Their profile jumped on the strength of producer 9th Wonder's terrific work with Jay-Z (The Black Album's "Threat"), Jean Grae and Destiny's Child, but emcees Big Pooh and Phonte aren't exactly milquetoast. The Durham, N.C., trio lead a crew they call the Justus League, and like their 2003 debut, The Listening, their latest is tied together by a broadcast conceit. Now the "Future of Rap" station, WJLR (Justus League Radio), has graduated to the UBN (U Black Nigger) Television Network, where their "Minstrel Show" variety hour plays out. Still feeling the native tongue vibe, the influence of 9th Wonder's work with Grae and Destiny's Child is evidenced in more of a sexy R&B swerve. Phonte and Big Pooh deliver the bluster on classic "sucker emcees" numbers such as "Not Enough" and "Watch Me," while maintaining their cool: "No need to act the fool in public, because when you ego trip you just lose your luggage." They got the yokes as well, from the "Trapped in the Closet" skewering "Cheatin'" to the spot-on "5th and Fashion" skit, and round it out with their brand of love and work-driven verité.
Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Clutch Cargo's, 65 E. Huron, Pontiac; 248-333-2362; with Fort Minor.
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.