9th Wonder details the history of hip-hop during master’s course

9th Wonder details the history of hip-hop during master’s course
July 28
15:43 2023

If you’re a real hip-hop head who truly understands the culture and its significance, you can probably recall the exact moment when you fell in love with hip-hop. Patrick Douthit, who is better known as 9th Wonder, remembers that day like it was yesterday. “1986, East 17th Street, that’s a Cleveland Avenue Homes address, that was when I fell in love with it,” he answered when asked during an interview. 

“I listened to my parents’ music, I listened to my brother’s music … so when I first started going over to my dad’s younger brother’s house in the summer of ‘82, that’s when I heard Planet Rock.”

From that day on, 9th Wonder’s love for hip-hop continued to grow and led him down the path to becoming a Grammy-winning producer.

After graduating from Glenn High School, 9th Wonder went on to earn his degree from NC Central University (NCCU). He began his career as a producer for the group Little Brother and gained critical acclaim for his production on their 2003 debut album titled “The Listening.” That same year 9th produced “Threat” for Jay-Z’s “The Black Black Album.” Over the years 9th has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Beyoncé, KRS-One, Destiny’s Child, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige and countless others. 

While working as a producer and managing his label, Jamla Records, which he started in 2010, 9th Wonder is also known for his work in hip-hop academia. He started working in higher education in 2007 when he started teaching a hip-hop history course at his alma mater, NCCU. 

Today, 9th Wonder teaches courses at Duke University, Elizabeth City State University, Wake Forest University, and he is a Harvard University Fellow. He is also a member of the executive committee for hip-hop and rap at the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian. 

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, on Monday Triad Cultural Arts (TCA) and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County invited 9th Wonder to host a hip-hop master’s class. During the seminar, 9th took those in attendance on a journey detailing the rich history of hip-hop culture and how it has been embedded into American culture. He said if you take the time to really study hip-hop as an art form, you can really learn a lot about America.  

“What I’m going to show tonight is how hip-hop fits into Americana, how it fits into the story of the United States. It didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, they didn’t just set up some turntables in the park and start DJing, that’s not how it happened.,” he continued. “A part of it is history … I think to study it, not just listen to it in your car or stream it, to truly study the art form and what it is … you’ll learn a lot about this country. You might learn a lot about this country that you might not like, but you’ll learn a lot. It’s crazy to say that some of our darkest times as brown and Black folk birthed this thing.” 

While 9th gave context on the genesis of hip-hop and how his love for the culture continued to grow, DJ SK played short clips of hit songs that built the foundation of hip-hop. Songs like “Rapper’s Delight,” “The Message,” “Sucker MC’s,” “Fight The Power,” and others. Throughout the event the crowd joined in on parts of their favorite songs, at times DJ SK stopped the music and the whole crowd harmonized together. 

Following the master’s course, Dr. Bryon Truman, a professor at NC A&T State University, Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough, Grammy nominated producer Jonathan Kirby, local recording artist Monty, and District Court Judge Fred Adams II, joined 9th for a panel discussion. 

To wrap up the event, 9th Wonder’s ninth grade teacher, former Forsyth County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin,  and current County Commissioner Malishai Woodbury presented him with a proclamation. Before El Amin read the proclamation, Woodbury thanked 9th Wonder, the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and Triad Cultural Arts and other sponsors for making the event a success.

Triad Cultural Arts (TCA) was founded in 2008 as a nonprofit, community based multidisciplinary cultural arts organization. A leader in bringing recognition to Black American history and culture, TCA is dedicated to presenting programing that contributes to a culturally competent community so that significant and lasting improvements can be made in our society.

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County is the chief advocate of the arts and cultural sector in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Arts Council’s goal is to serve as a leader in lifting up, creating awareness and providing support to grow and sustain the arts and cultural offerings throughout our region, ultimately bringing our community together and making it a great place to live, work and play. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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