Breathe Easy

For a subgenre that prides itself on innovation and a healthy dose of anti-establishment attitude, the underground hip-hop scene has yielded few breakout stars in 2003 -- except for Little Brother. The North Carolina-based trio seemingly came out of nowhere to foist The Listening on unsuspecting hip-hop fans. A sumptuous full-length that couples classic soul breaks made by producer 9th Wonder with intelligent yet earthy rhymes from Phonte and Big Pooh, this near-classic debut has less in common with blinged-out thug muzik by Chingy and 50 Cent than with other oft-ignored albums by the Roots, Slum Village, and Talib Kweli.

The Listening has been slowly building a buzz all year, leading to Little Brother's much-welcome Miami performance during the Billboard R&B and Hip-Hop Conference. The group is scheduled to appear alongside Dynas and whoever else is in town, which could mean any number of as-yet unconfirmed guests. But be forewarned: This is being billed as an "early-ass show" that ENDS at 11:00 p.m. Get there early.

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Mosi Reeves
Contact: Mosi Reeves