9th Wonder

9th Wonder

9th Wonder’s beats posses an indescribable ambiance and laid back dynamic that have attracted the likes of Jay-Z, M.O.P., Mary J Blige, Murs and Buckshot. It’s hard to believe that 9th Wonder’s claim to fame came through messing around with Fruity Loops in his North Carolina Central University dorm room, making beats for classmates Big Pooh and Phonte of Little Brother. Since his college years, 9th Wonder has collaborated with just about everybody above and underground but it wasn’t until the creation of his upcoming LP, Dream Merchant, that he ever had a project to truly call his own. According to the Raleigh bred producer, Dream Merchant will feed the masses hunger for “boom-bap-rappity-rap” music and diversify the mainstream’s catalogue. The album— featuring Sean Price, Camp Lo and Little Brother, among others—had been put on hold for six years and now that the dream has become a reality, 9th is thrilled to say the least.

Aside from producer, Patrick Douthit has worn many hats, most recently that of a professor. Unlike his fellow college dropout turned beat maker, Kanye West, 9th has returned to school, only this time the student has become the teacher and will proceed to drop science in his Hip-Hop in Context: 1973-1997 course for his second year at NCCU while earning credits towards his history degree. The man stays busy. As for his run in with Little Brother, he predicts everything will smooth over in due time and meanwhile they all will continue to produce good music— in masses or not. 9th Wonder has been pumping feel good music into our systems for years and with the drop of Dream Merchant he can now teach everyone how to really make their own brand of soul music – class is in session.

“This is a way they can find out without being persecuted by aunts and uncles and older brothers saying ‘Y’all don’t know who Black Moon is?'”

Format: So what have you been working on?
9th Wonder: Well, for the past week I’ve been finishing interviews for Dream Merchant, trying to get ready for the next school year since I teach.

Format: Is this the hip-hop course that you started at North Carolina Central University?
9th Wonder: Uh huh.

Format: What made you start the course?
9th Wonder: Well, I thought that there’s definitely a history in it, hip-hop is 33-years-old and some of the styles, some of the words that they use, the way they dress, they need to know where all that comes from and that’s very important to me and it’s somewhat important to the kids at the school so it gives them an opportunity to learn where they come from and it also gives them an opportunity to express themselves in ways they can’t express themselves in biology class, history class, it’s more than about hip-hop, it’s about how hip-hop is surrounded and so engulfed in today’s society.

Format: You went to NCCU, did you graduate?
9th Wonder: No, I didn’t.

Format: What was your major?
9th Wonder: History.

Format: What do you think you would be doing if you graduated and chose to pursue a career path in history?
9th Wonder: Probably the same, I teach hip-hop history, now. I’d probably end up teaching a history class or if I would’ve went, one of the things I would’ve went to law school or if I decided four years is enough I can’t take it anymore, I’d probably be teaching high school history and coaching basketball.

Format: So the course goes from 1973 to 1997, why is that?
9th Wonder: Because my students are 18-years-old and that’s a realm of hip-hop they really can’t remember. I’m 32 so of course I know who Gang Starr is but kids don’t know who Gang Starr is. I can’t blame them for not knowing, because when the first Gang Starr album came out these kids were two years old so it’s not fair. This is a way they can find out without being persecuted by aunts and uncles and older brothers saying ‘Y’all don’t know who Black Moon is? That’s bad, you should know!’ and the kids is like ‘What!? You can’t get mad at me!’

“I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s Queens Bridge! Look!’ […] play some Mobb Deep quick, quick, quick!’”

Format: So you’re from North Carolina. What was it like growing up there?
9th Wonder: You know, it’s the same thing as everything else in the `80s, really. A lot of MTV, a lot of BET; only difference between us and New York City is, you can hear a brand new record and actually hear Grand Puba on the street. We couldn’t do that. We can hear a brand new record. The first time I met Buckshot from Black Moon that was the first time me meeting him after listening to his music for 11 years. Can you imagine that? That was the crazy thing with P, with Premier, listening to these people’s music for 14, 15 years of your life and then, finally, meeting them and the way I was meeting them was not – I was meeting them, because I’m a fan but they’re like, ‘Yo’ and I’m like, ‘Yo, you’re Pete Rock’ and they’re like, ‘Yo you’re 9th Wonder’ that’s kind of crazy.

