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Diggin In The Crates: 9th Wonder



By @TrueGodImmortal 





There aren't many producers in hip hop with a solid output as 9th Wonder. There are many great producers in hip hop in general, but the North Carolina native Patrick Douthit took the boom bap sense of DJ Premier, the soulful sampling of Pete Rock, and the jazzy vibe of Ali Shaheed Muhammad and The Ummah (including J. Dilla) and combined it to become one of my all time favorite producers over the years. His usage of the production program Fruity Loops was revolutionary in a way, as he opted not to go the MPC and keyboard route, but rather use the computer programming production that was slowly creeping up to replace the manual punching of drums and melodies. 9th would arrive on the scene with his collective Little Brother, but over the years he's evolved as a producer and man. Today, we dedicate a Diggin In The Crates to the NC legend and pick some of his best beats, some well known and a few under the radar. Let's get into it.

*9th Wonder/Nas- God's Stepson (2003)



-Employing the Internet for buzz had been around for a very long time. It wasn't just as popular for project releases as it is now, but 9th sat down with acapella vocals from Nas' God's Son album and spiced up the sound with his soulful output in instrumentals. I'll be honest, there are some tracks that didn't need to be remixed, but his new production worked wonders for "The Cross" and "Hey Nas", two songs that suffered from lazy production choices. This was my real introduction to 9th aside from his Cesar Comanche contributions the year prior and the building up to Little Brother and their first release.

*Little Brother- Speed (2003)



-I love this entire song. The production was very blue collar in a way, as the simple sample was complimented by the knocking drums and the vocal loop during the verses and hook really gave the track the sense of desperation and despondent emotion that they wanted to convey. 9th is one of the best producers when it comes to using the beat and the sample to really convey the emotion of the entire song.

*Little Brother- Shorty's Reprise (2003)



-The best part of this is the sample. Including at the end of "Shorty On The Lookout", this beat had no raps on it, but it didn't need it. Armed with a lovely sample from Stylus and their song "Hangin", 9th crafted one of my favorite beats of all time with this. While his work on The Listening was very dope, I feel like this was the apex of the album production wise and honestly might be the best 9th Wonder production ever. It's so simple yet effective and absolutely infectious. I'm playing this beat and the original sample over and over again back to back as I write this.

*Jay-Z- Threat (2003)



-As a song, this isn't a particular special track, and Jay passed up on some much better beats for Black Album, but the usage of this R. Kelly sample from "A Woman's Threat" was something very cunning and smart. The drums backed by the "this is a warning" vocal sample and the piano stabs drive home the point Jay was trying to make, and this is prime example of the beat somewhat carrying the entire track. Take away the piano stabs and the vocal sample of this production and it wouldn't have nearly the same effect. Another thing that's dope to possibly check out is 9th's version of The Black Album, but to be honest I love most of the original beats on Black Album, so it isn't really necessary. It's still a landmark release in 9th's career.

*Masta Ace- Good Ol Love (2004)



-A traditional 9th beat, but I think the sample is what carries. Anytime you sample Willie Hutch, you'll get some soulful greatness and this was truly no different. Willie Hutch's "Hospital Prelude of Love Theme" from Foxy Brown sets the scene for a great production as Masta Ace spits his best over it.

*Destiny's Child- Girl (2004)



-The fact that 9th has produced a record that featured Beyonce and was for Destiny's Child might be his biggest accomplishment considering this particular song was a popular single as well. 9th crafted a very slow and melodic production utilizing the lovely Dramatics track "Ocean Of Thoughts And Dreams" from their Shake It Well album. The drums behind the simple yet effective sample make this a true classic production.

*Murs and 9th Wonder- Murs 3:16: The 9th Edition (2004)



-9th has a knack to make albums with people in full. He did the same thing with Murs a few times down the road, but this is where it all started and this is the one I'll highlight. Impossible to really pinpoint any particular standout productions here because the entire album is like listening to 9th in his production prime. He doesn't miss at all and although I'm not too fond of Murs, he sounds great over 9th beats and that's the mark of a great producer.

*Consequence featuring Kanye West and Little Brother- I See Now (2004)
-I loved this track. It wasn't the best 9th production but with the melodic sound backed by these banging drums, 9th created a great track for these MCs to coast over and the sample complements the hook very well. One of the best beats 9th made in the early era of his career as the 3rd weapon of Little Brother for sure.

