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BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: 9th Wonder

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#22 – 9th Wonder

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

As I mentioned in the disclaimer to the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time list, I’ve paid special attention to those beatmakers who created their own style and sound and/or contributed significantly to the beatmaking tradition. Such is the case with 9th Wonder on both fronts. 9th was essentially the first beatmaker to popularize, or better stated legitimize, the use of a software based setup. This was made even more astounding to many since he made sample-based beats; a feat that many strongly believed could only truly be done with a hardware setup (i.e. an MPC, SP 1200, ASR 10, etc.). 9th Wonder’s contribution in this space is still being measured by the countless number of beatmakers who have pointed to him as the pinnacle example of just what could be done with a software based setup.

But to be certain, 9th did not start out to change things in this regard; he didn’t have this grand goal of proving that a certain style and sound of beat could be made using software just for the sake of using hardware. In my detailed interview with him (which is included in The BeatTips Manual), 9th makes it clear that he simply began with the production setup that he had access to and made it work.

And he certainly did make it work! He created his own signature style and sound that included a soul-sample-based foundation, flanked by a distinct snare sound and slightly off-beat drum shuffle, and often underscored with wide, elongated bass-stabs. In the process of cultivating his own style and sound, he also crafted the sound for his former group, Little Brother. The 9th Wonder and Little Brother sounds stands today as crucial developments in the history of beatmaking. Finally, 9th’s particular drum programming alone is now one of the most recognizable reference points within the beatmaking tradition. Along with beatmakers referencing Premier’s drums, or RZA’s drums, or Dilla’s drums, or Pete Rock’s drums, etc., countless people now reference 9th Wonder’s drums. Merely one testament to his solid position in the canon of hip hop/rap’s greatest beatmakers.

SPECIAL NOTE: Listen to the Little Brother albums The Listening and The Minstrel Show straight through, no interruptions.

9th Wonder Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

“Love Joint Revisited” – Little Brother beat by 9th Wonder

“I See Now” – Consequence feat. Kanye West and Little Brother beat by 9th Wonder

“Heartburn” – Sean Price beat by 9th Wonder

“Away From Me” – Little Brother beat by 9th Wonder

“Threat” – Jay-Z beat by 9th Wonder

“Hiding Place” – Little Brother feat. Elzhi beat by 9th Wonder

“One Night Stand” – Lloyd Banks beat by 9th Wonder

“So Focused” – Boot Camp Clik beat by 9th Wonder

“The Life” – Cesar Comanche feat. Phonte and Darien Brockington

“Not Enough” – Little Brother beat by 9th Wonder

“Baby Girl (Holding Hands)” – beat by 9th Wonder (Thanks to @byoung_)

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual