Phonte on stage from jumbotron screen. Photo by Mesa Jones

Loving where you come from, a Made in Durham Block Party

October 20, 2023

Rap artist group Little Brother, founded at NCCU, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their first album in Durham where it all began. The event –  Made in Durham Block Party – was all about knowing and loving where you’ve come from, even after making it big as artists. Little Brother has released four highly acclaimed studio albums since “The Listening,” their debut.

Little Brother’s origins go back to 1998 when Phonte (Phonte Coleman), Big Pooh (Thomas Jones), and 9th Wonder (Pat Douthit) met at NCCU and began rapping together. At the time they were all members of the North-Carolina hip-hop collective, Justice League, a collective that included emcees, producers and DJs who aimed to explore alternative approaches to the genre. 

DJ and producer 9th Wonder left Little Brother in 2007. 

Phonte, a former Campus Echo A&E editor, and Big Pooh performed at the block party. “Let’s take it back to 2003,” said Phonte during the performance on Durham’s East Main Street. 

Phonte would go on to become a member of The Foreign Exchange with Dutch record producer Nicolay. The Foreign Exchange brought together hip-hop, electronica and R&B for a Grammy-nomination in the category urban-alternative performance for their 2009 song “Daykeeper.” 

“It was important to bring people to the city that made us,” said Phonte. “We wanted people to have a true North Carolina experience in Durham.” The event also featured artists The Cool Kids, Big K.R.I.T, Zo! & Tall Black Guy. 

The crowd’s energy was high from the start. 

“This is actually my second time seeing them on my birthday,” said longtime fan Khadiya Curtis. 
“They’re a dope group. I’ve been loving them since the first album.” 

Phonte said it took some time for the hometown Durham crowd to appreciate the group’s work. 

“The people in your hometown are kind of the last ones to be on board,” he said. “But now 20 years later, I think it took LB staying in the game for as long as we have and standing the test of time for people to really understand our value.”

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Phonte on stage from jumbotron screen. Photo by Mesa Jones
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