If you’d told me as a kid that any of my teachers liked to play video games I’d have given you the classic Gary Coleman “wachutalkinboutwyllis” look. It would have been even stranger if you told me said teacher was IN one of my favorite video games.
But as the generation that grew up on Atari 2600, “Different Strokes” and Biggie comes of age that is becoming a reality. Producer, DJ and lecturer Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit is taking his love and appreciation of hip-hop to the home arcade and the college classroom.
This fall he will serve as the musical mind behind the latest edition of the NBA 2K franchise, NBA Elite 11. Having contributed songs to past titles 9th is now scoring the entire game. So when D-Wade dishes off to LeBron for the 15th time in that blowout against the computer 9th’s beats will be the backdrop.
The video game gig is icing on the cake for the NC producer who has one album with Cali rapper Murs (Fornever) under his belt this year already and another with David Banner (Death Of A Pop Star) on the way. But whether it’s in front of a laptop or a podium 9th’s passion for music is undeniable. So much so that our hour-long conversation just couldn’t fit in the confines of a 4-minute video or 500 word Q&A for the ADHD afflicted so we gave you a little bit of both. Enjoy.
TUD: How did you end up scoring the “NBA ELITE 2011″ Game?
9th Wonder: I did voice-overs for the “Scarface” game about 6 years ago and a great friend of mine in the game by the name of Rhona Macardo. She brought me up to a lady by the name of Raphaela Alema, who is also a great person and in conversation she was talking about music. You know how people are when they talk about music it feels like they found a best friend and my name came up. Rhona hit me and said ” 9th, 9th yo check it out. Rapheala wants to hit you up about NBA live 10. I said okay. So she hit me up and that’s when we had a song on there with David Banner and GQ, Quinton Thomas to all the university of North Carolina basketball fans out there. The song is called “Spit” and that was on NBA Live 10. Everything was smooth; we turned in everything on time. You know we did some things that Hip hoppers have a problem doing. Be on time about stuff. Try to meet your deadline because that’s what keeps people coming back, you know, if you’re not a pain to work with. So we got it done.
Game came out and then the next thing you know I got an email out the blue from my man Ryan Santos who works at EA in Canada, he said we’re looking for you to do some music for the game. And I’m like, “Oh okay sound track again.” He hit me back, ” We’re looking for you to score the game.” And I’m like, “Ok!” You know what I’m saying. You grow up looking at things on TV or going to the store and buying stuff and when you get a chance to become apart of it it’s a totally different thing. You know like meeting an actor you grew up watching. Like I recently met Malcolm Jamal Warner and he was like, ” Man I been a fan of your for 5 years.” What! You know what I’m saying? Like you Theo Huxtable! This is what EA Sports was. On the commercial I say “It’s in the game” in the commercial, which is nuts for me to say that. So now I’m a part of the game. You know I was at the NBA elite event and Mike Legder, good guy works at EA and he said,” What do you think about the game?” I said, “I think you guys game, I think it’s great.” He said “This is our game now this is our game and I’m like, “Okay, it’s our game, you know what I’m saying.” I said, ” I can say that?” He was like “Yeah.” I said, “Aight, this is our game.” He said, “You can go in the store and say that’s my game right there you know.” And that’s crazy to even say that and I’m blessed to have a chance to say that, man, and hopefully more things will come in the future. I’m going to start doing cartoons and stuff man and narrating (chuckle).
TUD: I saw the video for “Slow Down.” Talk about that Death Of a Pop Star project with David Banner. When was the first time you heard Grey Skies.?
9th Wonder: Oh my God, that is a Crooked Lettaz record right? Long long long long time ago. It’s one of those things where you hear “Grey Skies” then you hear “Like a Pimp”and didn’t know that was the same person. And so you know my introduction to David Banner as he is right now was “Like a Pimp”. Over the years I’ve seen from the outside looking in, you know, it was at a time where I would see Banner speaking out on different things, this that and the third and then you read more about him. He went to a black college and he was SGA president and stuff like that. You kind of find out that you’re more like people than you think. We got on the phone via a True School DJ partner of mine by the name of DJ Cousin B. Banner is from Jackson Mississippi and my boy Cousin B went to Jackson State so they knew each other that way. And so, Cousin B saw him in DC at a show, they got each other’s number, had a long conversation about black men in hip hop and it just took off from there and so the first song we did was “No Denying” and then we did “Slow Down.” That beat is six years old, like he was picking beats and I wasn’t like even paying attention to. And he was like, “I like it.” Heather Victoria was a student of mine at North Carolina Central. I never try to recruit students to do music. I just wanted to teach them Hip-hop history; it’s a totally different thing. She came to me and she was like, “I sing.” And I was like, “Okay so does everybody.” So she let me hear one of her records one day and I was like, “Wow! Yea you sing.” A lot of people say, “P don’t give back to his people,” but Heather is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina (chuckle). And so that’s how Slow Down record came about. And if you notice in the record Banner is like, “They call me David Banner.” I’m like, “Baby what it is.” That is our tribute to “Posse On Broadway” [Sings], “Me and K sensation, I’m on our way from home…” He is rhyming that way because that’s a “Posse On Broadway” tribute. “Slow Down” is also a tribute to Brand Nubian. I try my best throughout my career to say thank you so many ways and so does Banner. It kind of teaches the youth to kind of connect cause now we are connecting the youth, we are the bridge that connects the youth to the early 90’s now. So we kind of do that in certain ways. Just as samples did us to the 70’s, now we have to be the bridge that connects the youth 90’s. So, we do things in our music and in our songs and in our videos that kind of show in a way that you can understand this is what the early 90’s was and how much it means to us. So that’s “Slow Down” and “Death of a Pop Star.” We got nine records and I’ve never met anybody like David Banner (chuckle), never in my life. He is a one in a million dude, but he loves hard and he goes hard all the time. And I thank him for it.