*Cesar Comanche featuring Phonte and Darien Brockington- The Life (2005)
-Backed by two of the most talented members in the Justus League crew, Cesar gets provided with a truly special production from 9th, which is very much in a similar style to his previous productions, but this one in particular just knocks a little harder with the drums and melody. Probably one of the more underrated productions from him, but this is for sure a dope one as well.

*Little Brother- Not Enough (2005)



-The sample here and drums combine for yet another amazing 9th production, this time the sample beginning a very smooth Teddy Pendergrass classic. The track "Easy Easy, Got To Take It Easy" was simply looped and placed behind some of the signature 9th drums to create one of the best songs on The Minstrel Show and in reality, one of the best Little Brother songs period.

*Little Brother- Lovin It (2005)



-9th showed off on this one just a bit. The Stylistics have a beautiful song with very smooth rhythms titled "One Night Affair", and 9th truly brought his best as he chopped up the sample to include 3 different sections of the song to create an infectious and beyond soulful and catchy production. This is probably the most famous Little Brother song and I'd have to say that the production is a big reason for that.

*Sean Price- Heartburn (2005)


-This might be my favorite 9th production ever. It's so melodic, so smooth, and the way the sample was layered is perfection. This instrumental alone is one of the best I've heard from 9th and the drums are perfection giving it that head nodding factor to the highest power. The Independents "Our Love Has Got To Come Together" is certainly the perfect complement for this track sample wise, and the way 9th flipped it was absolutely beautiful.

*Edgar Allen Floe- The Torch (2006)
-Who would have thought that sampling a simple interlude of sorts from Donny Hathaway would provide us with this lovely beat? "Harlem Dawn" from Donny provides us with a solid production that yours truly remixed on my first mixtape, but Edgar does his thing on this one as well. The beat has a bit of bounce to it as well, which adds to the dopeness.

*Murs and 9th Wonder- Love and Appreciate (2006)


-I was not the biggest fan of Murs honestly, and I'm still not, though I respect his lyrical ability. However, this song is very solid and I think 9th has more to do with that than Murs, and that's no disrespect intended to Murs. It's just that 9th takes a very simple Ben E. King sample from "Let Me Live In Your Life" and crafts one of the better productions of the entire year here. It's a great beat and it makes the song even better.

*9th Wonder featuring Sean Price and Big Dho- Shots (2007)


-9th combines two samples to create this one. The iconic "Turn Off The Lights" by Teddy Pendergrass and then "And I Love Her" by the legendary late great Bobby Womack. What makes this stick out is the hardcore drums and the melody here, as it allows Sean P to spit some of his best.

*9th Wonder and Buckshot- Throwing Shade (2008)


-With their second project The Formula, the duo of 9th and Buck reunited for a dope dose of hip hop, and this was my favorite song on the album. The beat is traditional 9th, but it has a bit more flare behind the soul sample, making for an enjoyable listen and pleasurable sounds for the ears. I could play this instrumental over and over.

*David Banner and 9th Wonder- Slow Down (2010)


-If I could take David Banner and his raps off of this song, I'd do it with absolutely no problem. Anytime you sample The Whispers, you're liable to have some great music, but when you can flip the fast paced "On Impact" track and turn into this??? Man, you've done something special. 9th takes the sample and allows it to be layered over some of his hardest drums and every time I hear it, I nod my head to it and damn near break my neck. This track is beyond amazing. One of 9th's absolute best.

*David Banner and 9th Wonder featuring Ludacris and Marsha Ambrosius- Be With You (2010)


-Backed by a glorious Tyrone Davis sample "Be With Me", 9th cleverly flips the track for one of his most bright productions and by bright I mean fun. The beat is very fun, giving off a breezy vibe that the soul sound helps to cultivate. Though the album with Banner and 9th lacked due to lyrics from David, production wise, this is one of 9th's best moments as a producer.

*Actual Proof- The Sandbox (2010)
-A traditional vintage 9th flip ripe with soulful samples, boom bap drums and that beautiful sound that we have come to know from 9th. This one is likely a bit under the radar due to Actual Proof not being THAT popular compared to other acts that 9th has worked with, but this is yet another solid production from him. He rarely misses on beats.

