Album Review :: Charity Starts At Home x Phonte

Phonte is the type of artist you’re glad to have in your iPod and don’t necessarily mind if nobody else does.  You might not reccomend his music to all of your friends, just the ones who have taste…the ones who expect a little more out of music.  The same can be said of the two groups Phonte has been a member of: Little Brother and Foreign Exchange.  Though you want the artist themselves to do well, it’s the type of music you almost don’t want to get too popular for fear of it losing its integrity and its quality in the process.  Phonte’s debut Charity Starts At Home is like proof that Phonte is probably not the artist who will blow up all crazy and sacrifice quality in doing so.  That is, if Phonte himself or the buying public elect for him “blowing up” in the traditional sense.

It’s easy to appreciate the production as much as the rhymes.  9th Wonder surprisingly appears on four of the 12 tracks, but the other producers get just as busy.  For example, Fatin 10 Horton produced “We Go Off”, which features Pharoahe Monch exchanging bars with Phontigga over a beat reminiscent of Little Brother’s heyday, similar to “Eternally” which features Median.  Elzhi appears on “Not Here Anymore”, a joint with a soulful hook and chock full of rewindable lines.  

“The Life Of Kings” is a thoughtful, jazzy 9th joint that boasts Phonte in the company of the very capable Evidence and Big K.R.I.T.  Phonte meshes well with all of his guest artists in the sense that they’re complimenting him and not the other way around or overshadowing him altogether.  Some of the best tracks are Phonte holding it down dolo, though.  “The Good Fight” is a track that briefly touches on job loss and the economy, flying in the face of mainstream hip-hop’s all-out denial of these things going on in the world.  

“Everybody prays for the day they see the light / but the light at the end of the tunnel is a train” – Phonte “The Good Fight”

There’s a strong soul element to Charity Starts At Home, with a lot of tracks being joints you could easily play for your woman when you’re in that smoothed-out state of mind.  Eric Roberson appears on “Who Loves You More” to lend vocals, while “Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” featuring Carlitta Durand, is almost a pure new soul joint that only features a verse from Phonte.  “To Be Yours” is a piano-laced interlude that probably should have been longer.  However, Charity Starts At Home is masterful in its brevity: twelve tracks without any unnecessary components or uncalled-for intros or interludes.  

“They say the streets turn niggas into sinners / but them jail cells be turning niggas into dinner / so they sing in the summer, be home by the winter / interrogation room be turning niggas into tenors”  – Phonte, “Who Loves You More”

What I appreciate about this album overall is its honesty.  I like Rick Ross just as much as the next open-minded hip-hop fan, but I’d question a person who could listen to that type of music all day, every day, without any soul or anything different thrown in for good measure.  Can’t be pouring Ciroc on model bitches every night…some nights you might just wanna sip a brew after a long day at work.  Phonte speaks to those of us who want something more; those of us who have steady jobs, children, and some responsibilities…and does all of this while still making fun records and not preaching.  Granted, this may not be your cup of tea and it’s definitely not for everyone, but “for everyone” isn’t something I give much weight to when determining quality music. 

Rating: BUYABLE + Attend the live show

Not Here Anymore x Phonte f. Elzhi


The Life Of Kings x Phonte f. Evidence & Big K.R.I.T.


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Last night, Black America was served up a chilling reminder that justice isn’t for all.  Civil and peaceful doesn’t work anymore.  We weren’t asking for socialism or reparations or anything of that nature, but simply to be reassured that the words in the Constitution apply to us as well.  America doesn’t have a good track record in assuring us of anything, but we hoped that in 2011, with a Black man in office (more on that shortly), we could find the bare minimum of solace in the idea that the police are here to “protect and serve” us just as much as anyone else.  We were looking for the tiniest bit of assurance that the judicial system can be relied upon to actually serve up justice and not give us the nigger treatment as it saw fit.  I don’t know why we expected any of this, given the track record to date.

I’m not blaming the white man in general for this, but we’re a country that hasn’t seen revolution in a long time.  We’re a country that hasn’t seen true civil unrest in a long time…at least not civil unrest that affected anything outside of our own communities.  White America feels safe.  They know that when angered, we will hoot and holler, sing songs, and hold candles and pray inside the safety of our churches, but won’t bring it to their front doors when a man who looks like members of our own family is about to be put down like an animal.  We won’t cause a stir in the white neighborhoods outside of the politicians and judges and policemen’s homes.  But we’ll march right up to the gates outside of Debra Lee’s house…because we’re angry about some sh*t we saw on television.  The spirit of Huey P. Newton no longer exists within many of us.  The only Huey we know exists on Aaron McGruder’s cartoon.

Pigs Vs Panthers

I remember people crying when Obama was elected.  I remember people of all colors dancing in the streets in Washington DC’s U Street area that night.  Let’s not act like it wasn’t primarily because he was Black.  Let’s not act like some didn’t register to vote simply because a Black man was running.  This all aside from him being the best candidate at the time, but the point still stands.  We never thought we would see the day when a Black man would be elected president.  Little did I know, we elected a politician who simply happened to be Black.  Of course, people will say it’s not his job as President.  However, he was a Black man before he became President and will be one after his term until the day he dies.  I would have considered it my job as a Black man to say something…to make some statement in hopes of swaying things or, at minimum, to give his people some kind of hope that the first Black leader of the free world (and more than likely the last the way it’s looking) is with us in spirit.  Again, I don’t know why I thought this.  I didn’t see it for Oscar Grant.  When Henry Louis Gates was arrested, he wanted to have a beer with Gates and the officer and squash the beef as opposed to pointing out the clear error on the part of law enforcement.  But he was there with bells on to speak out when Arizona wanted to pass an immigration bill.  I just hope that at minimum, private conversations were had between Michelle and Barack, and most importantly with their children…and that they felt how we felt about the situation.

There are those that would plead with our people to remain peaceful and civilized.  Why?  Has that worked for us?  Is remaining within the confines of American law exonerating us from incarceration and execution?  The only plea I have is that, in the event that there is some civil unrest, that it is taken outside of our own communities.  Remaining docile like good little slaves doesn’t save one from the whip.  It’s disgusting that I, as a Black father, have to have a completely different conversation with my Black son about the law than a white father has with his white son.  So get the f*ck out of my face with that “post-racial” Uncle Tom pie in the sky bullsh*t.  That isn’t the country we live in.  Just my view on it.



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