focused and don’t focus so heavily on the “no’s.” learn from the “no’s” and use that as esteem. For lack of a better term, use it as esteem to power your dreams. That’s what Kanye West said. I learn a lot from my “no’s” and I learn a lot from my “yes’s” as well. Just keep moving forward, keep pushing ahead, and don’t change up for nothing. Don’t change your style or sacrifice who you genuinely are for anything else, other than what you are.
TRHH: Coming from the birthplace of Hip-Hop it’s unusual that a group from North Carolina would be your inspiration. What’s the current state of Hip-Hop in the Bronx? Is it following the trends of the south?
Prince Wiser: This is how I kind of see it and I can only speak from my standpoint of an underground artist living here and trying to make a name for himself, I can talk about the Bronx as a whole because I’ve been here 25-30 years, I don’t feel like there is any real Hip-Hop culture still here. Maybe at one point we had a culture of Hip-Hop here, but I don’t think the same stands and applies today. What that means is, even down to Hip-Hop venues and places I would like to perform at, it’s very scarce. It’s not that many places around here where I can perform or do any kind of artistry. I don’t think that this borough is focused on artistry. More often than not I’m in Brooklyn for my performances. That’s just in terms of the landscape. I think generally, New York, in terms of Hip-Hop and developing its own sound, it’s coming from all over. It’s literally coming from all over. Right now, what’s popular here is UK drill. They got that from UK grime. Influences are coming from all over.
Me personally, my influences and why I was attracted to Little Brother and people who come from other places is because I fell in love with the true essence and nature of what Hip-Hop is supposed to be, just like talking about things that are going on in your neighborhood and your environment. So, I gravitate generally toward the artists who have something to say in their music, in terms of where they come from and who they are. It’s not just Little Brother, I love Rapsody, I love 9th, I love Lupe Fiasco, I respect Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, those guys. So, that’s kind of what all of those guys have in common. Even though they make different music, it’s not without a message.
TRHH: How did you initially link up with producer Album Kutz?
Prince Wiser: Album Kutz is a very close friend of mine. I’ve known him for 10 or 15 years. He actually lives right next door to me. Me and Album Kutz have been tight for a while. He started music a little bit later than I did. I started music really, really early. Maybe when I was 16. I met him through a mutual friend. He played me some of his beats and they were okay. I didn’t necessarily think of him as an option in terms of where I was going to be getting my production from or who I’d be working with. Slowly but surely, he worked at it and he kept growing, improving, and showing everybody that he wanted to really be in this line of work.
We got connected, I went over his house one day and he had ten beats in a folder and was like, “These are for you.” He makes all different kinds of beats. Album Kutz is very versatile. For whatever reason on this particular day I went over his house and he had ten beats for me and they sounded exactly like what I wanted to hear. So, I said, “Let me get those ten.” I went home and wrote the “Blank CD’s” record and maybe two months after I came up with the idea to create this project, base it around Little Brother and how they influence and inspire me, just as a way to pay homage.
TRHH: On the song “Christopher Robbing” you speak on some topical issues with Nick Cannon and Terry Crews; I saw black people split on Nick apologizing but were nearly unanimous against Terry Crews and his black supremacy comments. It doesn’t really matter what either man believes when it comes down to it, but both faced serious backlash. Do you think that social media made each of those situations overblown?
Prince Wiser: [Laughs] Absolutely, absolutely. Social media makes everything overblown. Social media blows things up to the biggest proportion of which it could be blown up. With the whole Nick Cannon thing, I love and respect Nick Cannon for what he did and how he was using his platform. I thought Cannon’s Class was a great show. I was an active participant and a fan of that show. I watched it every week. If he had a new episode I was there, watching it, and tuned in. I loved the interview that he did with Professor Griff. I thought that was very insightful. I thought it offered a new perspective. I didn’t think there was anything hateful about the speech. There are people that felt the opposite, and that’s fine. You’re allowed to feel and think however you wanna feel and think. I respect everybody’s opinion. Even in my music I’m unapologetic about whatever it is that I’m saying. I’m 100% me. You can listen or not. The thing is, I remain true to self and that’s the important part here. It’s important that you remain true to you, your beliefs, and you stand on what it is that you say, and you say what you mean.
TRHH: I’ve never even seen the interview. They took it down as soon as the controversy hit.
Prince Wiser: Oh really? That was super crazy. I think YouTube has it where you can get it again. That’s where I got the sound clip from. Somebody re-posted it. I’m pretty sure if you type it in on YouTube it’s still up there, just not on Nick Cannon’s channel.
TRHH: I met Griff many years ago and he’s a good dude. The hatred toward him is misguided. I don’t know what either guy said, though. I saw the one short clip and then Nick was apologizing for everything.
Prince Wiser: If you can pull it back up on your YouTube it’s definitely a good watch. It doesn’t feel like it’s as long as it is. You get some good information out of there and you also get some good insight into the mind of some people like Nick Cannon. Or the mind of some people who don’t necessarily depend on the system to be able to live the way that they live.
TRHH: What’s next up for Prince Wiser?
Prince Wiser: Right now, I’m promoting this project heavily. What’s next up for me is to keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like I’m on the right path. Just even taking a step to not having this project be available on digital streaming platforms. I think that was a big step for me because my confidence wasn’t so high that I would be able to sell a project and get the responses that I got, 1, and 2, just have people support it. Now I’m very much in a state of mind where I don’t have to go to Apple or Spotify and have them tell me that my single is worth a dollar. I can set the price for my single and the price is what it is. That’s the state of mind that I’m in right now.
I think right now the next steps for me moving forward is to be able to fully provide content in the way and manner that I see fit, and not have anyone controlling it, and also teach others how to do the same. That’s pretty much what I want to do. I’ve been building up a label of my own creation – it’s called Young N’ Proud. I want to have artists be a part of my label and teach them how to have some monetary success for the work that they do, and also provide them with insight and coaching to have them do what it is they wanna do and not have them depend on others for it.
TRHH: Do you know if Phonte, Pooh, and 9th Wonder heard the project?
Prince Wiser: If they haven’t, I would like for them to [laughs]. I would love for them to hear it. I don’t think that they’re aware of the project. I hope that I can get it out to them somehow. I met Rapsody about a year ago, which was really cool for me, that’s one of my favorite rappers. She’s a real cool individual. I would love for those guys to hear my project.