The last time we heard from 9th Wonder, he collaborated with David Banner on December’s release of Death of a Pop Star which from this writer’s opinion, the best album of 2010.
Tuesday, 9th’s “solo” LP The Wonder Years was released with high anticipation from this writer. One of the industries most under-rated producers, 9th Wonder have worked with artists such as Jay-Z, Ludacris, Erykah Badu and Mary J. Blige, 9th made his name teaming with Little Brother for their debut The Listening.
The Wonder Years has so many guess appearances that the idea of “solo” should be thrown out of the window. There are five tracks that are automatic repeat worthy.
‘Band Practice pt. 2’ featuring Phonte and Median is a straight throwback to Little Brother’s heyday. ‘Loyalty’ is a love ballad with Wu-Tang’s Masta Killa conversing the lines, “I’m thrown with your passionate moans” with a similar Slick Rick tone. ‘Never Stop Loving You’ is great only because Talib Kweli’s voice blends masterfully with the melody, especially with gems such as “You’re priceless/those other chicks are affordable.”
‘Peanut Butter and Jelly’ is all Marsha Ambrosius, a princess in R&B soul and ‘One Night’ works great somehow that I can’t explain.
There are also four tracks that are complete failures. With ‘Enjoy’ featuring Warren G and Murs, 9th tries to channel a West Coast sound that just doesn’t fit his MO. ‘No Pretending’ with Raekwon and Big Remo seems out of place for this album. It should be on Raekwon’s, not forced onto this. ‘2o Feet Tall’ fails for one reason and one reason alone — it needs Jean Grae. Rapsody is OK, but …
‘That’s Love’ featuring Mac Miller and Heather Victoria makes me scratch me head, in a bad way. This track is simply to showcase a few of 9th’s artist. The chorus “Even gangsta muthafuckas fall in love” comes out you out of no where and leaves you with this ‘was that necessary?’ feeling.
Three tracks are a beat or a melody away from swinging either to good or bad. ‘A Star U R’ is closer to being good than bad, especially with the horn riff at the end. It saves the track and former Tar Heel basketball player GQ (Quentin Thomas) voice renders well to the track. ‘Streets of Music’ is OK and ‘Hearing the Melody’ is very choppy. ‘Now I’m being Cool’ featuring Mela Machinko and Median sounds like some type of flip of Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable.’
The Wonder Years best quality is the lyrical content of the artists. The lyrics are no where as deep and profound as Banner’s were on Death of a Pop Star but there are some gems that are very enjoyable when heard.
I give The Wonder Years two and half out of five mainly because it falls short of what I expected.