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9th Wonder & Buckshot - The Formula

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Artist: 9th Wonder & Buckshot

Album: The Formula

Label: Duck Down

Review date: Jun. 27, 2008


9th Wonder & Buckshot - "Man Listen (Cause Ummm) (Featuring Carlitta Durand)" (The Formula)


Raleigh's 9th Wonder considers himself a hip-hop scholar. Reared on the production prowess of Pete Rock, Dilla, Primo and RZA, he opted for a PC instead of an MPC some years back and developed his own inimitable style. Coming up with the group Little Brother, he has since added production credits for Hova and Beyoncé to his resume. Fresh off producing Nu Amerykah's lead single "Honey," he recently presented a seminar at Duke University dubbed "The Art of Hip Hop Sampling." He also doubles as Artist-In-Residence at North Carolina Central University and teaches a hip hop history class at the college. His appreciation of Black Moon's hoodie-up classic Enta Da Stage––an early nineties record that helped resurrect the East Coast––led to his association with that crew's lead MC.

Buckshot is from the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He used to be a stick-up kid. In his own words, "Broke is something that I don't acknowledge/ no high school nope no college/ but you can bet I know them scholars/ on the street when they hollar/ what's up with them dollars." A member of the legendary underground Boot Camp Clik, he's also been busy lately, working with KRS-One on an upcoming album and appearing on Mick Boogie's latest mixtape with Lil Wayne for a remix of Enta Da Stage's "Who Got Da Props." Chemistry between 9th and Buck might seem unlikely but their debut was one of 2005's most memorable hip-hop albums.

On the duo's second release 9th sticks to his sun-caked formula. Fluttering soulstresses get filtered and filleted. Beats stutter on point. Brass medleys blare. Strings leak. Keys slink. Drums clap. Buckshot, the original gun clapper, continues to flex his flexibility, as 9th's Mayfield tapestries are dimensions away from the grit of Black Moon's Beatminers, Evil E and Mr. Walt. For The Formula, 9th lays a bed of quiet storm Memphis soul that has Buck thinking more with his other toolie and talking about how he's flipped it. Almost half the songs concern shorties. He even plays smooth operator on "Be Cool," unintentionally echoing Wrecks-n-Effect "Let's Do it Again." On the concluding track he's point blank ("I calmed down a whole lot") as 9th beams a compressed "sunlight shining" moan repeatedly. No longer advising hoods to "buck 'em down" he's now teaching "the little homies in the hood how to outreach." One track's even called "Ready (Brand New Day)."

But he's definitely still fucking "with the hazery," addressing hoods turned cops, alleviating arthritis and reviving Colt Seavers. On "Here We Go" Buck has trouble with his lighter before lemonade-stand strings and Dilla-worthy drum treatments shuffle in. His measured wiling on the "Throwin' Shade" hook sounds lifted from a lost Lost Boyz anthem. "Whassup with U" adds the element of Keisha Shontelle, who plays Buckshot's conscience on the record's shrillist moment. "Hold It Down" tops the guest list as Talib Kweli listens to Donny Hathaway and Tyler Woods auditions for Jodeci.

Thankfully, Buckshot's never been the type of MC where what he says matters much. A descendent of Rakim's "method of control" school of rhyming, Evil E once summed it up as "speaking calmly about rugged shit." His own assertion might be better: "Nigga I'm a coach/When I approach/ the flow." He seems to take Big L's "Ebonics" mandate "max mean to relax" as gospel.

Buckshot is on a shortlist of 90s hip hop icons still worth following and one of the few MCs who has managed to refine his flow and improve over time. 9th Wonder is approaching the point of instant recognition when you hear one his beats, the ultimate accolade of a hip-hop producer. A constant strain of contentment is the album's only real problem, summed up by Buck's new shine: "I'm winning when I used to be losing/my move went from beef/ to showing teeth/ when I'm cruising." And satisfaction rarely makes great hip hop. Not quite the revelation of the seamless debut, and missing the duck-down mentality of the Beady Eye in his prime, The Formula is the hip-hop definition of maintaining.

By Jake O'Connell

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