Patrick Denard Douthit (9th Wonder) is born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Seven years later, in 1982, 9th is introduced to hip hop and quickly became fascinated with the musical and cultural aspects of the art form. He goes on to study music theory throughout middle school and high school.
Phonte Lyshod Coleman (Phonte) is born in Greensboro, North Carolina. His friends recognize his talent as a rapper from an early age. As just a freshman in high school, he has advanced punchlines like “my name was on the list but it wasn’t Schindler’s”. He takes the name “Psychological” in a high school rap group, “Eternal Atoms”, with aspirations of being an MC somewhere between the likes of Keith Murray and Big Daddy Kane. Phonte and his rap group embody early 90s hip hop, walking around, cyphering, and dreaming of ridding the world of all whack MCs. For the next decade, Phonte would spend his time perfecting his craft.
Thomas Louis Jones III (Big Pooh) is born in Virginia. He grows up in the D.C. area where he develops a passion for sports, especially basketball, and for hip hop. He would later return to Virginia and graduate from South Lakes High School in Reston. However, his time in D.C. would shape his identity, as shown by his continued support for Georgetown and Maryland sports teams.
9th Wonder (Pat Douthit, DJ/Producer), Phonte (Phonte Coleman, Rapper), and Rapper Big Pooh (Thomas Jones, Rapper), meet in a North Carolina Central University dorm room. They realize they have similar music tastes, taking interests in artists such as The Roots, Led Zeppelin, and Wes Montgomery, and decide to help each other to develop their music careers. The trio plays an important role in forming “The Organization” (1998-2000), a group that seeks to establish a hip hop community within Durham. They also helped form the North Carolina-based alternative hip hop collective “The Justus League,” a crew of 12 MC’s and producers that they are still a part of.
In August 2001, the group decides to officially form a group called “Little Brother”. The group’s name comes from their belief that they are the little brothers of the hip hop movement and from their desire to carry on the tradition of good music.
Little Brother has its official debut with its recording, “Speed,” which deals with the difficulty of keeping a job while trying to make it in the music industry. 9th Wonder said, “After that night [recording the song], we knew the chemistry was there because everything just fell in its right place. The feeling was right, so we agreed to keep recording as a group.”. Within a few months, Little Brother has broken onto the local scene, gaining the attention of local radio DJs and club promoters and getting gigs at local venues. The group is soon signed by independent record label ABB Records.
Little Brother releases its single “Atari 2600.” The song’s lyrics focus on playing the video game and the song becomes a cult classic.
Little Brother releases its debut album The Listening, which received 4 Mics in Source Magazine. As implied by the title, the album urges hip hop fans to truly listen to and engage with lyrics and content on a deep level.
In June, Little Brother releases its first commercially distributed mixtape The Chitlin Circuit, a title that serves as a nod to the circuit of venues where black people were permitted to perform during segregation.
In September, Little Brother releases its sophomore album The Minstrel Show through ABB Records and Atlantic Records. As it depicts visually (in the artwork) and lyrically, this album compares rap music of the time to minstrel shows in the late 19th century. The album generates conflict based on its Source rating. This conflict eventually leads to the retirement of Editor-in-Chief Joshua Ratcliffe, who disagreed with the other editors’ decision to lower his 4.5-star rating of the album to a 4 star.
The group begins recording its third album Getback in late 2006. It is their second album with Atlantic Records. However, in January of 2007, the group announces that it is leaving Atlantic Records and that 9th Wonder would be leaving Little Brother. Their departure from Atlantic Records is due to the commercial failure of The Minstrel Show and due to ongoing creative differences. Regarding 9th Wonder’s departure, Big Pooh is quoted as saying, “Little Brother has decided, in the best interest of the group, for Little Brother and 9th Wonder to part ways. There are no hard feelings and no beef. This is just a decision that had to be made so all three of us could move forward and continue to provide the world with dope music.”
In October of 2007, Little Brother (composed of Phonte and Big Pooh) releases the now long-awaited Getback album. Despite having no major video or radio airplay, Getback lands at 89 on the Billboard 200 chart. Following this success, Little Brother tours with Evidence and works on attaining 100% ownership of its next record as an independent artist.
Little Brother releases its mixtape Justus For All, with DJ Mick Boogie producing in place of 9th Wonder. As the group had hoped, Little Brother successfully secured full control of this project and released it through the Hall of Justus collective. The iTunes version of the album linked 9th Wonder to the group with the single, “Black Light Special”.
Little Brother releases Leftback, its final studio album. Before the release, Phonte announced that Little Brother would take a hiatus after the album and that another album is not in the near future. The album was also preceded by a heated Twitter exchange between 9th Wonder and Phonte regarding Little Brother’s release of a previously unreleased 9th Wonder produced single, “Star”, on Leftback. Soon after Leftback was released, Little Brother formally broke up. Rapper Big Pooh stated, “I was just thinking about our own situation and then I realized, when groups leave, it's just like when a person dies. Every person dies and a baby is born. So, as Little Brother calls it quits, there are other groups to not necessarily take our place but to keep the tradition going...That's what it's all about -- you don't want your favorite group to force a relationship. Like, you don't want Tribe Called Quest...If they don't really want to be together, you want them to make another album. If they make an album just because you asked for it, it's not going to be the same Tribe Called Quest you fell in love with. It's going to be something forced.” Phonte also remarked, “If you're doing business with a friend, you gotta decide, well, do I end this business relationship and keep my friendship? Or do I continue this business relationship and end up wrecking both?”