It’s been 15 years since the release of the debut album The Listening from the North Carolina trio Little Brother blessed the scene.
The record dropped to much critical acclaim and fanfare as a return to the style of Hip-Hop that Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul made popular. That’s actually how the name Little Brother came about; the trio saw themselves as the little brothers to that movement. 2003 kept on rolling for producer 9th Wonder as he made waves around the internet with the bootleg remix album God’s Stepson which seen 9th remix Nas – God’s Son in its entirety. With two complete projects full of material in under a year he caught the ear of Young Guru, Jay-Z’s right-hand studio man which led to a meeting and 9th producing the track “Threat” from Jay-Z’s then retirement lap The Black Album. Having a production credit next to the likes of Just Blaze, Kanye West, Rick Rubin, The Neptunes, Timbaland and DJ Quik was enough to catapult the name 9th Wonder into the upper echelon of beat makers and sought after producers.
In the subsequent years, 9th Wonder contributed to albums by De La Soul, Masta Ace, Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, Sean Price and handle the majority of the production on Little Brother’s sophomore effort The Minstrel Show which was to be the groups final album with Atlantic and his last as an official member of the group. 9th began branching out producing entire projects with Murs and Buckshot of the Boot Camp Clik. In 2007 Little Brother dropped their third album that featured just one beat from 9th “Breakin’ My Heart” featuring Lil Wayne, that year Drake released his mix-tape Comeback Season which also featured a track produced by 9th.
Drake has gone on record in the past saying that Phonte of Little Brother is his favorite rapper. But as busy as 2007 was for beats it wasn’t just about music as he began a move into the world of academia being appointed to lecture at North Carolina Central University as a part of a Hip-Hip History class.
While performing a balancing act between producing and teaching, 9th produced entire projects for Murs (again), Buckshot (again), Jean Grae and David Banner as well as providing instrumentals for EPMD, Royce Da 5’9”, Erykah Badu, KRS-One and Lil B among others and in 2011 he released his biggest solo production record The Wonder Years that features esteemed guests such as Warren G, Kendrick Lamar, Phonte, Masta Killa, Raekwon and Mac Miller. His work within the education system continued and expanded, spearheading the courses “Sampling Soul” and “An Introduction To Hip-Hop Production”. He has spoken at a plethora of campuses including Duke, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia and Harvard University having been invited to become a fellow in the Hip-Hop Archive. Furthering his path in the education of the youth he was appointed to the Executive Committee of Hip-Hop and Rap at The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.
With all this responsibility on his plate, his music hasn’t taken a step down in quality having recently produced for Jill Scott, the tracks “The Season” and “Without You” on Anderson .Paak’s breakthrough album Malibu and most recently the track “DUCKWORTH” on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN which is actually 3 different 9th Wonder productions stitched together to provide the backdrop for one of Kendrick’s greatest storytelling tracks thus far.
It’s been a busy 15 years for the artist born Patrick Douthit. He continuously grinds to keep Hip-Hop culture alive both as an educator and as leader in this space; rolling up his sleeves and getting his fingers dusty in the crates.