April 27th, 2008 | Interviews

Joe McGarry
Little Brother’s Big Pooh and Phonte released their album Getback last year and will be performing at Coachella this weekend.

When was the last time ‘Baby, do you wanna massage?’ worked?
Big Pooh: Shit, I don’t wanna give away trade secrets! It still works, you know?
How do you set it up?
It’s easy. You gotta get one on one with a girl first, and you talk and whatever, and nobody can turn down a massage! You hit ‘em with, ‘Yo, you look a little tense.’ And she’ll be like, ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘Lemme give you a little massage. I got hands that heal, you know?’ And that’s gonna pique their interest. ‘Let me demonstrate on your neck.’ And if you’re good—such as I am—you are able to take it to the next level.
When was the first time that worked?
I didn’t learn massage til college. Nobody taught me when I was in high school. You gotta refine the massage skills.
Is that the most valuable thing you learned in college?
When I was in college, I didn’t do too much going to class! For me, it was the whole social aspect of just networking with different people, and also learning how to work the system. We just found different ways to get perks. I was like one of the only freshmen in an upper-class co-ed dorm. I finagled my way into that. I got to know all the top people. I knew the housing guy—if I had a problem, I’d jump the secretaries! I knew the financial aid lady—I could call her—I didn’t wait in line! If nothing else, it taught me—it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Have any women said anything to you about ‘Breakin My Heart’?
I ain’t had no girls lay that on me—it’s crazy, but whenever Little Brother do girl joints or I do soul joints, it’ll be so plain for you that you don’t have to decipher anything we’re saying. We’re putting it out there—‘This is how I feel, this is how it is, you know?’ Get with it or don’t!
Who does reach out to get a hold of you?
A lot of people. Even just people looking for something different than what they hear on the radio everyday, or people who have been through the situations we might have stated on the records. Like I had a guy—I had a verse about my brother being ready to come home after being locked up for eight years, and I was trying to tell him how life changed since he’d been gone. So a dude emails me on Myspace—‘Yo, I been trying to explain how I felt and nobody could understand me, but when I heard that verse, I was able to play it for my family and they’d understand.’ There’s no words to describe the feeling when you get emails like that. Or ‘Your first album got me through a tragic situation in college.’ That’s the greatest feeling in the world.
What was it like when that first started happening?
It was scary! When you’re just naïve to a lot of things and you’re making music and having fun, and then you start getting real life connections—you’re taken aback for a little while! That touches you in a way you’ve never been touched before—emotionally. It’s like, ‘Whoa, you’re serious!’ Now it’s easier to accept—you can understand it now.
What musicians have had that effect on you?
I know Pete Rock and C.L.—it depends. A lot of New York stuff, I didn’t understand until I went to New York. I don’t know if people take it to the level we take it to as far as putting personal stuff in. With a lot of artists, you only get one aspect of their personal life. With us, it’s trials and tribulations, successes and failures—not a lot of artists do that. We’re one of the few that do, I think. I have fun with it—use it as a form of therapy.
Who loves you more: Omaha or Estonia?
Shit—good question! Omaha—I gotta give it up for Omaha. It was maybe 200, if that, and they were just so excited for everybody. We were hearing the crowd before we ever got on. People were coming in the bus—‘Yo, they crazy! They nuts!’ I was thinking it was full, and we get in there and it’s like—‘What are you talking about?’ But when we got in, it was dope.
How soon until Little Brother goes completely independent?
It could happen today! The reality of it is we did our own tours already, even on Atlantic—along with a booking agent, that was us. We dealt with sponsors one-on-one, we put records out—we just haven’t put a Little Brother record out, but we put records out already. We’ve done it all before. We’ve just never done it all for Little Brother. For the next record, we definitely want ownership—the first record we’ll have 100% ownership of.
You said 2007 was a “year of liberation” for Little Brother. Is that a happier way of looking at a year of frustration?
You gotta make a choice what kind of year it’s gonna be. Like a glass half-full thing. We had a whole lot of shit go down—label shit, group shit, whatever. You can look at it one of two ways. Like ‘Ahhh, this is bullshit!’ Or ‘Fuck it! This is a new chapter in my book of life.’ So I look at it as a new chapter. The Atlantic chapter ended, the 9th Wonder chapter ended—a whole lot of chapters ended. Time to turn the page to a new chapter.