TUD: I always tell people that he and Killa Mike are two of the smartest people I have ever met, not two of the smartest rappers. Two of the smartest people I have sat down and had a conversation with.
9th Wonder: Very brilliant brother, very brilliant brother and I’m the third (chuckles). Very brilliant brother though man, very smart and very in tune with life and knowing what he wants to do and you know a lot of people wouldn’t put us together, but a lot of people are looking at the music he made in the past and the music that I make. “Why are they together?” Because we’re black men that’s why.
TUD: Well that’s the thing. I listened to “Grey Skies” and thought okay this makes sense. This isn’t a reach for Banner but, I guess people who only knew Banner for “Like a Pimp” thought that wasn’t in his lane.
9th Wonder: Yea, whatever n*gga we’re in the lane of grown up black men over thirty. That’s our lane. Get wit it or leave it alone.
TUD: You went out to Cali to do the beats for the Fornever album with Murs. Now did that change the way you made music at all? Cause I’ve read different producers saying,”Yeah we went out to Cali, we went out to Hawaii and went in some sunshine and we just made sunny beats (chuckles) you know. Was that the case with this album?
9th Wonder: Um man like the joint um, what’s the joint with Corrupt? “West Coastin.” And Jones put that (makes noise). I told him to put that. I said, ” Man you got to put the (makes same noise) in there. Man it’s got that west coast bounce to it. He was in the studio crip walking and everything. It’s crazy stuff man. Like it brings that out of you. LA brings it out of you. I’m making my point, I don’t care what city I’m going to, to listen to the music that was made in that city. Everytime I land in Atlanta and every time I walk through the airport in Atlanta I play the intro to ATliens. I don’t care. So I can feel Atlanta. I can feel it. Every time we drive to Atlanta and we come down 85 and we turn the corner I hit that song. So I can feel it. I do that with Philly. Philly I play [The Roots] “Everybody is A Star.” Every time I land in LA man I play [Dr. Dre's] “Little Ghetto Boy” I don’t care. Soon as I get off the plane. Cause this is how I know LA. All of these cities was introduced to me by music. Not by TV, it was introduced to me from the street names to the places. Slawson…All these places were introduced to me through music. I want to feel that over and over again.
Like you listen to the records now and see stuff, you can’t tell where they from. And I think that’s kind of missing from hip-hop. They want to half way like join us up by money with the euro and all that. You need to smack them. Don’t do it to our music too. Let us be in different demos like we are. And this is how we do it down here. So that’s what I did with the “Fornever” record and people think its our best working record and we did it in 6 days.
TUD: How much of this perspective did you bring to your teaching in the class room?
9th Wonder: Oh a lot, a lot. It’s all about connection. It’s all about, you know, especially with all the black colleges we are dealing with a lot of young black kids. And if all the other races are watching this, I’m not a prejudice or racist person. All of us are prejudice somewhat, let’s be real. I say black first because I am. And I was a black kid and so I’m passionate about black kids especially young black boys. That’s my passion. I’m a big person of taking care of home and my home is in blackness and in that is young black boys and black women.
We didn’t want to listen to our parents and teachers so at least we had entertainment. We had Cosby Show, A Different World and the music coupled with that. We all forget NWA said “I don’t smoke weed or cess, cuz it gives a brother brain damage.” The arts can teach. The arts with money can teach. So when it comes to these kids I want them to understand what the music sounded like. I want you to take a trip with me so you understand why we feel the way we do about music. That’s what I do in the classroom. Come take a trip with me when Menace II Society and Poetic Justice came out within a month of each other. In a three year span we had Juice, Boomerang, Menace II Society, Boyz In The Hood, Poetic Justice and New Jack City. On top of that Nas, Biggie Tupac, Wutang and Tribe [all had albums out].
I was talking to my nephew who is 16 years old and I told him to name his favorite rappers. He said Drake, Lil Wayne, Jeezy and some other people. I said imagine if your everyday, everywhere the people you saw on the radio and TV all the time were Outkast, Snoop, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, Biggie, Wutang, Nas, Tupac and your R&B was Mary J. Blige, Jodeci, Boyz II Men. That is your top R&B chart! That was everyday for us!
I’m a Christian by faith but I understand and appreciate the Muslim faith because of Brand Nubian, more than [from] any religious leader. You have to show people different ways. That’s the way we have to show the youth. We have to open their minds but we have to go about it differently. I had a lot of students come back to me and tell me that when they hear old songs they know what I’m talking about.
TUD: Are you going back to teach this fall?
I’ll hopefully be back at Duke in the spring teaching with scholar Dr. Mark Anthony Neale. Some of the things he says wows me in the classroom makes me feel like not lecturing. You just said in one sentence what I’ve been trying to say all class. He has a way of condensing a couple of books into one sentence.
TUD: I read that Bun B is teaching a class…
At Rice! Yes. I was talking to him about that during NBA All Star weekend in Dallas. He was like “I’m thinking of going down to Rice” and I told him do it! It’s our music and we’re the ones who can teach it the best. We know the deal. Hats off to Bun.
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