9th Wonder Interview
|Label:||IWWMG/Hits & History|
|Next Project:||The Dream Merchant, Vol. 2 (In Stores Now)|
|Twitter:||9th Wonder on Twitter|
|Website:||9th Wonder's Website|
There aren’t too many ‘super producers’ in the hip-hop game today. Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Swizz Beatz immediately come to mind, but what about new blood? Included in the next generation of production mastery are Cool & Dre, Danja, and DJ Toomp. Although according to in demand producer Just Blaze, if you’re talking ‘super-producer,’ the conversation must include 9th Wonder. Separated but not yet officially divorced from Little Brother and ready to unleash his solo debut, “Dream Merchant, Vol 2.,” 9th sat down with DJBooth’s DJ “Z.” During their interview, they discuss why fans felt 9th was ‘the man’ in Little Brother, why North Carolinians don’t connect with sports and how Pete Rock helps to impress his friends on the daily.
Listen to the Interview
9th Wonder Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a producer who has worked with the industry’s top dogs and the underground’s most acclaimed MCs. Please welcome the Dream Merchant, 9th Wonder – how you doin’?
9th Wonder: Hey, what’s goin’ on, man? How you doin’?
DJ Booth: I’m doin’ great. There are seven wonders of the world – I’m not gonna name them, ‘cause I missed that class several times, but-
9th Wonder: I think I might know ‘em all.
DJ Booth: You want to list ‘em for me?
9th Wonder: The Temple of Artermis, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the ivory statue of Zeus, the Pyramids, King Nebuchadnezzar’s garden-
DJ Booth: You’re almost there!
9th Wonder: And I know this stuff ‘cause I’m a history major – I’m missing the mark today. But those are five that I know right off.
DJ Booth: Well, if you remember the other two over the course of the interview, feel free to include them.
9th Wonder: Oh, I will. [laughter]
DJ Booth: What are some of the wonders of your world?
9th Wonder: My children. It’s funny to see you all over again – my kids are like me all over again. The way I listened to music and everything. My family – my wife, my mom and dad, and my brother. I marvel at how single people live. I mean, you got your mom and dad but at the same time you still out for dolo. You talk to your mom and dad when you want to, really—I’m 32 years old, and my mom and dad is getting older, and a lot of people around me are burying their moms and dads. I just gotta think about stuff like that because those are the people that keep me going.
DJ Booth: You mentioned when you were trying to list all seven wonders of the world how you were a history major, so education is obviously important to you. Along with Chris Martin of Kid ‘N Play fame, you are teaching a “Hip Hop in Context” course at your alma mater, North Carolina Central University. What are some of the main portions of that class’ curriculum?
9th Wonder: We basically focus on 1973 to 1997.
DJ Booth: The good years, okay.
9th Wonder: A lot of people missed out on it – we’re teaching 20 to 22-year-olds, you know? And a lot of these kids were born, and by the time they got old enough to buy their own music, they missed a lot of those golden years of hip hop. We teach everything going from Cool Herc all the way to the day that Biggie died.
DJ Booth: If you could have taken a hip hop course while you were in school, who would you have wanted to teach that class?
9th Wonder: KRS-One, probably. Either KRS-One or Chuck D.
DJ Booth: If I was in that class I would be frightened by both KRS and Chuck – KRS because of how large he is, and Chuck was pretty dominant, so I probably would have gone for someone a little bit more laid-back, but I definitely agree with your choices.
9th Wonder: I appreciate it.
DJ Booth: I had the chance to speak with Big Pooh last month, and I asked him what 9th Wonder would be like outside of Little Brother, and what Little Brother would be like without 9th Wonder. He said “the world’s gonna see when the album finally is released – of course, talking about the new Little Brother record – what kind of group [LB] is. This wasn’t a one-man show, it was a three-man show, and one of the men isn’t here anymore, but the two are gonna go on, keep movin’, and we were never any slouches.” During your time as a part of the group, who do you feel ran the show?
