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Embracing moderation is tricky for a hiphop group, ’cause the middle ground is no place for fools. It requires much less thought to stake out an extreme corner and make your money from there. But North Carolina trio Little Brother seems driven to prove that a wee bit of restraint can go a long way. The Listening, the group’s oft-praised debut disc, channels the self-love and intelligence of early-’90s college rap while showing a connoisseur’s appreciation for present-day street beats. What’s missing is important: Overt Afrocentricity and philosophy-class regurgitation are not to be found; likewise gangsta posturing and 21st-century materialism. In short, members Phonte, Big Pooh, and 9th Wonder have probably worn out their copies of The Low End Theory, Blowout Comb, We Can’t Be Stopped, and The Blueprint, but they’re more concerned with the medium than the exact message. Little Brother’s upbringing explains a lot—the trio formed in Durham at North Carolina Central University, not in somebody’s big-city neighborhood. But that hasn’t precluded 9th Wonder from climbing up the DJ/producer food chain. He’s remixed Nas’ God’s Son disc and done a track for Jay-Z (“Threat” from The Black Album), but for now, he hasn’t shown any urge to leave Phonte and Big Pooh behind. Onstage, all three have a reputation for amping the party vibe that bubbles under much of The Listening. Hey, nobody said moderation has to equal boredom. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. Monday, March 1, on the Black Cat’s Mainstage, 1811 14th St. NW. $15. (202) 667-7960. (Joe Warminsky)