November 21, 2010

Grammy-Award Winning Producer Talks Beats, Life

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The most important part of being a professional musician is leaving a legacy, according to 9th Wonder, a Grammy Award winning hip-hop and R & B producer. The beat-maker, who has worked with major label artists including Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Destiny’s Child, spoke to a full auditorium in Appel Commons Saturday night and judged a “Battle of the Beats” competition.The event was hosted by the North Campus Program Council, and was emceed by K.C. Aharanwa ’12, a member of the NCPC.9th Wonder, whose real name is Patrick Douthit, was born in Winston-Salem, N.C., and says he grew up during the “best years of hip-hop,” referencing such artists as Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and Big Daddy Kane who populated the early ’90s radio waves.Douthit also took an early interest in creating his own music.“By the time I got to 8th grade, I was playing eight different instruments,” Douthit said.Douthit said the concentration of great art during this time period not only inspired his early creative aspirations, but also influenced the youth “party” culture that was the hallmark of his time in college at North Carolina Central University. He noted that during his college years, parties in the Winston-Salem area would be packed by 9:30, “with no social networking, no phones — people were coming to a party strictly off word of mouth and flyers.”Douthit says he was on the Dean’s List at NCCU. After briefly transferring to North Carolina State University, where Douthit said he had a hard time focusing on academics, he returned to NCCU. In his second stay at NCCU,  he almost immediately met some of his first musical collaborators.Douthit said he bonded with Phonte Coleman, who is now a member of the Grammy-nominated group Foreign Exchange and a former NCCU football player, over their appreciation for Afro-centric, “boom-bap” rhythyms.Teaming up with another NCCU student, rapper Big Pooh, the trio formed Little Brother, one of the most acclaimed hip-hop acts of the early part of the 2000s and the launch pad for Douthit’s career. Little Brother’s first album in 2003, The Listening, was heralded by critics and other hip-hop artists for its fresh sound mixed with old-school sensibility.Despite the success of Little Brother, he says he was still living from paycheck to paycheck off his beats when he got a call to go to New York from Jay-Z in mid-2003.The beat Douthit eventually created for Jay-Z, “Threat,” would land on Jay-Z’s The Black Album, and according to Douthit, put him in contact with many major-label artists with whom he continues to collaborate.“Jay-Z is the reason my kids are going to college,” Douthit said.During the presentation, Douthit also expressed his belief that “everything comes full circle.” The producer originally entered college as a history major, with the intention of teaching history as a profession.The academically-minded artist has since pursued his interest in teaching, serving as an Artist-in-Residence and teaching a hip-hop history class at North Carolina Central University for two years, until 2009.“What we tried to do with that class is tie the essence of hip-hop history with the essence of black history,” Douthit said.After leaving his post at NCCU, Douthit accepted a position to co-teach another hip-hop history class, called “Sampling Soul,” at Duke University. Douthit said he will continue to teach the class next semester.The “Battle of the Beats” competition following Douthit’s talk featured a range of campus hip-hop producers; Daniel Nilsson-Cole ’13 eventually walked away with the first prize, an M-Audio Keyboard.“Just hearing [9th Wonder’s] story … that was a big inspiration,” Cole said. “Anytime I’m not doing engineering work, I’m doing music.”The event was the brainchild of K.C. Aharanwa, who said he reached out to 9th Wonder on “a blind leap of faith.”He noted the producer was exceedingly gracious in accommodating the NCPC budget, and had extensively cooperated with the group to make the event possible.“My favorite part was his talk,” Aharanwa said. “His story was an inspiration.”

An original version of this article stated the name of the organizing student group as the North Campus Programming Committee. The correct name is the North Campus Program Council. The Sun regrets this error.

Original Author: Brendan Doyle