(Photo: Roc Nation)
9th Wonder continues to be one of the few producers whose talents are arguably best showcased on remix projects. After making his name on an industry-wide level with superb remixes of Nas and Jay-Z’s God’s Son and The Black Album (God’s Stepson and Black Is Back!) in 2003 and 2004 respectively, the former maestro of North Carolina’s legendary rap collective Little Brother is back with Black American Gangster.
Hip hop heads have always loved 9th’s timeless skill for mixing boom bap drums with soulful melodies and this time around he proves without doubt that the title of his 2003 debut remix tape, 9th Invented the Remix, may not have been exaggerated. With Jay’s flow serving as the blueprint for his neck-snapping reworkings and the already stellar original as a guide, 9th hits creative highs we haven’t heard from him since Little Brother’s mid-2000s heyday.
Fans of the original will appreciate the soul he’s able to inject into “Hello Brooklyn” and the much-needed edge he added to “Sweet” with the help of the Love Unlimited Orchestra. “Pray” and “No Hook” are refreshing reimaginings, but they won’t knock the originals off of iTunes playlists in the long run.
Still, 9th found a way to match the complex, yet effortless sample that Diddy flipped for the original “Party Life” by enlisting Kool & the Gang. “Fallin’” is the tape’s most brilliant moment, highlighting 9th’s skill for matching melodies as he keeps the original and adds a beautiful sample that complements both Jay’s flow and Jermaine Dupri’s original composition. “I Know” is an addictive throwback to the simplistic Neptunes and Timbaland beats that dominated the early 2000s.
It’s not a flawless project. “Say Hello” and “Success” lack the fire that drove the originals. But those are slight slips on an otherwise solid journey through the past. While no remix album will ever match original content from our favorite stars, this is about as good as it gets. Add two remixes of “Blue Magic” for good measure and you’ve got a remix project that stands up next to most of the mixtapes that dropped in 2012. Wonderful.
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