After ten years of friendship, rapper/singer Phonte Coleman from well-known hip hop and R&B groups, Little Brother and Foreign Exchange, and R&B artist Eric Roberson have joined forces as a duo to release their first project entitled Tigallerro.
Since becoming recording artists, Coleman and Roberson have collaborated on each other’s group and solo albums, creating anticipation for the day they would record their own album. In an effort to experiment with blending genres, their initial plans for the album began in late 2013, but due to conflicting schedules, the duo had to put their desires on hold. As a result, they had to carve out time to go into the studio to record the ten song offering earlier this year. Today, the pair released Tigallerro on their independent record labels +FE Music and Blue Erro Soul to music audiences worldwide.
EBONY.com sat down with Coleman and Roberson to discuss their new album and their future plans.
EBONY.com: When did you guys first meet?
Phonte: The first time we met was in 2006. I was doing a Little Brother show in New Jersey. We were opening up for this band named O.A.R. Erro [Eric] came out to the show, and we were fans of each other’s work. A mutual friend of ours named Jay ran this website called The Formula. He linked us together. After the show, we went back to his crib and recorded “Been in Love” for his album …Left. This was the start of our working relationship.
Eric Roberson: I remember I just finished doing an interview with his friend, then Phonte did one the next day. Jay told Phonte that he interviewed me, and he gave Phonte my number. I was in the studio and got a call from out of the blue. Phonte said, “Yo. This is Phonte from Little Brother.” I replied, “Yo! What’s up?” [laughs] We spoke for a few minutes and realized we were fans of each other’s music. It was inevitable for us to work together.
EBONY.com: What made this the right time for you guys to collaborate on this album together?
Phonte: This was the only time for us to fit it into our schedules. We have so much going on. Originally, we made an announcement at the end of 2013 that we were going to do an album together. Then, 2015 came around and he was touring and I was touring. Finally, we sat down and said we were going to do the album in 2016. We blocked out two months to get it done because I was starting to work on VH1’s The Breaks and co-producing and co-writing on Zo!’s album, Skybreak. Erro just had his third kid, so we had to get it done. Also, it’s been ten years of change in both of our lives.
Eric Roberson: Truth be told, this album is not just an album of two artists getting together, but it’s an album that symbolizes our friendship. I knew this brother when I wasn’t married and I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. I didn’t have kids at that time. These experiences show up in our music.
— Phonte (@phontigallo) July 20, 2016
EBONY.com: On this record, there is a good balance between the rapping and singing elements. What was your overall approach in creating music for this album?
Eric Roberson: Well, I’m a big fan of Phonte’s. I think his wordplay, whether he is singing or rhyming, is top notch. I was campaigning to make sure that Phonte rhymed a good amount on this record. This album is a showcase to show how talented he really is. He is bridging the gap for those Little Brother and Foreign Exchange fans. At the same time, he has the vocal range to sing the hook on a song he is rapping on. Overall, it just felt right. Everything was organic when we were working together on this record. It didn’t feel forced. Hell, I even rhymed on two of the songs on the album. If it felt good, we just made it happen. There aren’t too many rappers that know the melodic breakdown of filling up space, musically. There’s a reason why Black Thought works so well with The Roots because he understands melodic structure. Phonte is one of those rappers, too.
Phonte: We’re kind of the Yin and yang of each other. Erro’s a huge rap fan, whereas I’m a huge singing fan, although I’m the rapper. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to rap on the record. I just didn’t want to hear any raps on any of the songs. [laughs] During the New Jack Swing era, it was a big deal when you heard Heavy D on Janet Jackson’s “Alright” and Rakim on Jody Watley’s “Friends.” But having a rapper on a singer’s record now is damn near a liability. It’s just something that’s been done so many times that it loses its impact, and it has lost its impact in many ways. If you don’t have a good song, putting a rap verse on it is no longer an artist’s saving grace. So, for me, I didn’t want to hear any raps over anything. I just wanted to hear Erro sing and I’d do adlibs, but he was pushing me through.
EBONY.com: The songs on the album that caught my attention were “It’s So Easy,” “Thru the Night,” “Grow This Love,” and “3:45.” What are your favorite songs on the album?
Eric Roberson: We’d both say if we didn’t like a song, it wasn’t going to make the record. We have a very personal connection to each song. It’d be difficult to pick a favorite, but “3:45” is definitely up there for me. “It’s So Easy” and “Hold Tight.” We wanted to do a couple songs that we’ve never done before and “Hold Tight” is an example of that. Those are my top three. Also, “Waiting 4 Ya.”
Phonte: “Grow This Love” is a favorite song of mine. The way Erro put down his vocals on it was great. When he sent it to me, I didn’t even want to sing on it because it was too good. “Something” is another one of my favorites. In the wake of everything that has been going on, I’m the father of two Black boys and Erro’s the father of three Black boys, so we thought it was important for us to have a record that wasn’t preachy, but speaks to that feeling inside of us.
EBONY.com: How did you come up with the title for the album?
Phonte: We were sitting around trying to figure out what we were going to name the record. We didn’t know if we wanted to go the Simon & Garfunkel route by calling it Coleman & Roberson or Phonte & Eric. When we first started doing tracks for it, the working title I had for my playlist on iTunes was Tigallerro. This is where I put all our ideas, tracks, and roughs. It got to a point where we were just saying it so much that it stuck.
Eric Roberson: I have to give Phonte credit, though. On every song, he would be shouting Tigallerro! [laughs] At first, it was a total joke, then it started sounding kind of fly.
EBONY.com: As you both continue to move forward in your respective careers, what are your future plans?
Phonte: We’re definitely going to do more collaborations. I look at this album as a culmination of everything we’ve done. I think our next album will be something we work on over the course of time and not in one fell swoop, so we won’t be pulling our hair out like we were with this album. [laughs] My next solo album is coming out in September. I start working on The Breaks for VH1 in August. I’m also co-hosting a radio show in New York. I’m just working.
Eric Roberson: I’m going to be busy touring, plus I have a new kid at the crib, so I’ll be busy with him and recording my next solo album. More than likely, we’re going to show up on each other’s solo albums as well.
Tigallerro is out now.
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @iamchriswms.