*Lil B featuring Jean Grae and Phonte- Base For Your Face (2011)


-Utilizing a Flava Flav sample from "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos" atop of a smooth soulful loop of the Lou Rawls track "Pretty Eyes", the shocking collaboration between Lil B, Jean Grae, and Phonte is truly one of the most catchy beats that 9th has ever crafted. It knocks so hard that you'll play it over and over even if you don't like Lil B. It's that dope.

*Phonte featuring Evidence and Big K.R.I.T.- The Life of Kings (2011)


-With a smooth and slightly unknown sample from J.R. Bailey on "Heaven On Earth", 9th allows both Phonte and KRIT to spit their absolute best alongside Evidence. I wasn't too fond of Evidence's verse, but as a production, this track is beyond amazing. The drums to the layering of the sample is perfection here and it's always nice to hear Phonte rap over 9th instrumentals. Perfect fit.

*Tutankhamen (Valley Of The Kings) (2012)


-This instrumental album is quite possible his greatest musical moment. At almost 2 hours long, this full length mixtape is 9th at his most daring and most focused from a production standpoint. He crafts over 35 tracks of soulful fire, and this tape never gets old. I'm not really a big fan of instrumental tapes these days, but every time I go to revisit this, I find myself playing it the whole duration. That's how amazing this is.

*Big K.R.I.T. featuring BJ The Chicago Kid- Life Is A Gamble (2013)


-The beauty of this is that I have sampled this myself. As a producer, my actual output isn't as extensive, but who could resist a Marvin sample from Trouble Man?? Obviously not 9th and KRIT. A smooth yet aggressively soulful production is one of the best 9th has given us in the last 5 years. There was nothing about this song that didn't scream classic and the beat is a huge reason for that. 9th does it yet again with this one.

*Nipsey Hussle- Face The World (2013)
-9th goes into the gangsta realm to provide Nipsey with one of his best songs ever. Backed by a sample from Rhinoceros titled "That Time Of the Year", this 9th production bristles with unmitigated soul and grit, backed by the usual boom bap drums from 9th that seem to knock just slightly harder than usual. A truly underrated production in 9th's catalog.

*9th Wonder- Bladey Mae (2013)


-This is amazing because it was inspired by a visit to some relatives. 9th would come back after learning of a grandmother of his and create this tape, which in its full form is 73 tracks long. 9th weaves through 73 tracks of smooth boom bap soul, aggressive production, and drum heavy beats to create a very enjoyable project. It's not as infectious as the previous instrumental tape that we spoke about a little earlier, but it is certainly a highlight in the catalog of 9th from a production standpoint.

*Big K.R.I.T. and Rapsody- Guillotine Flow (2015)


-With a sly sample of Shotgun's Stone Woman, 9th provided a nice backdrop for both KRIT and Rapsody to spit their best on. This was a pleasant surprise and as a song, I don't hear it referenced as much in regards to being a top tier KRIT and 9th collaboration, but it certainly is. Both MCs bring their best and of course 9th brings his dopeness as well.

*Anderson .Paak- The Season/ Carry Me (2015)


-This two part track features two separate styles from 9th in a way. One style can be heard on the first part of this song, and he goes for a more jazzy and relaxed vibe on the second part. Regardless, this song has 2 separate samples utilized over the two parts and it really allows Anderson to flex his creative muscle to the highest power. Some audio clips add a different dimension to the track and this is certainly a sign of what creativity 9th could have coming in the future. We could only hope.

There's so many noteworthy 9th Wonder productions to speak of here that it would take me hours and hours to list each and every one that I love. I took the time to pick out some of the best and a few of his productions that have gone unnoticed or rather slept on. From his Jamla work to his work on The Dream Merchant series and all of his projects, I hold 9th as a top 10 hip hop producer of all time personally. His style isn't the most diverse or versatile, and honestly that's the beauty of it. He stays true to his sound, with a few breaks from it here and there, but he remains the top of his game regardless. Check out his Rhythm Roulette via Mass Appeal on YouTube and watch the genius at work. 9th Wonder is the one of the top 3 greatest producer of the 2000s in hip hop to me and top 10 all time personally. He deserves the accolades he's got and then some.

-True

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