So it’s been years since the talk was running around the Hip Hop world about a 9th Wonder album titled The Wonder Years. Some thought back in the day it would be a beat CD, then some thought he would do all the rapping under his alias 9thmatic. Well The album is out and to be honest I expected more.
First off I’m pissed the one song I really thought was dope “1000ft” didn’t make the cut. The cool thing is that 9th has the clout to get almost anyone on a track. People like Warren G show up, Warren fucking G, when’s the last time you heard him on anything? That alone was good enough reason to get the damn album. One thing I like is the way some of the songs have no real “hook”. It feels good to hear Hip Hop not depending on a fucking hook. The first song “Make It” featuring Khrysis sets off the whole vibe of album. These two seem to be going at the best producers that raps title, I like hearing them together. “Make It Big” has the typical 9th sound but Khrysis who had made it evident he can make beats of the same sound handled this one. The next track is ‘Band Practice” that has Ponte and Median giving you short two verses that has the song come and go just as you truly get into it. This is a theme of the album how quick songs are. The West Coast shows up when OG Warren G shows up with one of the new stars of the Left Coast Kendrick Lamar and regular 9th Wonder collaborator Murs on ‘Enjoy”. All three men handle the beat like pros as all of them have different styles and it all comes together. What’s crazy there isn’t a hook at all on “Enjoy”, again that’ keeps it straight hood.
One of the missteps of any 9th album is the R&B lane. It’s strange because the stuff he’s done with big name stars in the game are highlights on those albums the songs are featured on. But when on a 9th project it just doesn’t sound good. It could be because on those other artist albums you get one 9th Wonder track and on here the beats become somewhat repetitive and the singing gets odd sounding. One highlight where the singing and a 9th beat work is “Peanut Butter & Jelly” where the always flawless Marsha Ambrosius does her thing thing. The beat is much more subtle than the ones on “20 Feet Tall” which features Erykah Badu (on a long ass hook and odd adlibs) and Rapsody who is very hit and miss and this is a miss moment and ‘Now I’m Being Cool” that has Mela Machino and Mez on there. The other R&Bish vibe that goes well is when Phonte joined by Bird and Terrence Martin put together “One Night”. I know people pick the beats and maybe the two songs that suck were all the fault of the artists but someone should have stepped up and said something.
One thing you notice is most of the songs on The Wonder Years are about dudes getting a chick. MC’s I really didn’t think I’d ever want to hear spit about a chick did show off a nice element. One of those dudes was Masta Killa as he is joined by Halo on “Loyalty”. The hook and the cutting helps make the song well rounded. You get Kweli doing something that’s becoming familiar ground, the rap song about a chick, and he does what he does best. The lyrics aren’t mind blowing but good enough keep you from skipping “Never Stop Loving You”. Two songs in this lane that come up short are “Your Smile” and “This Love”. Both songs suck because the rappers on them are too low vocally and sound boring. Mac Miller just doesn’t sound like he was into “This Love”, he even says in the song that some of the shit he does is fucking wack… Such an honest ass statement. “Your Smile” has Tom Hardy not making much sense and the beat even sounds like it wasn’t really finished but good enough to use.
End of the day this really isn’t that different from Dream Merchant 1 & 2, again would been cool if 9th really got it in on the mic on this album. The beats are throwback 9th but that only is cool when you hear what samples he’s freaking. The beats themselves aren’t all that good, I hate to feel like I’m in the lane where I’m tired of the sound he (9th Wonder) offers. This isn’t the album I was looking forward to even as a few songs really work. Like I said there is an in and out vibe about a few of the songs and the ones that seem to just linger around are the bad ones. Some songs are like one verse a singer on the hook, if that’s the angle, then the beat plays and next songs. Then there are those wanna be songs that don’t work like “This Love”. There are far more good songs than bad ones but I figure I wouldn’t go out my way to put this on play very much. If you like 9th Wonder and the artist featured on it and just that soul boom bap sound this album is what you should get. It shows why 9th is still that dude on beats and he isn’t that bad as a MC either.