9th Wonder: I think that people’s perceptions can really skew things, when it comes to the dynamics of a group. The people saw me as ‘The Man’ – every interview I’ve always said Phonte was the leader of Little Brother. But I don’t think that the people thought that way. Sometimes that can kind of get people thinking certain ways or whatever, but I can’t help what people think. I know the work that I’ve done, I know the work that Pooh’s done, and I know the work that Te’s done. And I normally don’t talk about the Little Brother situation that much, but I will say that we’ve all done our part to create what Little Brother is today, and no one man is over the group. But people make it like that; you know what I’m saying?
DJ Booth: I think that’s what’s intriguing, though. People want it to be that way.
9th Wonder: Yeah, they do! They want it top be that way no matter what; you know what I’m sayin’? Somebody is ‘The Man.’ Somebody is made ‘The Man.’ Whether you want to be ‘The Man’ or not, somebody is made ‘The Man’ or the leader of a group. As far as our albums are concerned, our albums are gonna do whatever they’re gonna do. No matter what, we’re all children of music, and we all love music. There’s a whole lot of choosing sides – “I’m not gonna buy ‘Getback,’” “I’m not gonna buy ‘Dream Merchant.’” Buy good music because no matter what we’re all on the same side against wack music, you know?
DJ Booth: You actually produced one of the songs on their new album, and they’re featured on your new album. Is the saying, “Never say never,” the case when it relates to possibly hooking back up in the future to do another album as Little Brother?
9th Wonder: I guess Phonte already shut the door on that. Somebody asked him recently would there ever be a reunion – he said, “Hell no.” So there you go. [laughter] That’s it, I guess.
DJ Booth: Well maybe he was just having a bad day, 9th?
9th Wonder: Maybe so – I mean, I don’t know. You know, Pooh has said, “Never say never,” I’ve said, “Never say never.”
DJ Booth: Well, I’m gonna hold out hope that he was just having a bad day and he didn’t really mean what he said during that interview. But let’s focus now on your upcoming project that’s out this month, “The Dream Merchant Vol. 2.” What can long-time fans expect from this effort? Anything different?
9th Wonder: I mean, no, not from this particular effort – its classic 9th Wonder for the most part. That’s the only thing I really can say. There’s been so many things about on the net about drums, this and that – I put out a nice beat tape with drums flyin’ all across the place, and nobody said a word about that mix tape. Just classic 9th I built my own foundation of sound on –it’s not a lot of new producers. I’m one of the new best producer – not a lot of new producers doing that boom-bap sound and that’s what I like to do. At the end of the day when you’re going in the game, you can either abide myself or don’t. Like, you can either get with me or you can’t get with me, at this particular point. Either you like me or you don’t like me, and that’s how I feel about it. But for the ones who like what I do and support me– it’s classic 9th Wonder, man.
DJ Booth: It’s like a sports franchise in a city that’s been there for a long time – either you’re on that bandwagon and you ride or die with it, or you’re not.
9th Wonder: Yeah, yeah!
DJ Booth: Are you waitin’ to jump on the [Charlotte] Bobcats bandwagon when they finally make the playoffs?
9th Wonder: No, I doubt that. [laughter] The thing about North Carolinians and sports; some kids are growing up in a time where there has been a fourth franchise in North Carolina. Panthers just got here in ‘95, I was 20 years old. When I was thirteen, we got the Hornets, and then the Hornets left, and then we just got the Hurricanes, they won the Stanley Cup, nobody living here really cared.
DJ Booth: I was just gonna say, no one likes hockey, anyways.
9th Wonder: Yeah, nobody likes hockey here, really. I wouldn’t say nobody, ‘cause the games are packed and they got a lot of New York, New Jersey transplants that live here.
DJ Booth: They’re probably from Canada, though.
