She Is Focused

March 29, 2009

Producer: 9th Wonder

Filed under: Interviews — Felicia @ 11:23 pm

By: Felicia J. Barclay

A lot can be learned from super producer 9th Wonder; literally since he‘s added teaching to his repertoire. In his ten year career he has worked with the best in the industry and has become a well respected talent in the game. 9thwonder

He’s confident enough to speak on how his skills seem to come effortlessly, yet humble enough to give props when due to other musicians. He takes time out in between nursing himself back to full form from the cold to talk about why he was dismissed from Little Brother, why he thinks T-Pain wins and juggling ten different artists between his two labels. How did you get into production?

9th Wonder: I used to do pause tapes with a friend of mine back at North Carolina State University and arguing about who was better between DJ Premier and Pete Rock. Then it went from there to trying out beats on the computer then to doing beats everyday and to where I am now. I was always into music as a kid. Who were some producers you respected growing up?

9th Wonder: Pete Rock, Premier, Diamond D., Bomb Squad, Organized Noize, Marley Marl, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley; just whoever was big or making great music. How is the music scene where you’re from different from bigger cities?

9th Wonder: I live in Raleigh, Durham; the music is not really different from any other [city]. The only difference between New York and North Carolina is that ya’ll had The Box and Uncle Ralph McDaniels’ show and stuff like that. But Yo! MTV Raps was everywhere. So the same thing you saw on Yo MTV Raps I saw on Yo! MTV Raps. The biggest difference is after the show came on; ya’ll could have seen Grand Puba outside somewhere. We couldn’t do that. What album brought you your first Grammy recognition?

9th Wonder: Mary J. Blige’s The Breakthrough. The track I did on there was “Good Woman Down”, and Mary shouted me out for the first time on the American Music Awards, Billboard Awards and the Grammys. She was thanking the producers and I felt honored to be shouted out in the company of those guys. Tell me about your time being affiliated with Little Brother, and why you left.

9th Wonder: I just want to get the record straight I didn’t leave, I was asked to leave. It was more of a situation where they were like “you’ve been doing your own thing, been working and doing this and that. We’re going to continue on as Little Brother, you continue on as 9th Wonder”.

It wasn’t a situation where I was like “alright fellas I’m out”. It felt like I hadn’t been a part of the group for a long time for various reasons. I never said anything about it before, but over the years people kept asking why did I leave. I didn’t leave; I was asked to leave. Did you feel as though you could be both 9th Wonder and a part of Little Brother?

9th Wonder: I felt like you could do that. If you look at it, I was not the first person out of LB to put out a solo record. Phonte put out Foreign Exchange, and Big Pooh put out Sleepers. So then I wanted to put out my record. It’s kind of hard for a producer really. I don’t see why somebody would say it’s a problem, and then somebody else say it’s not. But that’s what it is; some people agree some people disagree. How did the idea come to slate to take Nas’ God Son, and remix it to create God’s Stepson?

9th Wonder: There was a friend of mine by the name of DJ Bumrush. He came by my house and brought some accapellas. He already saw how I remixed some other stuff, like Amerie, Musiq Soulchild, etc. So he brought some accapellas by my house and said experiment with these. Then I remixed them and after that went from there and a friend of mine named I.D.  said we should call it God’s Stepson. It’s nothing I planned to do or said ‘I’ll use this to get into the game’. I just did it. Then you re-did Jay-Z’s The Black Album the following year.

9th Wonder: Yea I was actually on The Black Album. The good people over at Def Jam / Roc-a-Fella put out The Black Album accapellas and everybody went Black Album remix crazy. I guess everybody thought that’s what I did to get recognition and what not. How would you describe your production style?

9th Wonder: Soulful for the most part, I like Soul music. You can find Soul music anywhere. For a long time cats said “you make underground beats”. It’s kind of hard to say that now because I got beats with MOP, Destiny’s Child, Erykah Badu, Mary.

You really can’t call it underground anymore; whatever that means now. When your biggest artist like a Soulja Boy is selling 40,000 in the first week, what’s underground? It’s kind of hard to put somebody in that box and I’m glad that box is going away. How did the teaching opportunity happen with NCCU?

