Eric Roberson and Phonte
Tigallerro (released July 22, 2016)
Missy and Timbaland. Chad and Pharrell. Big Boi and Andre Three Stacks.
Sometimes, two creative energies blend so seamlessly that it’s nearly impossible to separate one act from the other.
By the sounds of the new LP from Phontigallo and Erro, we might be witnessing the genesis of R&B’s next great superpower.
If you know R&B and hip-hop – I mean, REALLY know R&B and hip-hop – you know their pedigree. N.C. MC Phonte came of age as a member of the renowned trio Little Brother before hitting a new stage of maturation as part of The Foreign Exchange. Meanwhile, Eric Roberson has remained one of the most prolific voices in indie soul since the mid-90s, dropping tons of solid projects along the way. Though mainstream success has been fleeting, both men have spent the better part of two decades pushing R&B and hip-hop forward.
Individually, they’re good. Together, they’re really something special.
Tigallerro, their first joint venture, is the sort of breezy, soothing R&B that’s as perfect for summer cookouts as it is for evening rendezvous. Album opener “It’s So Easy” lives up to its title – it’s three minutes of feel-good melodies and inviting harmonies. These two really do make it look easy.
The bass-heavy “Thru the Night” lands with thunder; it’s a head-nodder that would make even Busta Rhymes break his neck. Phonte’s rhymes are as sharp as ever:
I’m lookin’ at your body parts
Wearin’ that dress like it was body art
My body starts respondin’
But my mind says no and I start rewindin’
This inner war got my mind and body Hotel Rwanding
Just lookin’ for a Cheadle in the haystack
He’s clearly feeling himself, saying his woman is like sheet music on “My Kinda Lady” – “you can sing along or read it and weep.” And speaking of hip-hop, “Hold Tight” is a fun tongue-in-cheek track that mimics current, ahem, rap rhyme patterns, including those annoying ad-libs y’all love so much (“YAHHHHHH”). Leave it to these two to actually make a turn-up track sound good.
The second half of the album is less adventurous as the previous half, instead settling into the familiar mid-tempo territory that Foreign Exchange/Eric Roberson fans know so well. They’re masters of that sound, so that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s also the arena where Erro shines brightest.
“Grow This Love” borrows those weepy guitar licks that were all the rage in the ’90s (think Total’s “Kissing You”) while Roberson flexes his vocal chops. “Never the Same Smile” and “Waiting 4 Ya” are even more melancholy but exude enough energy to keep them from delving into the doldrums. The biggest treat is easily “3:45,” a cut so luscious that if you aren’t paying full attention to the lyrics, you’ll miss that the guys are on full creep mode. It’s the most romantic booty call you’ll hear all year.
While some parts of Tigallerro may seem like old hat, Phonte and Roberson’s chemistry prove that these dogs have plenty of new tricks. And at just 10 tracks, Tigallerro is the perfect album for summer – entertaining, memorable and over so soon that you’ll impatiently await the next adventure.
Best tracks: “Thru the Night,” “Grow This Love,” “3:45”
4 stars out of 5