9th Wonder: Probably so. But there lived there no doubt and Carolina Hurricanes fans, games are always jam-packed. We won the Stanley Cup, nobody really cares. This is a college football, college basketball area.
DJ Booth: Let’s switch gears back to the album for a second. I read that the concept behind the record is six years old. Why did it take so long for it to finally get done and out to the public?
9th Wonder: I did “The Listening” and “Project Mayhem” at the same time; I recorded those albums a the same time. Workin’ on those two albums, and then album after album came, and my solo project – I didn’t time for “Dream Merchant.” I didn’t have time to do an album of me and a bunch of artists.
DJ Booth: That’s fair. Now, I did my research, and a merchant is a professional who deals with trading commodities that they do not produce themselves in order to produce a profit. But to flip the script, you fully produced this album, so that would make you a ‘merchant executive.’ How do you feel about retitling the album?
9th Wonder: [laughter] Man, I guess I would take a Merchant Executive title. As far as the dream part, man, my whole solo career that I’ve had so far has been a dream. It’s been “You got to talk to who?” or, “You could be with who?” or, “Somebody’s your friend?” It’s been a whole fairy tale for me. I guess a dream merchant is, not only am I selling commodities to somebody, I also want people to be able to fulfill their dreams, all the success that I had, if that makes any sense.
DJ Booth: It makes complete sense.
9th Wonder: It’s kinda funny, man, if you have your friends sittin’ around and say, “Yo, you know Pete Rock for real?” I’m like, “Yeah, I know Pete Rock for real.” And I went to high school with my friends, and we’d always sit around and listen to Pete Rock, and now Pete Rock is a friend of mine, and they’re like, “Wow, you know him for real?” And they get to meet him and they’re like, “Thank you for lettin’ me meet Pete.” That makes me feel good; you know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: I completely see what you’re saying. You even said, you feel like all of your dreams have come true. The expression “beyond your wildest dreams,” at any point throughout your music career, when you first were starting, did you ever think that you’d get to this plateau that you have already achieved?
9th Wonder: No, not by a long shot. I never though I’d get to this particular place as a “Super Producer.” Some people might not call me a Super Producer – Just Blaze called me a Super Producer and I was like, “Wow, really? I’m a Super Producer for real?” He called me a Super Producer, and that means a lot coming from him, ‘cause he is a Super Producer. I never thought I would be in the company that I’ve been in the past four years. And all of this has happened in four years. Some people take a lifetime to achieve what I’ve achieved in four years.
DJ Booth: Some people never get there.
9th Wonder: Some people never get there! They never do.
DJ Booth: Well, your humble nature has gotten you this far and it will certainly take you throughout the rest of your career. 9th, give everybody a website or Myspace page so they can find out more about the brand new album and what you have comin’ up next year, too.
9th Wonder: myspace.com/9thwondermusic, or you can go check us out at trueschoolcorp.com. And the second installment, which is more of my R&B-esque type album, shows a wide range of what I can do, it’s called “The Wonder Years,” on Asylum/Atlantic, which is due in stores January the 29th. Buckshot and 9th Wonder, again, “The Formula.” MURS and 9th Wonder again, “Sweet Lord,” and we’re finally gonna release, “Genius,” with Jean Gray and I.
DJ Booth: Finally!
9th Wonder: Finally, yeah. And please don’t forget on October 23rd, please go out and get the “Getback.” Don’t forget that; go support Little Brother as well.
DJ Booth: I did some research while we were talking – the Seven Wonders of the World are the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis, the Mausoleum of Maussollos, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. So there, we got our seven.
9th Wonder: We got our seven. Which ones did I miss? I got the Zeus, I got Giza, and I got the Hanging Gardens-
DJ Booth: The mausoleum?
9th Wonder: The mausoleum and what else?
DJ Booth: Colossus of Rhodes.
9th Wonder: The Colossus of Rhodes! Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DJ Booth: There we go. 9th, I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
9th Wonder: Thanks, man, I appreciate it.