Format: Did being detached from New York affect your music?
9th Wonder: No. Well it did, I guess, because from the beginning to now I only base my music on the feeling. It’s all in the feeling for me. I didn’t have the big buildings to look at, I didn’t have the big skyscraper, I couldn’t see Brooklyn Bridge, couldn’t see Queens Bridge. It was all for the feeling, it was all about the feeling to me. But on the flip side on me talking about meeting people after 15 years of listening to them, just imagine. I went to New York in 1987 when I was 13 years old. I didn’t go back until when I was in Little Brother which was like 2003 and to see – I’m looking, I’m looking and I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s Queens Bridge! Look!’ and we’re all in a van, with Little Brother and I’m like ‘Yo, yo, yo come on, come on play some Mobb Deep quick, quick, quick!’ It’s like everybody in, well I don’t want to say everybody, but people take that for granted that you live in a place that people talk about things that you hear in their music that you see everyday. But for us all of this was a fantasy Queens Bridge, 125 , St. Nick’s, Brooklyn Bridge all of that stuff was a fantasy to us so to actually see it and play the music at the same time felt like a video. That’s the biggest difference for me is doing music its still about the feeling. I have a whole idea of what the feeling is.

Format: Please describe more of Dream Merchant.
9th Wonder: Dream Merchant is a record that I have – I’m putting that 100 per cent. I want to say 100 per cent about me. It’s my record. The Sky Blue record was Sky Blue’s album, the 9th Wonder, Murs album was Murs’ record, the Buckshot album was his album, Little Brother’s album was Little Brother’s album. This is my first record that is my record and then it’s the artists’ [record]. Not from a point of the people’s eyes but just a standpoint, technically speaking, you know this is how it is and I want to say that’s important to me and it’s definitely a first and I’m excited about it. And there’s some dope emcees on there. A lot of emcees, some you heard of some you might not have heard of but this is their chance to shine and I’m trying to introduce them to the world.

9th Wonder

Format: Would Dream Merchant compare to Pete Rock’s Soul Survivor I or II?
9th Wonder: Nope, it’s not safe to say that. I don’t even want to place such high expectations on this record. Pete Rock and everybody knows Pete Rock, Premier, the RZA, GZA, Madlib, the Alchemist, Just Blaze, Kanye all of those producers and Diamond D, you name all of those producers – I look up to all those guys. Nothing, I feel that I make, is comparable to what those guys do or what they’ve done. I don’t feel like I’ve made a “PSA” or a “You Don’t Know” by Just Blaze, yet. I don’t feel like I’ve made a “Through The Wire” or “Overnight Celebrity” like Kanye, I don’t feel like I’ve made a “We Gon Make It” by Alchemist. I don’t feel like I’ve made those records yet, to me. So I don’t compare it to those at all.

Format: What was your inspiration behind the album, what message were you trying to portray?
9th Wonder: This particular album is the boom-bap-rappity-rap record. It’s like rap, you like rap the beat, this is what this is. And I think in today’s market there’s not enough of that going around that the masses can hear. There’s plenty of that on the Internet but the masses, especially from an age standpoint, don’t have time to go on the Internet and shop for music like that. I’m hoping this record will be to the masses like, ‘Finally, somebody on the boom-bap and rap, I needed this.’ That’s what the record is for me.

