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Charity Starts At Home

Phonte
THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE MUSIC
Remember Idlewild, the much-maligned follow-up to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below? Up to that point, Outkast had only released 5- and 4.5-star albums, so expectations said anything below that was a failure. Listening again, Idlewild is a solid and largely satisfying record, a perfectly acceptable 4.0, but, as it’s their lowest rated, we look down our noses at it. Phonte, late of Little Brother and Foreign Exchange, faces this problem with his first solo. Charity Starts At Home is a perfectly fine, and occasionally great, collection of songs, though it doesn’t best the quality of his earlier output. Blame it on the beat. Near the beginning of the recording process, Phonte reunited with Little Brother producer 9th Wonder for a third of the disc. Sure, it’s nice to hear them back together, but it plays more as a reunion than as a singular vision. Phonte’s sense of humor and everyman perspective are well-represented in “Sendin My Love” and “The Good Fight,” but the production keeps the disc sounding like we’ve heard this all before. When an A student brings home a rare B, it can’t help but feel like a failing grade.