Loyal readers know I wasn’t exactly in a good mood last week. It wasn’t that the albums were bad…entirely…they were just underwhelming. See, unlike some other reviewers who scan through four or five tracks and then front when they write (you know who you are, come get me suckas) I actually listen to albums for days straight. Which means that when an album’s disappointing I suffer for days. By the time I sit down and write I’m madder than Kanye at an awards show. Not this week. This week the air’s a little cleaner, the …
DJBooth Album Review
Not this week. This week the air’s a little cleaner, the women are a little flyer, the Patron’s a little stronger. What’s changed? Simple, I’ve been listening to 9th Wonder’s new album The Dream Merchant Vol. 2. 9th Wonder is every great rapper’s favorite producer (just ask Hova) and his solo project comes after the much discussed break-up of underground super-group Little Brother. How can I describe Dream Merchant? Let’s shout out 9th’s North Carolina roots; this album is like biscuits-and-honey, it will fill you up and still go down sweet. Hip-hop has the power to make your worst work day fresher than a new pair of Adidas and 9th Wonder is the generator that makes it all happen.
Sometimes my job is easy, ready? The following songs are absolutely dope: The quasi-title track Merchant of Dreams is a track soaked in 70’s soul and dripping with snapping percussion. The opening notes are the reason I’m not so bitter this week. But production is only part of the puzzle; affiliated rappers The Embassy, Skyzoo and Torae put their vocals down with equal parts lyricism and smashmouth delivery. “They don’t rewind my verses/they spin the coupe around” is just one line you’ll be pretending you wrote. 9th’s beats aren’t going to blow you away, they’re built with a craftsmanship that only gets deeper with every listen. Take Baking Soda for example. The track has vocal samples, layered over horn sections, layered over guitar lines, scattered with shining synths; the production really is that deep. 9th’s real genius is the ability to take all this complexity and make it sound so damn easy. To top it off Big Treal puts down some of the better “ordinary working man turns hustler” lyrics (hence the baking soda reference) on record. Man I’m feelin good.
I haven’t even gotten to what really made me flip, Brooklyn in My Mind. The track’s beat will have you rocking your best b-boy pose, thanks to a full Mos Def verse. Yeah you read that right, a fully equipped Mos Def verse! None of the off-key singing he flashed on Graduation, just straight flowing rhymes from a legend. But Brooklyn’s much deeper than one man, in fact one woman outdoes ‘em all. If you don’t know Jean Grae you don’t know one of the best MCs working (period, not female MCs) and she shows why here. It'd be a perfect song it it weren’t for the average offering from Memphis Bleek, but complaining about that’s like whining about a scratch on your Maybach; it might not be perfect, but it’s still better than every other car on the road.
Let’s take a step back and try to keep some measure of objectivity here. The truth is there are some soft spots on Dream Merchant, despite the shiningly positive review I’ve been writing. Other than a brilliant Murder Was the Case sample, Saved doesn’t quite live up to expectations. We’ve been waiting for Saigon’s album for months, but I’m just not that excited anymore after listening to his verse blaming gay people for AIDS. The same goes for Let It Bang, a sliding funky track featuring Ness, the man who will forever be “that guy from Da Band.” On an album full of rewind worthy tracks, once is enough for Let It Bang. Thank You relies on heavy bass and percussion to carry the day, it’s 9th’s hardest production on the album, but without some really compelling lyrics it feels a little flat (sorry D.O.X and O-Dash).
Forget it, I just can’t be that negative today. The Little Brother reunion (in a strange way) No Time To Chill is everything you want from a 9th Wonder cut, and Sunday uses some Keisha Shontelle vocals and Chaundon rhymes for a perfect backyard barbecue jam. There’s no doubt about it, this is the stuff hip-hop dreams are made of. 9th is selling, are you buying?
Listen to More: 9th Wonder Written by Nathan S.
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