9th Wonder – The Wonder Years [Review]

9th Wonder stays busy. Last time I reviewed one of his albums that was really about him, I loved it. Actually, if you check the site, dude is one of the most consistently high scoring producers on the site. So what does that mean? Is it possible that someone who seemingly has everyone who makes music clamoring for his music can keep up this level of success? Will the long awaited The Wonder Years give us what we were looking for, or be another album added to the list of albums who’s hype is bigger than it’s hits? Let’s find out what the man behind most of your favorite songs has in store.

1.  Make It Big
Featuring Khrysis
After a brief intro by 9thmatic himself, the beat comes in and the duo give us a look into the path they took to well, “Make It Big”. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think I’ve only heard him rap one other time, so when he started this one off, I was caught a bit off guard. I could be wrong though, dude has one of those voices that sounds like other rappers…even here, he sounds like Khrysis to me. Everything about this song is enjoyable and good way to start off the album. The beat is pretty light and nod worthy and lyrically, both MC’s keep things easy, but not lazy.

2.  Band Practice
Featuring Phonte & Median
From the response we got on the Median review, I think he’s still flying a bit under radar. That may be changed after they hear his album, or this song at least. The spirit of this song is The Minstrel Show as it feels like a left off track from that album. That album may have been my favorite 9th produced project period, so this one feels like home to me. You know what Phonte does so the amount of quotables from this two minute exhibition almost makes you fiend like Pookie for more from this song. I don’t know why it’s so short, but had it been longer, this would be the dopest song on the album…even as it is, it’s a standout track.

3.  Enjoy
Featuring Warren G, Murs, & Kendrick Lamar
After hearing Warren G fumble a freestyle on Foxxhole, seeing his name on this song I didn’t have high expectations at all. He didn’t help alleviate that at all with his verse and actually, all the verses on this song seem like they run short leaving a gap between each MC’s turn on the mic…and it just sounds weird. The track isn’t bad though, but not outstanding either. Overall, this song is pretty average and I did expect better from Murs and Kendrick Lamar.

4.  Streets Of Music
Featuring Actual Proof & Tanya Morgan
I’ve listened to this song several times…and I don’t like it. The track is too distracting and loud and doesn’t match or blend with the flows of the artists involved at all. As much as I fucks with TM, this song is a SKIP, and it has nothing to do with them specifically, this track is just bad.

5.  Hearing The Melody
Featuring Skyzoo, Fashawn, & King Mez
After listening to the previous song, this track sounds much more natural and what I expected from a 9th album. I could feel this being included on The Dream Merchant and fitting right in. Lyrically, this song picks up when King Mez grabs the mic.

People with opinions that matter gon’ tell you homie cold/It’s more than music to me, y’all niggas only bout the money/While I’m next to italic buttons, lil’ homie bold.

As far as the production goes, this one is simple, but the pairing of the 3 really sounds right with the last verse, it makes the rest of the song pretty forgettable…and I like both Skyzoo and Fashawn.

6.  Loyalty
Featuring Masta Killa & Halo
This is the first full song that I felt the need to replay first time through. 9th Wonder is always at home with the soul samples but when he adds the scratching on this one and “Premo’s” it out, it seems to give it an instant vintage feel to it, no Saadiq. I’d love to hear other folks flow over this track as well. Masta Ace does a great job pairing up with it and even though every verse isn’t dope, it doesn’t derail this song to the ladies.

7.  Now I’m Being Cool
Featuring Mela Machinko & Mez
Until someone proves me wrong routinely, I’ll always look forward to track 7 on every album as it tends to be the best track (From my unofficial research). 9th takes track 7 as the moment to turn the heat up make it sound like something left over from the Supremes or that era. Proving yet again that he’s no one trick pony this song is a R&B song with a rap hook. Needless to say that it is very different than anything else on the album, but it still sounds good and in the overall scheme of things, this is a various artist type production so it fits in fine.

8.  Never Stop Loving You
Featuring Terrace Martin & Talib Kweli
I have a Terrace Martin mixtape that I have yet to listen to, but if 9th thinks he can pair his work on the sax with Talib on a song, dude must be pretty dope…so that moves that mixtape up on my to do list. Anyway, back to this song, it’s my favorite on the album. It’s the most well produced song from the depth of the tracks and the arrangement to the combination of Talib’s ability to lyrically charm a melody. He dances all over this track and at times when the beat completely drops out, you don’t miss it because everything sounds so organic. This is a great song, the first really great one on the album.

9. Piranhas
Featuring  Blu & Sundown
The hope of the West and one half of Actual Proof get together and give us the albums second full standout song. There isn’t anything complex or overall memorable about the track itself, but behind these two talented rappers bars, it transforms into the glue that makes this all come together nicely. The song features this line which I thought was especially dope from Sundown:

Carpel-tunnel for the plagiarists the paragraphs are major kid/And dent your whole cranium until it they hit the stadiums and make it big.

