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Cashmere Cat - Princess Catgirl Music Album Reviews

The Norwegian producer invents a Vocaloid-inspired feline character and retreats from the spotlit pop of his last album, returning to the introspective hush of his earlier work.
After all these years, Cashmere Cat is still shy. The musician born Magnus August Høiberg has nearly a decade of prismatic productions under his belt, which has led to appearances on the big stages at EDM festivals, collaborations with childhood heroes, and studio time with the biggest pop stars in the world. On some level, Høiberg has had to adjust to the practicalities that this success requires. He once wouldn’t even do in-person interviews, but a few years ago he finally decided to open up about his life story in a music video. One would imagine he’s no longer hiding in a bathroom, as a friend of his once described, when DJ Khaled unexpectedly turns up at the studio.

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Little Brother - May the Lord Watch Music Album Reviews

The North Carolina rap group (minus producer 9th Wonder) reunite for a warm, breezy LP that recalls the best of their original work.

The prospect of a Little Brother reunion seemed so unlikely that both Day One fans and this guy expressed excitement and disbelief when it happened. For the past decade, the North Carolina trio—consisting of producer 9th Wonder and rappers Phonte and Big Pooh—were in different places, creatively and personally. They arrived with fanfare in 2003 via Okayplayer’s message boards and a big cosign from the site’s founder ?uestlove. This wasn’t Southern rap the way we were used to hearing it: Between 9th’s airy, soul-sampling beats and the rappers’ complex flows, Little Brother drew comparisons to East Coast stalwarts like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and EPMD.


Two years after the critically lauded debut The Listening, Little Brother signed to Atlantic Records and released its second—and maybe its best—studio album, The Minstrel Show, a conceptual LP that spoofed the WB Television Network and the cartoonish black images it promoted. Then the seams started showing: Little Brother’s deal with Atlantic fell apart, and 9th Wonder—who was in and out of the crew due to his rising fame—left the group. Little Brother’s subsequent albums, 2007’s Getback and 2010’s LeftBack, simply didn’t have the same verve. Phonte and Pooh had been rapping together since college; now they were grown men with separate interests. They were limping to the finish line and needed a break from each other.

So there was genuine shock this past May when Phonte announced on Instagram that he and Big Pooh had reunited Little Brother and that new music was on the way. In interviews, Phonte had been cool on the notion of the group getting back together. “I understand people will always ask for it,” he told Billboard in March 2018. “Personally, it’s not something that I have interest in doing, because I enjoy the peace that’s in my life right now.” His tone changed by September, when he was asked to perform a last-minute set at the annual Art of Cool Festival in Durham. He turned the gig into a Little Brother reunion show, and following it, Phonte and Big Pooh agreed to record a new LB album.

Phonte and Big Pooh sound rejuvenated, and while 9th Wonder isn’t on this record (or part of the group), the beats compiled by Khrysis, Nottz, Zo!, Black Milk, and Devin Morrison have a sophisticated bounce, making this feel like an old Little Brother album without dwelling too much in the past. Thematically, May the Lord Watch picks up where The Minstrel Show left off: Radio host Peter Rosenberg shows up as president of the make-believe UBN Network to announce the death of Percy Miracles (Phonte’s singing alter-ego on LB records), and ?uestlove appears on “Inside the Producer’s Studio” as a fictional James Lipton to interview Roy Lee (Phonte’s beat-making alter-ego who can’t really make beats). On “Niggas Hollering,” sports commentator Jemele Hill debates the all-time greatness of Michael Jordan in a fake First Take. In this way, May the Lord Watch feels like deluxe fan service for the 30 and 40-somethings who remember LB’s early projects.

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Like Tribe’s 2016 comeback LP, We got it from Here... Thank You 4 Your service, May the Lord Watch captures Phonte and Pooh where they are now without sacrificing what made them popular. Beneath the light moments, they reflect on the dark times that brought them here. On “Right on Time,” Big Pooh raps: “Took some odd jobs to put salmon on the plate, contemplating moving dope just to get my pockets straight … doing Uber pickups, they don’t recognize the face.” Meanwhile, Phonte acknowledges his struggles to stay above water as an indie artist: “Yeah I got success and the stress to match, ’cause peace of mind rarely comes with a check attached.” “Sittin Alone” delves into life post-30, when Netflix is more fun than clubhopping, and your scented candles are more exciting than overpriced VIP lounge liquor.

There’s no way to know if Little Brother is back back, or if May the Lord Watch was the group’s way of bringing this chapter to a rightful close. But if it’s truly the end, Phonte and Big Pooh have gone out on a high note. May the Lord Watch is the result of clear-eyed reflection, of getting older and wiser and realizing that petty differences shouldn’t dissolve a true brotherhood.


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