Monday, October 10, 2011

9th Wonder, The Wonder Years Album Review

It was hard for me at first to fully digest the continuity of pure genius that is 9th Wonder's new album, what with the steady assault from the Jamla family of artists signed to and affiliated with the superproducer's label of the same name.

I mean, a guy can be forgiven for getting caught up in the dizzying array of releases in the weeks leading up to The Wonder Years retailing in stores and online a few weeks ago.

Like a 2011 version of Killah Priest and Cappadonna -- who released their critically acclaimed, 1998 Wu-Tang Clan-affiliated debut albums within a week of one another -- Median and then Phonte both hit us over the head in consecutive weeks with their own respective triumphant reunions with 9th as well as a return from a rap hiatuses. And then, right on there heels comes this album.

Who would have though that eight years after getting his so-called "big break" by lacing Jay-Z with an album cut that 9th would still be bringing the heat on a consistent basis? I did.
And while he's spent the greater part of the past three years introducing the world to his incredible, deep stable of young, hungry rappers and producers, if you sit down expecting to only hear those artists on this album you might be disappointed.

But you shouldn't, because they're still all on there, and the rappers' verses are still all crazy, and they're a perfect complement to the top-tier talent 9th recruits for his fourth official compilation-style album: Kendrick Lamar, Masta Killa, Blu, Raekwon and Erykah Badu, to name but a few.

9TH WONDER - MAKE IT BIG from Pricefilms on Vimeo.

Lyrics abound on this album, perfectly situated over 9th's trademark soulful, sample-heavy productions that keep the neck bobbing and wordplay with that wow-factor line after line.

Phonte, for instance, on Band Practice, a track that continues the reunion of the trinity of Phonte, 9th Wonder and Median: "They say that boy's back/ nigga, this is blackboard rap/ you can go and chalk it up to a loss."
Or Murs, on the song Enjoy: "Classic with this mic, like Mike, when he was blacker/ and you, you remind me of me, when I was wacker."

But true 9th Wonder fans don't want this album for the rhymes. They help, but it's those beats. Those damn beats that are so damned hot each and every time you hear a new track from him. It's the "Prod. By 9th Wonder" tag attached to whatever song that catches your eye before you even notice the actual artist.

If you're like me, you want to see if he can keep this run up. A run that started, at least nationally, in late 2002 with Little Brother's independently released The Listening, a certified classic that is placed high on the totem pole of hip-hop debuts and hip-hop albums overall.

The fact that Phonte and Big Pooh were rapping over those beats were simply gravy to for the Thanksgiving dinner 9th cooked up on his own.

This album, just like all of the singles and albums that he's produced in the past, continues in that boom bap-inspired tradition that he established down in Durham, North Carolina so many years ago.

The vocal samples; the hard hitting snare drum; the muted basslines -- everything you've come to expect and love from a 9th Wonder beat is on this album, and more.

The top tracks from this album include Enjoy, which features Warren G, Murs and Kendrick Lamar; Hearing the Melody, with Skyzoo, Fashawn and King Mez; Piranhas, with Blu and Sundown from Actual Proof; and No Pretending, with Raekwon and Big Remo.

With 15 out of 16 songs being nothing short of 100%, unadulterated Hiphop (Marsha Ambrosius sings a song solo on a track, but I just pretend like it's not there...), the Grammy Award-winning 9th Wonder has with this album further diversified his distinguished Hiphop portfolio by working working for the first time with some artists while at the same time boosting the profile of his own artists.

That, like this album is a win-win situation for everybody.

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