It was several years ago when producer 9th Wonder stepped onto the scene as the man behind the sound of Little Brother. They released the critically-acclaimed album “The Listening”, with a co-sign from Roots drummer ?uestlove. Because of the praise the album consistently received, 9th was recruited by a bevy of artists to make beats ranging from
After Little Brother’s 2005 album, “The Minstrel Show”, dropped 9th Wonder and Little Brother parted ways. The producer went on to produce entire albums with MURS and Buckshot and various joints with his Justus League collective. Although 9th is no longer fielding questions about the breakup with Little Brother, he’s cultivating a solo career that’s bound to be just as successful, and maybe even more so, than his time with the group. His new album, “Dream Merchant, Vol. 2”, is set to drop this fall and is entirely produced by 9th with guest appearances from Mos Def, Boot Camp Clik, Jean Grae, Memphis Bleek, Royce the 5’9”,
What does the album name, Dream Merchant, mean to you?
Well, my career has been a big dream, so far. The albums I’ve been on the friends I’ve made. It’s all been a fairytale. I just talked to MC Lyte the other day. You know, I’m a big fan, but we were talking about possibly working on some music, which is crazy! So a Dream Merchant is just having dreams, ya know?
How long did it take to put this album together?
About two years.
How did you find
They frequent this area a lot. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area and they come through a lot. We had a mutual friend named Ski, who produced a lot of classic
So are you still using Fruity Loops?
Yup. It’s been working great for me. It might not work great for anybody else. That Mary J Blige joint I did on that Grammy Award-winning album was a Fruity Loops beat. I’m scoring The Boondocks Season 2 and those are Fruity Loops beats. I don’t know what else I got to do.
You know, you’re inspiring a lot of people by making fresh hip-hop with the Fruity Loops system.
That’s kind of crazy. The biggest thing about Fruity Loops man is that I can make a kid that’s 14 or 15 years old sit in his room and do something creative. That’s the biggest thing for me. And if I can make a kid do that, I’m all for it man. I rather take a program, and influence a kid than do anything else.
Have you ever tried any other software like Reason, Cubase, Cakewalk or anything like that?
Nah. I’ve heard of it all. There’s so many but to me it’s all about the end result. That’s all I care about.
As of late, hip-hop lyrics have been taking a pounding in the media, what’s your take on violence/misogyny in hip-hop?
For me, it’s all in moderation. I don’t care what era of music you’re talking about, especially music from the 70’s. I got a lot of Mille Jackson records and a lot of records from the 70’s talk about the same things hip-hop is talking about now. Superfly, although it was a soulful record was an album about a pimp. That’s probably the best soundtrack ever made, but it was an album about a pimp. And cocaine. And women. And drugs. I think the media, a lot of times just don’t understand the rebellious nature of music. You always sound like the old geezer dude that’s mad at the younger generation. I don’t care how you dress it up, you sound like your time is gone, and you’re mad that your time is gone and you want to harp on the next generation about whatever.
Not to say that I don’t harp on the next generation, but it’s not their fault, they’re babies. I harp on the media and these media outlets who don’t turn the next generation on to something else. They just give them the same stuff, over and over and over. My problem is the balance, my problem is not the fact that the kids want to do the snap dance. That’s not my problem. I mean, when Luke was on the scene, I’d dance to Luke Skyywalker records for hours! So I can’t get mad at kid who wants to do the snap dance. I did the Humpty Dance, the Roger Rabbit, the Cabbage Patch, the Smurf, the Running Man, the Typewriter, any dance that looks like a buffoon dance to an adult back in the early 90’s, that’s the same way we feel about kids. Some of us are like, ‘that Snap dance is stupid,’ and Humpty Dance wasn’t? I’m not so mad at the kids, and it’s up to us as adults to preserve the hip-hop we grew up on and make that important to us. And if we make it important to us, it will become important to our children, we’ll be able to pass the torch. But it just doesn’t help when you have a 34-year old man in the club snap dancing.
I mean, the whole profanity in music, that ain’t going away man. It’s always been a part of free expression. We set up the rules way back when we made the constitution. We set up that rule, now everyone wants a waiver for that rule with what you can’t say and can say. But again, it’s all the media’s fault, it’s not the artists’ fault. The media wants to play it, they’ll say “Aww, you’re killin’ our kids,’ but they signed the artists that talk like that. I don’t want to talk too much, you’ll get me starting to talk about illuminati and all that!
Okay, as a producer who produces for a variety of artists is there a line emcees can’t cross when they’re spitting over one of your beats?
I don’t want anybody talking about killing children. No kids. Yeah, no kids or killin’ your momma, can’t talk about that. You can talk about sex, but you can’t be too sexually explicit. You got the braggadocio rappers that wanna be super sexually, but that’s the reason why I have two albums. I have the Dream Merchant, Vol. 2, there’s a lot of cursing on there and it’s really not a record you can listen to as a hip-hop parent. This is the first time in our musical history that we have hip-hop parents. I’m 32 years old and I’m a first generation hip-hop hopper. I was fortunate enough to witness the glory and golden years of hip-hop music. But now I have kids and I have to specifically choose the records that I listen to now because I got my kids in the backseat.
With that being the case, Dream Merchant is record that you need to listen to when you’re alone. The album I have coming out on Asylum, which is titled The Wonder Years, is more of an R&Bish hip-hop type record, is a record you can listen to with your kids. There’s a difference, it’s not a “Kidz Bop” CD, but it’s just a record you can listen to with your children in the back seat. Another record you can listen to with your children in the backseat is the new Common album. We’re just entering the age where we need to start separating Adult Contemporary Hip-Hop. There’s adult hip-hop and there’s kids hip-hop, where adult hip-hop isn’t music for children. That’s what it is, I make music for adults. If a kid wants to listen to it fine. I don’t think when Cameo, Gap Band and the Commodores and those musicians from the late 70’s and early 80’s, I don’t think they were making music for 7-year olds.