Format: So what are your favorite tracks on the album and why?
9th Wonder: The “Milk Lowa” Camp Lo record most of Camp Lo’s music is really laid back, this is a hard Camp Lo record. I really like that one. I really like Big Pooh and Buddy Klein “What Makes a Man,” I really like the Joe Scudda, Saigon track a lot, DJ Scratch did the cuts on that one. I like that one a lot. I like “The Last Time” with Vandalyzm, Naledge and Royce Da 5’9 I like that one, that’s a hard, that’s hard boom-bap hip-hop right there.

“I know my role. I’m the feel good guy. I’m the warm fuzzy feeling inside guy.”

Format: You said Pooh is on Dream Merchant. Does that mean you patched everything up with Little Brother?
9th Wonder: I mean you know with LB, I think it’s a situation that we’re always going to put out good music whether we’re together or we’re apart. I think as far as everybody else from the inside looking out, I think everybody and I know in a perfect world I wish everybody would just leave us alone, and figure out our problems on our own.

Format: How would you describe your sound in just a few words?
9th Wonder: It was soul music. Not necessarily using soul samples, my music feels good. I don’t make a lot of music that make you feel bad, I know my role. I’m the feel good guy. I’m the warm fuzzy feeling inside guy. I think we need that in music. Some these records are for the club and some of these records make you want to go blast somebody or some of these records make you want to sit in the car and cry, I’m not those guys. Nothing is wrong with that the human emotions go through cycles like that, but when you want to feel good and ride in your car with the windows down and smile and bob your head real hard, that’s what I do. That’s me, I’m happy to be that guy.

Format: You worked with Jay-Z, who’s more of an entertainer, to, of course, Little Brother who are more lyrical. As a producer, do you feel you don’t get enough credit, because some feel that the beats are what can solidify a hit single in the charts?
9th Wonder: For me, from Jay to Mary to Destiny’s Child to Murs to soon to be Erykah Badu to Little Brother to Jean Grae we’re all different as far as I think that everybody I won’t say everybody but everybody I work with. The difference between everybody is the monetary assets that everybody has I don’t think that this one emcee is better than the other or this and that, but I think all of these artists give me the chance and opportunity to show versatility. I’ve done in the same year I did a record for Destiny’s Child and I did one for M.O.P. and so you know that’s the situation.

“I’m a fan but they’re like, ‘Yo’ and I’m like, ‘Yo, you’re Pete Rock’ and they’re like, ‘Yo you’re 9th Wonder’ that’s kind of crazy.”

Format: How do you feel the art of beat making has changed over the years?
9th Wonder: I think the situation is that there’s more keyboard beats. There’s nothing wrong with that I think there’s room for that. Sampling, I don’t think samplings is ever going to go anywhere. A bunch of people say, ‘Well, it’s not original,’ or whatever, whatever, OK. Sampling has done so much for hip-hop, ain’t no way you can take it away from our hip-hop no matter how much you try. So it’s sort of like some people might think the crossover in basketball is an illegal move then you might carry the ball and they try to call a carry on Iverson, because he does this crossover but that move ain’t going anywhere, you can’t stop it. As illegal as you think it is you just can’t stop it and that’s what sampling is. If you take sampling out of hip-hop it erases 95 per cent of hip-hop’s history and catalogue. So I think it’s not going anywhere.

Format: What are your thoughts on ghost-producing?
9th Wonder: I say get in how you get in. If a cat comes to people like ‘Yo’ and it depends on the person’s situation if a cat comes to a beat maker and says, ‘Man, look man, I’ll give you a beat for $3000’ you can’t say that he made it and that cat is selling to me is hungry. I mean I’m not talking about hungry, as far as ambition, hungry, `cause he ain’t ate in a week. You got to start looking at that, that’s very important. If you choose to do that route then you can’t whine about it and say, ‘Aw man they put they name on my beat.’ Well that’s what you chose to do. So that’s the thing you know you can’t try to whine about it you got to keep it moving.

9th Wonder

Kendra Desrosiers

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  1. I’ve been a huge fan of 9th and he’s been a big reason why I produce the way I do. Inspiration indeed. He’s made it to where he should be. I try to follow in his steps. Keep on 9th!


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