July 29, 2011

FILM in REVIEW: A Year in 9th Wonder

This review is in the words of SR’s Chante…

“The Wonder Year” documentary about the legendary DJ/Producer Patrick Douthit bka 9th Wonder was an eye-opening experience. To this day, the only thing I knew about 9th was seeing his name in the liner notes of CD covers of artists that he’s worked with or when Jay-Z dropped his name in a song that they’ve collaborated on. I never knew that he was one third of Little Brother (along with Phonte from The Foreign Exchange), that he has taught the history of hip-hop at distinguished colleges like Duke University and many others or that he was such a influential part of hip-hop history. Who knew?

This documentary, filmed by Kenneth Price, started out as 9th helping Price complete his thesis project and it ended up being something more – many great things are! Price’s approach was capture the essence of the private man that made everyone curious with twelve months. 9th is known for making killer beats out of music that many have overlooked taking minuscule parts of a song and within minutes create something magical- How does he do that?! He’s a family man who sets aside quality time with his kids to not miss the special moments while collaborating with so many artists – How does he do that?! His students hang onto his every word as he goes through the history of hip hop from the 60’s to 1997 (the year of the Notorious B.I.G’s death) – How does he do that?! He just does because he’s 9th!

The film opens up with 9th in the midst of a lesson with his students. He literally dug in the crate, pulled out a record that he has never seen then spins it and within five minutes (or less) he found a sample, looped it and created something that made you say “dammnnn”. This is was great way to kick of this film – to enter his creative process was genius. Some people might say that he’s giving away his secrets but it’s not b/c it gives you an inner perspective on how badass this man is when it comes to his craft. He breathes music, he exudes music and he inspires many to be progressive in creating their own music.

Members of Little Brother - l to r: Phonte, 9th Wonder & Pooh
Over the 12 months, the film delves into 9th’s persona. What is the chemical make up of this man – he’s not a robot that churns out memorable beats, he has many sides. When he’s home with his family and visiting his hometown Winston-Salem, NC, he’s simply Patrick. Patrick, since he was a kid, was entranced by music of all genres, along the way he picked up instruments (like the clarinet), joined band and made his first beat in 1998. When he’s with his students and colleagues in academia, he is Professor 9th giving his students an invaluable dose of his wisdom about hip-hop, creating your own sound with samples that keep the music of our past alive and understanding that learning about a culture that you love is a growth in your “knowledge about self”. When he’s amongst his peers, he’s 9th Wonder, a Grammy Award winning producer who has worked with great artists like Jay Z, Beyonce, Erykah Badu, Mary J Blige, Mos Def, Drake, De La Soul and the list goes on and has created over 300 different sounds.

The ActNow Foundation hosted this amazing film and the screening was held last night at the BAM Cinema. I hope that more indie film theaters in NYC will add “The Wonder Years” to their roster of shows – it’s definitely a must see!!!

ActNow Foundation is hosting a mini theater festival fundraiser August 10-13 - Check the website for the show lineup and tickets.

BAM Cinema has many more awesome films to come be sure to get on the mailing list for updates and visit their website.

9th Wonder and Curtis John (ActNow) after the screening
Photo Credit: Chante Ramsey/VySyn Photography