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Phonte and 9th Wonder take it to the #streets

What's beef?

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Nearly every variation on the tale of Little Brother's collapse involves miscommunication: As Phonte and Pooh admit, they probably weren't very clear with 9th Wonder about their expectations for his continued membership in the group. For his part, Phonte and Pooh agree that 9th Wonder never expressed his interests in becoming a super producer and not simply a member of Little Brother. When Little Brother would hit the road, that bad situation grew worse.

"Again, this ain't got nothing to do with music, but if your friend is out there on tour, you shout at your boy—'Yo, what's up? How's it going out there?' You're staying in line with that communication as a friend," reckons Phonte. "Once those lines of friendship start to break down, it's hard to jump back into the music."

On the afternoon of Saturday, March 27, Phonte and 9th Wonder finally spoke—via Twitter, and for all the world to see. The two exchanged a series of shots of 140 characters or less via the all-empowering editor-less vacuum about "Star," a 9th Wonder (@9thwondermusic) beat over which Phonte (@phontigallo) and Pooh had rhymed four years earlier. As Phonte tells the story, 9th Wonder planned to put the track on his yet-to-be-released album The Wonder Years. The song sat unused for years, so Little Brother decided to make it the iTunes-only bonus for Leftback. But on Friday, March 26, Little Brother's longtime manager, Big Dho, called to say that the track would have to be removed. Someone in 9th Wonder's camp had made the demand, and Big Dho obliged. So Phonte posted the track for free on the file-sharing service usershare.net, accompanied by a finger-pointing explanation on his Twitter account: "In any event, I'm not gonna let anything or anybody stop me from getting music to my fans. Fuck that."

From there, it got nasty—well, about as nasty as two old friends arguing on the Internet can get. Attempting to dismiss any drama, 9th Wonder, silent for so long about the split with his former group, told a fan to "let people talk bro ... only if they knew the REAL story." Phonte responded with a request for the rest of the story to be told: "Well, tell your side of it or shut the fuck up." Oh, Little Brother...

Over the next few hours, both Phonte and 9th Wonder exchanged vague threats and invective online, amid talk about the NCAA Tournament and responses to fans around the world flummoxed by the fallout. At last, 9th Wonder backed out of the fireside—"I am done people ... no more comments ... no more anything ... period ... i'm blessed to do what I do everyday ... thank yall"—while Phonte prepared a 12-minute monologue that he later posted on vimeo.com. "This is the last statement I'm gonna make regarding the Little Brother/ 9th Wonder situation. Discuss, critique, comment. Enjoy," he wrote. His sassy video not only explained the situation surrounding "Star" but also Little Brother's inability to discuss its business and how that ultimately led, he felt, to the end of the group.

Reactions were mixed. Several hip-hop blogs picked up on the conversation and reposted it in full, while musicians and fans either goaded the two along or admitted that, for all of the good work Little Brother had done, it was disappointing to see the end arrive this way. "I hope they can all talk or just leave it alone. Make music brothers," said the first viewer to reply to Phonte's video. That response is largely in line with most of their area cohorts.

DJ Flash, who still serves as Little Brother's live DJ and remains friends with 9th Wonder, says, "This is stupid. When y'all was broke and sleeping on couches or doing whatever y'all was doing, we just had fun. It makes me mad, boy. It really burns me up."

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