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The Wonder Years
Pick an MC in contemporary hip-hop that you like, and they’re probably on here.
So. New 9th Wonder album. We tend to take 9th personally: he wasn’t very nice to us when we asked him about Little Brother last year, so frankly we’re not too sure about his… oh. Phonte’s on here. That’s… well, that’s interesting.
It would appear that split between 9th and his former bandmates has resolved amicably, and while it doesn’t mean that we’re getting a new LB LP ASAP, it does mean we’re on the right track. And Phonte is in good company; for The Wonder Years, 9th cracked open his significant contact book and invited just about everyone, up to and including bloody Warren G, to rock over his beats. Pick an MC in contemporary hip-hop that you like, and they’re probably on here.
This much innate talent on a record means that there are some serious heaters. We particularly dig ‘That’s Love’, which pairs 9th with the ultra-cool Mac Miller. 9th shows off his ability to link great artists with perfect beats on ’20 Feet Tall’, which sees his protégé Rapsody go toe-to-toe with Erykah Badu (yes please!). And that Warren G track? It’s called ‘Enjoy’, it’s with Murs and Kendrick Lamar, and—look, it’s Warren G. You’ll love it, OK? Plus there’s Masta Killa, Skyzoo, Thee Tom Hardy, Tanya Morgan…
But here’s the thing: like so many producer albums, there’s a serious lack of cohesion. As singles, these all work, but with so many different styles at work it’s all a bit of a mess when listened to in one go. And 9th is a difficult bastard to rap over anyway; his quirky percussion and slightly intellectual samples are a perfect fit for people like ‘Te and the ultra-laid-back Rapsody, but put someone as jumped-up as Fashawn on them (as 9th does on ‘Hearing The Melody’) and it goes south.
And actually, while we’re on the topic of picking MCs: where’s Buckshot? He and 9th go together like cheese and jam, as their two collabo albums have proven.
9th has always worked best with one or two MCs for a whole album—it’s why his best stuff, to this day, is still the music he made with Little Brother, Buckshot and Murs. So come on, 9th: ditch the contact book, call up Buck or ‘Te and Pooh, and lock yourselves in the studio without any sharp objects for a month or so.
And whatever you do, don’t try to rap, like you do on ‘Make It Big’. We don’t care if you call yourself 9thmatic. Nas you ain’t. Or Jay-Z, for that matter.
words Rob Boffard9th Wonder: Band Practice ft. Phonte & Median