Friday, May 16, 2008

GPT Interviews 9th Wonder (Part One)

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/16/2008 No comments
Grammy award-winning hip-hop producer and North Carolina native 9th Wonder is in Charlotte tonight for a party he’s DJing at Woods on South (click here for details). caught up with the hip-hop head. Here, in part one of the interview, he shares his thoughts on the current state of hip-hop music and culture. He also says if you’re in your mid-20s to late-30s, which he defines as the “true school” generation, you should be appreciating the hip-hop you grew up on—and stop requesting Soulja Boy in the clubs.

GrownPeopleTalking: Do you think that a challenge with hip-hop is that it doesn’t mature? Say when you reach a certain age you feel as if the music is too young for you?
9th Wonder: I think hip-hop back in the early 90s was mature. A lot of us grew up in Southern black Christian homes, and a lot of the music we listened to had a backdrop of jazz records—A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian. The music we listened to was mature. If you look at some of the records that we listened to, “Slow Down” by Brand Nubian was a song about women needing to slow down and stop tricking themselves out. When does that ever get out of style? I was listening to Public Enemy when I was 13 years old. Public Enemy made Black Power albums. When does that ever go out of style?

GPT: Do you think we’ve gone away from that, or is it just not getting played?
9th: It’s just not getting played, man. We haven’t gone away from that. The same people who feel [hip-hop] has gone away from that, who feel like they’re too old to listen to hip-hop, request Soulja Boy at parties. Does that make sense? We live in a society where you get a good paying job and you have kids, then you say ‘I’m too grown for that.’ Too grown for what? That’s the music of your childhood. You can’t deny your childhood. You can’t deny what made who you are. We say we’re grown and we don’t listen to hip-hop records [anymore], but the way we act, the way we talk—when you call somebody and they say ‘I’m at the crib.’ Where does ‘crib’ come from? Like when you call somebody and say whatcha doing, and they say ‘I ain’t doing nothing. Just chilling.’ Chilling? Where does that come from? It doesn’t come from soul records; it comes from rap records. So no matter how much we try to separate ourselves from hip-hop because we claim to be grown, we still are the first hip-hop generation. And we will never get away from that. It’s just not getting played. Some people come to these parties and hear me play records they haven’t heard in so long. They’ll here me play Chubb Rock’s “Treat ‘Em Right” and look at me funny, like ‘I can’t believe he’s playing this song. I’ve kind of forgotten how to dance to this song.’

GPT: So we can have an appreciation for the good hip-hop music from the mid to late 80s and the early 90s, but what about current good music in hip-hop? Does it exist?
9th: It does, but a lot of it is in places where we, as an age group, don’t go. Like getting on the Net and surfing for good music is something that most 30 year olds in the South don’t do. So a lot of the music that’s good, they might miss it. The only good music they think exists is what’s in their face—either on radio or on TV. They know Kanye exists, they know Common exists, they know Lupe exists, they know Talib Kweli exists—kind of, sort of. Just think about the people who are just now being turned on to Raheem DeVaughn. How long have you been listening to Raheem DeVaughn?

GPT: At least three years.

9th: And how long have you been trying to put people on to Raheem DeVaughn?
GPT: About three years.

9th: And how long have they been listening to you?
GPT: Not until “Customer” came out.

9th: Exactly. It’s like you can try to turn people on to good music, but they won’t turn the corner until it’s played on the radio all the time or TV. Some people need that. They need that validation. I was DJing parties earlier this year, and I would play the Erykah Badu record, “Honey,” that I [produced]. I would play it and people would ask ‘What’s that?’ And I’d say it’s that new Erykah Badu. They’d say, ‘Oh okay,’ then walk away. It wasn’t until it started getting played on the radio and TV that people started going, ‘That’s Erykah Badu, Honey, wooooo!’

GPT: Seeing as the music industry is struggling, how can we turn this corner? How can we get out of this hip-hop recession? Because not only is the music industry struggling saleswise, but hip-hop is hurting more than them all.
9th: Right. You know why hip-hop is struggling? Because it’s the only music genre, it seems like, that does not respect its elders. They’re starting to do it with the whole [VH1] Hip Hop Honors. But that’s once a year, dude. We as black people don’t know how to make what we do classic and traditional. We’re so in love with what’s going on now, what’s hot now. Rock music doesn’t do that. I was watching an HD channel one time and I saw a Motley Crue concert. That thing was so jam packed, and they were performing songs they hadn’t done in 20 years. We don’t know how to do that. We don’t know how to make the things we create classic. If we start our own infrastructure, then we don’t have to worry about the hip-hop that we grew up on dying.

GPT: I think it’s a situation where hip-hop artists, once they reach 30 or 35, and you can use Jay-Z as an example, felt like they had to retire because they saw no rappers seeing success at that age. MC Lyte, Salt-n-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane—all of them kind of disappeared once they reached that age. But you are now starting to see these same artists tour again. But it still has a long way to go. Do you agree?
9th: Yeah, they’re doing shows but they’re still not performing for kids. If there are kids at their shows, the parents brought them. The number one show right now for black people ages 28 to 39 is New Edition. New Edition is our Frankie Beverly and Maze. We’re going to be seeing New Edition out there until they turn 50.

GPT: How can we get the younger generation connected to it?
9th: It’s up to us. It’s up to us, as parents. The reason it’s a 60-year-old and a 16-year-old at the same Rolling Stone concert is because that’s all that 16-year-old heard that 60-year-old parent or grandparent playing. The problem now is that we got 35 year olds wanting to do the Soulja Boy [dance]. Who’s leading who? You come over to my house, with my kids, you’re going to listen to what daddy’s listening to. Daddy’s listening to New Edition, Soul 4 Real, Soul 2 Soul, Intro, Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam, A Tribe Called Quest—anything that’s from that era that’s safe for kids to listen to.

GPT: Recently we’ve seen hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Diddy, Ice Cube, and others showing themselves as fathers, whereas before it seemed to be something they would hide. For a while, every rapper we saw came across as if he was single and just partied all the time. What do you think sparked this change?
9th: They ain’t got no choice. They’re getting older. Nobody was prepared for hip-hop to grow up or that it would go this far. When we turn 50 years old, who do you think we’re going to see in our concerts? Not Soulja Boy.

GPT: You use Soulja Boy a lot as an example, but in all fairness to him he’s the face of this current music we’re hearing because he’s had the most success with it. His dance took the world by storm. I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because he’s a kid who’s making music for kids. It’s a bad thing because it’s dominating the music.
9th: I agree with that wholeheartedly. Because just like they have Soulja Boy we had Humpty Hump and that was a stupid dance, too. The problem with Soulja Boy is—and it’s not that what he’s doing is the problem—but the problem is that in our generation we never made the one-hit wonder the face of the music. We had some stupid songs. We had “Doo-Doo Brown,” but we didn’t put them on magazine covers. Humpty Hump was a stupid dance but Digital Underground was a dope group. But the one-hit wonder dude was not the high representation of hip-hop music. Soulja Boy is becoming the face of hip-hop music and that’s dangerous.

Stay tuned for part two of this interview, where 9th Wonder discusses the Carolinas’ impact on hip-hop, which artists he’s currently working with, and the status of his relationship with Little Brother.


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