9th Wonder Drops Debut Compilation, Talks Working With Jay-Z, Drake & David Banner

The anticipated compilation from Grammy Award-winning 9th Wonder’s dual labels, Jamla and The Academy hit stores this week.

9th’s Opus: It s A Wonderful World Music Group Volume I features North Cac’s freshest talent from the First Lady Rapsdoy to fellow rappers Tom Hardy, Halo and Big Remo (who debuted Sept. 28 with Entrapment) to singers Tyler Woods and Heather Victoria, and New York adoptee Skyzoo.

Hip Hop Wired caught up with the super producer outside of the D.C. health food/nightclub spot, Funxion, in D.C. where the marketing team, True School, hosted an after the Rock The Bells party (Aug. 31st).

He donned a Zulu Nation medallion and Superman t-shirt and spoke the forthcoming project with David Banner (Death of a Pop Star, Nov. 9th); what’s greater in Hip-Hop than working with Jay and sleeping on Pete Rock’s floor; and getting Drake to rap, not sing.

Hip-Hop Wired:  Where are we with the David Banner Project?

9th Wonder: We got Warren Campbell involved… he’s a great instrumentalist, a great musician and we got him involved. We played some of the samples that I used to give it a big full sound, but I’ma still tweak [it] to where it still sounds like a sample. November the 9th is when the album comes out, the next single is the single with me,  Ludacris, David and Marsha Ambrosious.

Hip-Hop Wired:  So from what is the title inspired, Death Of A Pop Star?

9th Wonder: Death Of A Pop Star comes from the state of Black music. When Michael Jackson died a lot of music died with him, a lot of Black music died with him and it’s up to us to keep that thang going. So it’s basically dealing with pop stars, it’s kind of talking about the aftermath of what happens after Mike now – not necessarily every song – but you know, what are we going to do after Mike? Are we going to keep the legacy going after Mike up to put out good music? You know, making a pop song is one thing, making a song and it becomes popular is something totally different…

Hip-Hop Wired:  How do you qualify good music?

9th Wonder: Good music comes from the soul, good music has great intentions behind it.  You got a lot of people out there that use music for financial gain and that’s it, and you can hear it in the music, you don’t take as much time as somebody else would or you could. I always say you can see somebody that’s fake, even past music, when it comes to anything else, you can see somebody’s heart. Good music to me… does it come from the heart? Are you in it for the right reasons? Is it love over money or is it money over love?

Hip-Hop Wired:  If it’s more about the love, what’s the point of packaging and promoting it and getting into the business?

9th Wonder: I said love over money, I didn’t say love without. I didn’t exclude it… Regardless of what, that $10 or that $11 that I paid for Midnight Marauders way back in 1993 has lasted me for 17 years, and it’s connected me with all those people that was at Rock The Bells today. I don’t know a lot of those people at Rock The Bells that was in the crowd… but that album that we all paid for in 1993, we all shared something when it comes to that.

As the saying goes: Without music would we know each other? So with that $10 that Tribe packaged and put all the faces on the CD and called it “Midnight Marauders” and it was four different covers that you can get and all that, that’s an experience. When music becomes an experience, it’s more than just you trying to sell a CD, you’re trying to be a part of someone’s life and Tribe has been a part of my life since like 1989, so that’s where the love comes from.

Hip-Hop Wired:  Speaking more of love, David Banner said that this album is like ‘if Hip-Hop were a woman, then this is her having sex again for the first time and it’s tantric.’ …Why are you shaking your head?

9th Wonder: [Smiling] ‘Cause that’s David. I mean, that’s David and that’s his interpretation of the record. My thing is it hasn’t been something on a Hip-Hop side that most men and women who’s married, or not married, single over 30, over 25 that actually would get up and go buy because they feel like a lot of music ain’t for them no more… So for me, this album, it serves that particular demographic.

Hip-Hop Wired:  But what about the youngin’s, do you want to reach that demographic?

9th Wonder: I want to influence that age bracket… it warms my heart when I meet a 15-year-old that says they like my music.  I’m not necessarily making it for them, to be honest with you. Not say I’m trying to exclude them. That’s not my first thought. I don’t think that when Earth Wind & Fire made “Can’t Hide Love” they was thinking about 12-year-olds, they were thinking about grown folks who like music…

So when I make music, a lot of times I’m not thinking about 5-year-olds. I may think about 5-year-olds the way I carry myself, or what I say in interviews, but when it comes to those beats, I’m not thinking about 5-year-olds, not in that way. I rather think about 5-year-olds from an educational standpoint, but not for my group, or my label.