My 5-year old loves Cameo though.
Mine does too! But at the time they were making it, they weren’t making it for kids. My 7-year old knows Cameo songs because I play them. I’m talking about in 1983, their fan base was their peers and cats a little bit younger than them. I don’t think their fan base was 5-year old children. Some of these rappers coming out, their fan base is 5-year old kids, which disturbs me. They’re like 29 and “I got to do something 6-year olds will like!” And I’m like, “You do!? Really!?” I don’t get that. When LL Cool J did “Around the Way Girl”, he was talking about folks 16 and up. He wasn’t talking about no 5-year old kids. And that’s where we’re getting it confused. We have to start separating it as adult hip-hop past and present. Kweli’s “Eardrum” is an adult hip-hop record. Kids can pick it up, they may appreciate it and maybe learn something from it, but Kweli is talking to us. The subject matter is pointed to us and what we need to do as adults.
Then you have MIMS, “This is Why I’m Hot.” It’s a hot record, but it’s hot for my nephew. Or “My Lip Gloss is poppin’, my lip gloss is cool.” Man, that’s bangin’ at the elementary schools and that’s where it needs to bang! I don’t want to hear that when I’m out with the boys! A bunch of late 20’s and 30 year old dudes with nice shirts on walking around, “My lip gloss is poppin’”? That’s not cool, man! That’s like watching 30 year olds doing the snap dance, or doing the Superman Soulja Boy dance. Now when my nephews do it, I get a kick out of it. I’m like, “Do the dance for me man, just do the dance.” And they do it. They turn it on, they do the dance and I get my laugh on and I love it! But I don’t want to see one of my closest friends do it! They need to stop that, or get clowned on.
So have you retired from the doing the remix album stuff like “God’s Stepson”?
I would say….. yeah. When I did God’s Stepson, I never thought that it was going to make the noise that it made. It made unbelievable noise. I went to
He was like the kid in elementary school that came to school with Prince Adam, like “Where did you find that?” I got He-Man, I don’t have Prince Adam! Where’d you get that? But now, everybody, children and the internet and IPODs, there is no turn-on factor. There is no, “I’m going my man’s house to get the new…” or “My man’s dorm room to get the new…” or “I got to stop and get some Fuji tapes because I’m going to my boy’s crib because he has ‘The Main Ingredient’ by Pete Rock and CL Smooth and I need to get a dub of it.” You would stay over there for hours and everybody would get a dub. That’s what has been taken away from hip-hop, the turn-on factor.
So when I did God’s Stepson, I saw the power of the internet and it went across the world in a mater of 5 minutes. It’s crazy how I can do a song right now and send to some kid in
So no remix albums from you?
I think because of “God’s Stepson” and the remix craze, they’re not going to put out anymore acapella records. They’re not going to do it. Because I’ve been waiting for an acapella record of “Hip-Hop Is Dead.” I have been waiting for one. Because they know as soon as I get one, I’d have that thing remixed in three days. And I think they know it!
What other upcoming projects? Like another Buckshot album, or MURS album?
I’m still going to do records as far as, when it comes to whole albums like that. I’m still going do that. I did another Buckshot record called “The Formula” and I did another MURS album called “Sweet Lord” both are done. I did a joint for Erykah Badu on her new album called “Small World.” And I have artists myself that’ll be showcased on Dream Merchant and The Wonder Years, one of them is an R&B artist by Tyler Woods and that’s an artist I want everybody to look for. It’s R&B with bottom. I’m used to the Jodeci R&B…
Wow… you aren’t the only one.
You know what man, I am so tired of not being able to listen to R&B artists in my car and feel comfortable. Like I pull up beside some people man and I just can’t bump Chris Brown and feel comfortable. There was R&B that used to make you feel like a man. The last R&B album that made me feel like a man was the first Carl Thomas record. And there really hasn’t been anything since. Not to say that people don’t make good R&B. But I just can’t wait for everybody to hear Tyler Woods. I think everyone is going to say thank you!
How does it feel to be a solo artist now?
I’m cool. It’s kind of like starting over again. In the last year or so I understand what it takes to make your music acceptable to the people you want to make it acceptable to. Being the fact that I’m a hip-hop parent, I have to now examine how hip-hop parents buy music. Where we go to get music, how we receive music, who turn us on to the music? And one thing we don’t do, the majority of females our age don’t read XXL, they don’t read The Source, they don’t read Scratch, they don’t read Spin, they don’t read URB, they don’t read these magazines. It’s not a diss to those magazines, it’s the flatout truth.
When you’re a mommy in your 30’s or late 20’s, you’re a mommy and a wife and you have a job; you just don’t have the time to indulge yourself in that hip-hop arena. All you read is Essence or O Magazine. On a general basis, I’ve seen more women reading “O” than anything, the problem is Oprah is not going to have a rapper in her magazine. You got to find the good place, with me being a 32 year old man doing the type of hip-hop that I do, I kind of got to find a good place and medium to put my music. It may take some process of elimination but I think I got it down.
I think with the Common album, whoever was marketing that Common album said “Let’s put the album in Starbucks,” man, that’s the best thing they ever could do. Not to say he’s a coffee shop artist, that means that’s where his demographic goes, they go to Starbucks first. When they did that I was like finally somebody gets it. I want to do the same thing. All the parties that I do, I do them for 25 years old and up, I don’t play any music past 1997, I don’t play anything earlier than 1980. I try to stay within my age bracket. I do that on purpose trying to create a following for myself. Anyone under 27 that doesn’t know who I am, I really don’t care. At this point, I don’t care, ya know?