Album Review: Phonte, No News Is Good News

no news is good news

Phonte

No News Is Good News (released March 2, 2018)

It’s pretty hard to believe that in a career that spans well over a decade, this is just Phonte’s second solo album.

Well, maybe it’s not that hard to believe.

Long before y’all were trying label Drake as “innovative,” Tigallo was alternating between break-neck rhymes and melodic R&B vocals on a host of projects – teaming with Big Pooh and 9th Wonder to form Little Brother, linking with Nicolay to create The Foreign Exchange, and even connecting with Zo! and Eric Roberson on respective projects.

Phonte is like the Arn Anderson of rap and R&B – the best tag team partner in the game.

But it’s finally time for him to tell his story on his own.

Consider No News Is Good News the maturation of Tigallo. Phonte has always been known for his outspokenness, especially when it comes to industry politics and tumultuous relationships. But with age comes wisdom – and peace of mind.

Oh and don’t worry, homie hasn’t lost his edge. In fact, on the album opener “To the Rescue,” Tigallo is quick to remind us that his bars remain as hard as adamantium before finishing off the track with his patented crooning. He’s still got a lot of weapons in his arsenal.

“They say they want bars/But it’s unfounded/Cuz when they get bars n****s be dumbfounded,” Tigallo spits on “So Help Me God,” roaring out of the gate with the album’s most intense lyrical showcase:

I am Hugh Masekela meets Masta Killa
Your OG’s OG just ask the n****
Audioslave with a mastermind
Any wall of sound Tigallo vandalize
Dog, I am no tap dancer
Tip-toeing audio lap dancer
Sounding like rap cancer metastasized
It’s wrong, it’s cruel, it’s f***ing infanticide

Immediately after, Tigallo switches his focus to weigher things, first serving up street prophet sermons on “Pastor Tigallo” (“This is prosperity rap s*** for people who be dreaming of Saks Fifth but pockets on CitiTrends) before diving into issues of black health on “Expensive Genes” (“Watch your weight no mistakes in the least/Or else you too will dig a grave with your teeth”) and the family structure on “Cry No More.”

“Cry No More” is an especially sobering look at Phonte’s life after the passing of his father, where he again urges better self-care in the black community (“put my pops in the ground, hit the repass and eat the same s*** that killed him”) while highlighting the struggles of the father/son dynamic (“by the time you realize your father was right, you probably have your own son telling you that you’re wrong/but be his ride or die, even if you two ain’t seeing eye-to-eye.”)

Yes, it’s heavy stuff but it’s a different Phonte than the one we’ve come to know in the past – even at his lowest, his rhymes shine with optimism, not bitterness.

growth

What she said.

On the second half of No News Is Good News, the newly remarried Phonte celebrates a love renewed. Freddie Gibbs tags in for “Change of Mind,” a proclamation of the rediscovery of love. That segues into the soulful “Sweet You” and then “Find That Love Again,” which gives us a cool Tigallerro reunion with Eric Roberson. Tigallo says it best here – “no debates, hot takes or arguing,” it’s simply an appreciation of reclaiming the joys of life.

Quite frankly, younger listeners might have a tough time relating to the mature themes of No News Is Good News. Phonte’s journey was paved with years of struggle – struggles reflected in each note of the songs above. Immature ears may write off those life lessons as sappy or overly preachy. But as my grandma says, “honey, just keep on living.” We’ve all traveled down the roads that Phonte has so vividly painted – and if not yet, trust, you will soon.

But Tigallo’s in a good place now. As he says on the closing track, “Euphorium (Back to the Light)”:

Been feeling real good man when I see myself
First time in my life feeling like I can finally be myself

After all this is an album about triumph, not tragedy.

At 33 minutes, No News Is Good News is an air-tight, albeit abbreviated listen. But despite the addictive melodies and vicious punchlines throughout the set, the four final words that end the album are by far the most important:

“Congratulations, you made it.”

Couldn’t have said it better.

Best tracks: “So Help Me God,” “Cry No More,” “Change of Mind”

4 stars out of 5

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