Hip-Hop Wired:  Let’s talk about your label, you mentioned that every artist you have signed will co-executive produce with you. Why is that?

9th Wonder: Because I’m trying to get them to get to the point where they understand the business and understand how to be financially stable. I don’t like total control over anyone. Like some people do this thing because they want control, I want to get to the point where I can do the music thing, and I’ve been in it for 7 years, and I want to get to the point where I can do it and then put my people on.

Hip-Hop Wired:  What does “on” look like? Is that platinum sales? Is that sustainable livelihood, you know, they can feed themselves?


9th Wonder: I’m really fortunate enough to have artists that just want to sustain their livelihoods where they feed themselves. I may have a lot of artists that want to do the Grammy’s and want to do platinum sales, but I think the days of platinum sales when it comes to Hip-Hop are kind of gone without you killing 80 folk on your record or the flip side of that is cooning yourself to non-disbelief.

Hip-Hop Wired:  What would be the model to make it so that feel good and platinum sales are one in the same? A lot of the complaints in the industry is that the Internet has been the demise.

9th Wonder: Because the machine doesn’t want to conform to the way that independent artists think, they have to rethink themselves, they have to go back into like it’s 1983, ’84. It’s ‘bout like Hip-Hop starting all over again, that’s what they have to think. They always say, you want a career in America it’ll be 15 minutes, if you want a career in Europe, you have a lifetime… I look at Jazz artists, I look at old soul musicians, they stay overseas, they come home, they chill, and that’s what it’s all about for me. That’s what it’s becoming for Hip-Hop anyway. If you don’t have a substantial overseas following you will wither and die.

Hip-Hop Wired:  How do you know for yourself that line between you’re doing it out of love or you’re doing it for the money?

9th Wonder: It’s no amount of money that makes me sit in the studio and make nine beats. I was doing that when I was broke, so no matter if I’m making money on it or not, I’m going to make nine beats a day because I love, I’m chasing the high and that high is that sound of the music, that soul, the funk… as long as that feeling stays within me, it’s always going to be love over money… I would listen to “Electric Relaxation” 40,000 times in my life, it never gets old. It’s like when it comes on, when a DJ plays it, it’s like the first time I heard it and that’s  why I say for me it’s love over money.

Hip-Hop Wired:  You Tweeted today that Tribe is the greatest…

9th Wonder: The greatest group of all time.

Hip-Hop Wired:  What it is about them that made you Tweet that?

9th Wonder: Just the performance, the discography of songs. I think that’s the group that influenced me the most as far as my demeanor. I’m a member of the Universe Zulu Nation now and Tribe had a lot to do with it… Tribe is the group that made me really, really say, what is this Zulu Nation thing all about? And from all of that, to the sounds, to the groove, to everything, Tribe is it, Tribe is it, Tribe is all the way it.

Hip-Hop Wired:  What does being a part of Zulu Nation mean to you?

9th Wonder: It’s probably the most important thing I’ve done in Hip-Hophp hop music. Getting with Jay-Z was way up there, sleeping on Pete Rock’s floor was way up there, having hours and hours of conversations on the phone with DJ Premiere was way up there. Zulu Nation is number one because I’m a part of something… it’s always great to be a part of something greater than yourself and Zulu Nation is it. I am connected with a long line of brothers and sisters who believe in the power and the peacefulness that Hip-Hop can cause and that’s what it is for me.

I thought I was always connected to Hip-Hop  by my music and beats, but now I know I am because you have to be invited, you can’t ask to be in this family, and for me to be asked to be in it from my region of the world – most Zulus come from New York or Los Angeles, you know, where there’s actually a Hip-Hop scene. I’m from Winston-Salem, North Carolina…

Drake Speaking On 9th Wonder


Hip-Hop Wired:  You are certainly an indelible part of Hip-Hop, even among the younger set. One of the most talked about emcees right now, Drake talks about how much respects working with you…

9th Wonder: I mean we worked together before, 4 or 5 years ago, we did a joint together called “Think Good Thoughts,” so we’re looking to do more stuff like that as opposed to that “Find Your Love” stuff… I mean, he can rhyme, I’m saying, so, we’re looking to do more traditional stuff.