Compilation albums usually suck. They come off as a hodge podge of music with no real direction or focus. With the exception of Dr. Dre’s solo albums I can’t think of a producer’s compilation album worth listening to—no wonder people are still waiting on Detox.
North Carolina producer 9th Wonder has been cooking up The Wonder Years for years. The Wonder Years never reached Detox-mythical status but you definitely wondered if it was real or Memorex.
The Wonder Years is finally here and it begins with 9th Wonder on the mic on the song Make it Big. Joined by Khrysis, 9th chronicles his entire scholastic and musical career on Make it Big. 9th Wonder is not an emcee and it shows on this track, “Jay called 9th ninth wonder of the world/Bey needs a beat so then we did Girl,” 9th Wonder raps.
At least the beat is hot.
9th Wonder passes the mic to a slew of excellent emcees and singers throughout The Wonder Years. First up to bat is Median and 9th’s former Little Brother band-mate Phonte on Band Practice Pt. 2. Band Practice Pt. 2 is signature 9th with chopped vocal samples and a chunky bass line.
Enjoy (West Coastin’) features three generations of west coast emcees rhyming over 9th’s soulful blues-inspired beat. Warren G, MURS, and Kendrick Lamar each share the spotlight on Enjoy but 9th’s frequent collaborator MURS steals the show.“Spacing out these bars so you n*ggas can climb on/ I’m proof that you can still make loot and keep your rhyme strong,” MURS raps.
Wu-Tang Clan member Masta Killa joins Halo on the Hip-Hop love song, Loyalty. Masta Killa is the least popular of the Clan’s members but he’s in his zone on this type of song. “You need a man to hold you down every now and again/And love you like a genuine friend,” Masta Killa spits.
Never Stop Loving You features Talib Kweli and Terrace Martin on sax. This laid-back track finds Kweli in love song-mode. The mix of 9th’s drums, the chopped vocal sample, and Martin’s playing all fits together perfectly. This song could easily be played on an adult contemporary R&B radio station.
The album’s best song features another member of the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon and 9th Wonder protégé Big Remo. No Pretending is not your typical Raekwon-type track but he absolutely murders the beat. Rae sounds hungrier than he ever has on No Pretending, “Keep change, dwell on recollection/Reflections of days of slinging gats in the building for sections,” Rae rhymes.
The Wonder Years has a couple of skippers like the Mac Miller and Heather Victoria song That’s Love, but songs like that are few and far between. 9th Wonder proves that a producer based album can work even with an eclectic group of performer’s guest starring.
The Wonder Years features underground artists like Tanya Morgan, Blu, and Fashawn, up-and-coming emcees like Skyzoo, Mac Miller, and Kendrick Lamar, veteran emcees such as Raekwon, Warren G, and Talib Kweli, and R&B singers like Marsha Ambrosius and Erykah Badu.
The Wonder Years is a dope album that was well worth the wait. 9th Wonder gives you his signature sound throughout the CD with a little experimenting sprinkled in. 9th’s growth as a producer is evident on The Wonder Years and the unique cast of characters is a positive sign that we’ll hear 9th Wonder beats on various projects in the near future.
Purchase: 9th Wonder – The Wonder Years