Exclusive: Beatmaker and Educator 9th Wonder On His New Buckshot/Murs Albums and The HBCU Effect
“Busy” is a term that couldn’t begin to describe the current life of legendary beatsmith 9th Wonder. Traveling week-to-week between Duke and Harvard, the Durham, North Carolina native has to balance school and music as if he were a college musician, barring this being on a much larger scale. It wasn’t long ago that 9th Wonder became a Harvard Fellow and now settled in with somewhat of a routine for his new job, the Hip-Hop scholar hopes to bring more to the classroom, teaching the how’s and why’s, rather than then the who’s and what’s.
In the realm of music, 9th recently released his third collaborative album with Buckshot, The Solution, and his fifth joint venture with Murs entitled The Final Adventure. The collective efforts spawned by each of the two MCs when working with the Jamla headman offer a similar goal with two very different final products.
AllHipHop.com recently talked with 9th Wonder about music, education, and how the two provide valuable lessons for those wanting to learn from them:
AllHipHop.com: Musically you just released The Solution with Buckshot - this is the third one you’ve done with him. Every time I hear him on your production, it’s perfect because he fits so well with it. What makes you come together with him time and time again to put these out?
9th Wonder: I just feel like it’s a brand of Hip-Hop that people want to hear, and it may not be for the masses so to speak and we’re talking about the general root of Hip-Hop anyway. It was never meant for the masses anyway so that’s what it is. There’s a certain amount of the population that want to hear the music that we make, and we don’t want to keep those people underserved. They’re underserved enough, and so that’s who we go for and we’re concerned about the 3,000 or the 300,000 that’s listening rather than the three million that’s not and that’s what keeps us happy, that’s what keeps us in the place of making the music that we want to make, and that’s what it’s all about. And that’s why we continue to do the records with me and Buckshot and me and Murs, too - same deal.
AllHipHop.com: How did you and Buckshot originally meet?
9th Wonder: It was a series of people that approached me. The first person that approached me was Mr. Walt. Mr. Walt was the guy that contacted me outside of Duckdown, and then the next person to call me was (DJ Evil Dee), and then the next person to call me after that was Dru Ha, and then I remixed some songs with Dru Ha. That was in 2004, and we was like, “Man, you’ve just got to come down.” And so he came down, and we went from there.
AllHipHop.com: Right, and Jamla and Duckdown have always been intertwined especially with the Justus League. Earlier you mentioned Murs and you have the album with him that just dropped too, The Final Adventure. You have such a deep catalog with Murs as well, and it’s always dope, too. What are some of the distinctive qualities this one has from maybe the other ones you’ve done with him?
9th Wonder: Um, you know it’s hard to say, I think that the distinctive quality that this album has is that Murs’ subject matter. If you listen to him through out the album, you can tell that he’s growing up, you know what I mean? 316, it was a harder record. It sounded hard, and what he was talking about was hard and some of the stories but now, like first he was saying “Walk Like A Man” and all that, but now he’s got the joint “Walk Like A Woman". It’s showing his growth and that’s the difference.
AllHipHop.com: Something else that you are involved in is academia, and you teach through music and you teach how to produce as well. But teaching through music, do you think there is a need for an increase in music pedagogy in not just universities, but schools in general?
9th Wonder: Yeah, but I think more so from a Hip-Hop standpoint is just the fact that the art taught people how to think outside of the box whether that be art class or shop or wherever, and it really just taught you how to think outside of the box. Instead of just learning a math problem and that was it, it taught people how to be creative and that always needs to be a part of it. Now if we’re talking about Hip-Hop history I think that’s something that really needs to be taught on a collegiate level only because we’re not talking about Hip-Hop and how to become a rapper or a producer, we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about a culture that has affected our society in the past 30 years, you know?
AllHipHop.com: Right and Hip-Hop is often times a subject that comes up during the course of teaching an African American studies course at a university, I know that firsthand. But I also think African Americans or anyone often times have to wait until college to learn at a major extent about the positive leaders and past that their culture shares and a lot of those leaders have been through Hip-Hop. Do you believe that is the case?
9th Wonder: Yeah, I think it does but more so at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, they need to take pride and they need to take more of a leadership role in the teaching of it and the reason that they don’t is because most Historically Black Colleges and Universities are run by people who are from a different generation, so it’s hard to sell to them the fact that we need to learn about this culture on a university campus when the only experience of knowing about the culture is through the media; it’s just hard.
The media teaches you nothing about the culture; they teach you about everything else like society in America, but it doesn’t teach you about the actual culture of the people so that’s the whole tide and bind. It’s just trying to get those universities to understand we’re not talking about that; we’re talking about something else.
AllHipHop.com: Finally, what’s next for 9th Wonder in your immediate future?
9th Wonder: Well, you know, next year will be the first time that all of Jamla will become artists in the stores. We started out as free virals and then we went straight to iTunes with a few of us putting out hard copies but then next year all of us will have hard copies and that’s the gradual build that I wanted and that’s a program that a lot of artists can’t deal with. You gotta flow, and the end result will be a whole lot better and the end result just turns into a stones throw so that’s number one.
I’ll be releasing my compilation album, Dream Merchant Vol. 3, next summer, happy about that. I’ve got to do my colloquium talks in February at Harvard in front of a room; there’ll probably be some artists in there, but there’ll probably be a whole lot of people who don’t understand the culture. Everyone won’t enjoy [laughs]. So those are the three things I’m working on right now, but I’m working on the colloquium speech right now, man.
Check out 9th Wonder and Murs' The Final AdventureHERE.
Check out 9th Wonder and Buckshot's The SolutionHERE.