9th Wonder: A lot of people I went to high school with in my hometown are now teachers. They would come and ask me to talk to their students. So some professors over at Central caught wind of it, and it went from there. I went over there for a couple meetings and workshops and the chancellor at North Carolina Central University at the time who’s now the chancellor at FAMU asked if I would like to do a class and be what they call an “Artist Of Residence”. He hired myself and Play from Kid ‘N Play and I’ve been there for about three years now. This will be my fifth semester there and I love it. What was the most difficult album you’ve worked on?

9th Wonder: Murs’ Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition. A lot of people think that’s my best work. Working with Murs, we argued a lot and there were a lot of differences of opinion. Murs was coming from working with a different camp which can impose and was very difficult at the time. With artists when you’re working with one producer and then working with another producer, it kind of makes things difficult. It came out great but that was the hardest record I ever did. Was it because of the transition between producers?

9th Wonder: Yea because he used to follow a different producer. It’s totally different. Like if you listen to 3:16 then listen to some of his other stuff, everything is different. What equipment do you use?

9th Wonder: Right now I still use Fruity Loops, Pro Tools, I mess around with the [Akai] MPC 4500 right now. The crazy thing is that on The Formula, the album I did with Buckshot, there’s five beats I did on the MPC 4500. And I’ve asked kids to tell me which ones are which, and no one got it right yet. Which genre of music lets your creativity flow best?

9th Wonder: R&B; I have an artist by the name of Tyler Woods. He was on the Buckshot and Talib Kweli record “Hold It Down”. I have a label on Duck Down called Jamla. I named it after Tamla; which was the offshoot pop label at Motown.

I have fun with Tyler because we get to think outside the box, but think inside the box too. The motto for Jamla is “the new sound that you’ve heard before”. That’s the kind of out of the box thinking I can do with Tyler. I think that’s where T-Pain wins because he’ll try anything. The “Chopped And Screwed” record showed me that. And that turned out to be a pretty hot record.

9th Wonder: Yea; I wasn’t a big fan of T-Pain until “Can’t Believe It” and “Chopped And Screwed” that was the record where I was like “ok dog, you win”. We as musicians are very critical of other musicians. You can be the best musician in the world and another musician will be like “that’s straight”. What projects are you cooking up in the studio?

9th Wonder: The first release off [Jamla] is Sky Zoo’s album The Salvation. I have another label on Stone’sThrow called The Academy. On Jamla we also have Rhapsody, Remo and Gee Q . What makes this cat so special is that he plays basketball which surprised the life out of me because usually rapping and basketball don’t mix too well. He’s not a basketball player that can rhyme, but a rapper that can just hoop.

On The Academy side, we have N-1 Platoon, Tom Hardy, another group called Actual Proof. Then there’s Median and last but not least Britney Boscoe. So there’s five on one side and five on the other. Don’t ask me how I’m going to pull it off, but I am. Lastly I’m doing a lot of work with Idris Elba. I didn’t realize he was a musician.

9th Wonder: Yea he’s a Hip-Hoper. Once again he’s not an actor that can Rap, he’s a Hip-Hoper that can act. He loves music and he’s a talent.  He takes his music very seriously. I’m also working with David Banner. We have a couple joints that we’re working on. I’m also doing a lot of work with the NAACP as well. I’m trying to become more responsible and understand the power that Hip-Hop has. Will we see another Little Brother collaboration?

9th Wonder: Well, I don’t think so. Phonte has said it a couple times that there will never be another reunion, but who knows. No matter what we do, the music will still be what it is, whether we do it together or apart. What will your legacy be?

9th Wonder: Just to be in a long line of Black musicians. I think we kind of stunt ourselves in saying we want to be the best rapper alive or best beat-maker alive. Everybody learned from somebody. I want to be in that circle of talk twenty years down the road and be the person that cares about my people. It’s also just having pride in your people as well as having pride of where you’re from and your ancestry.

I want to be proud of my people and I want my people to be proud of me. I think Obama is trying to change that and have America be proud of America. No matter what, we’ll always still have that divide because we have different cultures and different households. Me, I just want my people first to be proud of me. You got to start at home and my home is Black folks; I’m Black. I also want the musicians that came before me to be proud of me too.


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