The Red Bull Music Academy rolled ahead with a stop at Philadelphia’s legendary Sigma Sound Studio late last week, where it spotlighted producer extraordinaire, 9th Wonder and former Little Brother member and current collaborator, Phonte.
The duo, who met as fellow dorm mates at North Carolina Central University, found a common, passionate interest in rap music, prompting Phonte to quit collegiate football to begin pursuing their mutual dream. 9th Wonder, who now works with artists under development such as Rapsody and Big Remo, recalled that Pete Rock’s production on “They Reminisce Over You” inspired him to want to make music.
“I wanna see what that is about. I want to see what the mystery was,” he said of the track that featured CL Smooth. “That’s what inspired me to do it.”
As for Phonte: “Big Daddy Kane was my favorite rapper – I loved how he showed the battle sdde and the lady side. Kane was my biggest influence. For me, I liked the skill. I just like to play with words. I spend a lot of time to myself.” With [an] English [degree], I just translated that to MC’ing. I started with a thesis statement, then I wrote rhymes to back it up. It’s like talking like you’re Rick Flair or something!” the comedic MC joked.
Watch the video as 9th Wonder and Phonte share more about the early, discovery years that eventually led to a record deal, Grammy nods and a win, and several classic albums:
Their influences were rooted in the Dirty South, but over the years, as Little Brother, the duo honed their own unique song-crafting processes. Phonte’s singing emerged during the recording of hooks for The Listening’s reference tracks. “After The Listening came out, people started asking me to sing…as time went out, I just did it more and more. I tried my hand as a songwriter but that sh*t got old,” said Phonte. In 2006, on “Leave It All Behind”, he says he decided to “go for broke” and sing for real.
In this clip, 9th Wonder and Phonte talk about how they created the Little Brother sound and beyond, and they share a poignant story about the “immature” four-year break in their creative and friendship bond:
The stop was the second in as many months for Rich Medina, who spun a magnificent set for The Roots at their GrassROOTS Community Foundation concert in mid-February. As for Red Bull, they use stops like this in major cities across the country to tout the experiences of participants from the Music Academy.
Along with a video spotlighting former Academy members like Erykah Badu, Jesse Boykin was also built into the Philadelphia event to lend firsthand props to Red Bull for the life-changing opportunity. In the end, a few members of the eclectic Philly crowd were treated to a rare in-studio moment with the two as they offered advice to aspiring artists, while others kept the party going at Club PYT.
Red Bull Music Academy receives up to 10,000 applications each year – only 60 musicians are chosen annually for the coveted spots. Applications for this fall’s academy are accepted through April 2 – grab one HERE.