All three members of Little Brother, producer 9th Wonder and emcees Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh, are well passed their breakup phase and deep into their own projects. 9th Wonder manages Jamla and the Soul Council and just dropped the taut Indie 500 with Talib Kweli last week, Phonte is still mixing it up with The Foreign Exchange fusion band, and Pooh still collaborates as well, recently at the rate of about one joint-album every four months including his most recent, Home Sweet Home with producer Nottz. His last two, Trouble in the Neighborhood with Roc C and the propagandized Words Paint Pictures with Apollo Brown, arguably failed to take off at Mach speed, but the Home Sweet Home album released today (Nov. 13) is guaranteed to boost Pooh’s approval rating, thanks to its cozy home theme and the true-to-hip-hop sounds at its core. It’s a brittle, break-heavy center covered by a sweet, silky coating – a toasty textural concert just in time for the holidays.
A proper Mello Music Group release, Home Sweet Home hits home with hard, agreeable Nottz beats underneath Pooh’s wise insight and detailed descriptions of home. The warm seasonal feelings and notes make up the centerpiece. Pooh’s other thoughts and rhymes are the dressing. The songs that don’t tie directly into the album’s main story take the form of his fight for life, search for love, his work towards self-respect and his quest for recognition in his field, but still it’s nice to have flicks to go with his letters so Pooh has ‘filmed’ his fam for a day to make us all feel at home with him and his kin.
At the house, Pooh has got the whole lot, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews, with food being prepared, games being played, cards being dealt, the whole shebang (“Welcome Home”). “Homemade” gives us some more homey scenes: a disgruntled uncle getting out of order and Pooh stepping out to spot some mean-mugging kids pass the house before going back in. “Memory” takes us on a brief detour into Pooh’s childhood, and in “Home Sweet Home,” we again encounter the mean-mugging youngsters, except this time a scuffle ensues. Good though also bad, happy yet sometimes tense, this is how things go down in Rapper Big Pooh’s neck of the woods, like it or not.
A fully realized ambitious undertaking by the duo from Virginia, Home Sweet Home is a vast improvement for Pooh since Words Paint Pictures and exemplary, consistent production work by Nottz. The padded, deluxe beats are stunning with striking impact complimented by cool appropriate samples woven into every hook. Likewise, Pooh is as good as he’s ever been with solid rhymes in his detailed narratives and picturesque storytelling. The tracks are cohesive, they connect with one another and they incorporate useful and relatable topics and sentiments. At thirty-three minutes, it is a modest, slightly abbreviated span tasked with fully capturing the feelings and emotions of having lots of family around, but considering that that is not the only thing Pooh wanted to address here, he has thus skillfully and conservatively fleshed out and extended his concepts about all he has needed to and no more. Thank Big Pooh and Nottz, for in this project, they remind us all of the value of a warm, loving homestead (granted we have one).