10. Peanut Butter & Jelly
Featuring Marsha Ambrosius
Much in the same fashion as the other R&B song, we go back in time to grab the feeling of disco and/or old soul on this song. Someone else said this song is sort of an analogy for the album. The hook lends credence to that idea, “You and me is like peanut butter and jelly, when I’m without you I’m cool, but I’m so much better with you”. They went on to say that most of these songs are made better or worse with the choice of collaboration and I can’t argue with that idea at all. In this case, the song is cool, it feels a little incomplete, but cool nonetheless.

11. One Night
Featuring Terrace Martin, Phonte, & Bird
Man, I LOVE the groove of this song. We stay back a bit here with that Earth, Wind, And Fire/Gap Band spirit as the basis. The Auto-Tune on this song is maddening and unnecessary, but once again, the beauty in this song comes to life when Phonte, Bird, and Terrace get together and fully dress the music 9th provided. This is another favorite song on the album, despite the Auto-Tune.

12. Your Smile
Featuring Holly Weerd & Thee Tom Hardy
Holly Weerd is one of those groups that I try and get into, but it’s taking  me a long time to catch on. This song doesn’t move the movement for me either in that regard because the off-key notes at the beginning of the track undermine the cool play on words. Thee Tom Hardy, on the other hand, has an interesting delivery and style so I’m looking to hearing more from him and 9th working together. Musically, 9th does a good job with this track as well, crafting another nice groove-centered, soulful expression for the artists to play with.

13. No Pretending
Featuring Raekwon & Big Remo
The album really seems to have picked up at this point in the album. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no Wu head and outside of Ghost, Meth, and the occasional Rae moment, I’ll pass. Will, this is that occasional Rae moment I was talking about because even I can’t front on this one. These two really sound great on this track and help make this yet another great song on an album that seems to have taken an upswing.

14. 20 Feet Tall
Featuring Erykah Badu & Rapsody
Y’all know I dig the female emcees so I was waiting to hear something like this on this album (speakin’ of, where the FUCK is Jean Grae on this project?). Adding the drums and Rapsody to this track really makes it feel a lot more full than it did on Badu’s album. There ain’t too much more to add to it, you’ve heard the track before, add 2 verses from Rapsody and a ghost hook and you have the song.

15. Thats Love
Featuring Mac Miller & Heather Victoria
So, I’ll take a late pass, I haven’t really given any Mac Miller a real chance. I can’t remember anything I’ve heard from dude so I don’t have much of a point of reference. Normally, I’d take that as an invitation to do more research on the artist but since this is just one song and not a Mac Miller album, I’ll rock with the unfamiliarity. I like how he rolls on this one. Once again, it feels like 9th really picked the right person to get on his track and make this a dope song. Mac comes off at home and silly with his ad libs and his flow doesn’t feel forced at all. I like Heather’s singing and overall, this is another really good song to enjoy on the album.

16. A Star U R
Featuring Terrace Martin, Problem, & GQ
This is a helluva way to end the album. We got a great run of songs up to this one and adding this trio doesn’t disappoint at all. Like a few of the previous joints, this song is dope from the moment the first note hits until the end. I’m looking to more music from all 3 of these guys and if 9th keeps serving them tracks like this to work with, we’ve got some new major players in the game. Peep this run on Boyz N The Hood from Problem: 

Boy in the hood, the hood what I know boy/Trey wouldna neva made it out without dough, boy/dough kept me straight, through the highs and the lows boy/Ricky didn’t make it, but sometimes that’s how it goes boy.

Bottom Line:
Yo, it’s 9th Wonder ya know? Like I talked about earlier, the success of his tracks tend to be the talent that’s on them. I think the best way to talk about his music is like…talking about Jordan. Hear me out. When Jordan was on his J shit, he would dunk from damn near anywhere inside the 3 point line and folks wouldn’t bat an eye. We EXPECTED that. The bar for being amazed with things he could do just got too high for even him to reach at times and we simply forget the greatness of some of his series averages (Check that ’89 Conference Semifinal with the Knicks). Then again, is it the other way around? Do we appreciate his music so much against the backdrop of mostly uninspired production in the game that we “put him on a pedestal” so to speak? I’m not sure what the answer is, but what I do know is that there is only one bad track, a lot of good, and near the end we get hit with some great ones. The album comes off really solid and even with that skipped song, it’s better than a lot of other albums that have come out this year. Album of the year…I won’t go that far, but good music, you get no hesitation on that vote from me. You should definitely add this album to the collection. If the promise of good music isn’t enough to woo you, the introduction to some of these names should be an indication that It’s A Wonderful World Music Group will be an indie label that outshines a lot of these majors in the very near future.