[Review] Phonte - "Charity Starts At Home"
Over the past few years, hip-hop artists have offered more personalized rhymes that find rich rappers lamenting their personal issues that plague their everyday lives. The problem is that their swollen pockets make them hard to relate to. Seriously, how difficult is it to deal with life when your bills are paid for, you have several vacation homes and multiple cars in your driveway? Sometimes we just don’t want to hear about those problems because the average Joe can’t relate to choosing the right Basquiat painting for their wall or feel bad for throwing away $4,000 at a strip club. You see, the average man has more pressing issues like when the light bill is going to get paid or marital issues. That’s where Phonte Coleman comes in. Former member of Little Brother and current member of the soul outfit Foreign Exchange, Phonte represents the true everyday struggle, minus the luxuries that most of us do not possess.
On “The Good Fight” Phonte boldly states “When you wake up in the morning, I want you to go to the mirror and I want you to look at yourself in the eyes and say ‘F*ck you! F*ck your hopes. F*ck your dreams. F*ck all the good you thought this life was going to bring you. Now let’s go out here and try to make this bitch happy.” This pretty much encapsulates life for most and the direction of his long awaited first solo album Charity Starts At Home.
It’s rare to find a relatable rapper in today’s climate of excess and luxury. But that’s exactly where Phonte excels. Dealing with a struggling economy and the fallacies of “The American Dream” are nailed with pinpoint precision on the aforementioned “The Good Fight” and the album never lets up on making you feel like this is the soundtrack of your life, rather than your hopes and dreams. The North Carolina gives insight on his personal struggles with the rap game on “Everything Is Falling Down,”
But Phonte doesn’t spend the entire album pining over life struggles; he can rip a mic a new one when the time calls for it. “Eternally” (feat. Median) and “Not Here Anymore” (feat. Elzhi) find Te’ waxing poetic and flexing just enough lyrical muscle to remind you that he is not just a storyteller. It’s certainly gratifying to hear Phonte drop potent lyrics alongside rhyme animal Pharoahe Monch on the appropriately titled “We Go Off” and reuniting with 9th Wonder to kick rhymes with Evidence and Big K.R.I.T. on “The Life of Kings.”
For those who enjoy his ventures into soul music, Phonte doesn’t disappoint. He delivers just enough on the soul end to keep his Foreign Exchange faithful happy without over saturating the album with his singing and upsetting those that have been begging for him to kick more rhymes. “Ball And Chain” feature Phonte’s vocal chops running down the transition of a woman who goes from lovable wife to hard to get rid of ball and chain. It’s almost too real at times and will have many men out their nodding their head in approval and appreciation for a man who understands their day-to-day lives.
The production on the album also stands out. Although some may find it strange that the best efforts aren’t those with 9th Wonder. Instead, Phonte shines alongside producers like Swiff D (“Dance In The Reign”), Fatin (“We Go Off”) and S1 (“Gonna Be A Beautiful Night”). It’s well sequenced, well produced and well thought out on all accounts.
Charity Starts At Home is what reality rap should mean. There are no camera tricks, no fake $100 bills be thrown in the club and no rooms filled with rotund backsides shaking to a bounce beat while endless supplies of liquor are poured on the floor. This is life and Phonte knows how to project it in a manner we should all appreciate.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5