STYLE Interviews 9th Wonder
I got a chance to chat with Hip-hop legend & Grammy award winner, 9th Wonder. 9th is originally from North Carolina and attended college here, at North Carolina Central University. He has been a pioneer in joining community outreach and education with hip-hop. He currently lectures History of Hip-Hop at Duke University and spear heads several community service initiatives. 9th Wonder continues to release critically acclaimed music, while uplifting the next generation of quality hip-hop through his record label Jamla Records.
When asked to describe his love of Hip-Hip, 9th Wonder had this to say:
“My love for Hip-hip is up there with family and food. It’s a love I’ve had since 1982. I’ve never fell out of love with it. Sometimes it’s made me upset with the direction it’s decided to go…But It’s everything that drives me as far as music, education and community outreach. It’s my life’s work.”
What do you find most rewarding about educating students on the history of hip-hop?
“Hip hop is one of those things that everyone knows exists but they don’t really know the ins and outs of the pure essence of it. It’s probably the most rewarding when people say “oh, well I didn’t know that” or “I didn’t think it was like that” after a lecture. To see it live in, any classroom is rewarding. To see it in a setting like Duke is rewarding.”
What do you wear when you lecture?
“A lot of young black men shy away from education. But if I’m walking into a room with a pair of Jordan’s on that they have never seen it’s like I’m fooling them. It’s like I’m up her educating and I’m fresher than you. So they think to themselves “man he’s educated and he’s fresh.” It shows them that they can be smart and fly. That’s the whole Dwayne Wayne aspect of it. When you watch A Different World he had on some fresh Jordan’s, but he was also the valedictorian of Hillman!”
Did you rock a high-top fade as a kid?
“Yes! Probably every person in their 30’s and early 40’s had a high-top fade or a haircut like MC Lyte. If you can imagine, all of us had it! ” 9th also revealed he use to have a jerry curl and a shag. When asked to dig up the photos he laughed and replied “…the 80’s was a very experimental time for black people and their hair.”
How has Hip-Hop contributed to your style…your swagg?
“I always say that once you get to a certain age it’s not called swag anymore, it’s called swagger. I’m noticing that when black men get older, I’m speaking about the hip-hop generation; they kind of loose the edge they used to have. They don’t realize you can mix it up. Like, you can still wear a sweater and some jeans with some Jordan’s…you don’t have to go to Rockport’s automatically. The hip-hop aspect adds to whatever swagger I have. ”
Do you attend Fashion Week? Is that your type of thing?
“I went to a Historically Black College that was Fashion Week enough for me! Every day was fashion day. We had our own private runway every day, of people that were dressing well…it was in the Cafeteria. I don’t do fashion week.”
Tell me a bit about some of the programs and community outreach that you are involved in?
“I’m a member of the Universal Zulu Nation which a lot of people hear about in songs, I first heard about it in the song Planet Rock, it’s a worldwide peace organization. It is not a hip-hop based organization but we use hip-hop to reach the youth. I’ve been a member since 2010. I also have a company called the True School Corporation that specializes in reaching that demographic that is my age. We also have a set called True Community that handles gang prevention…and just the whole aspect of me teaching has become more of a community outreach. I find a way to connect with kids outside of the classroom. I don’t believe community outreach has to be some organization when you sit in the room and lecture, it can just be having a two hour conversation with a kid.”
What’s new with you 9th?
“I’m still lecturing at Duke and I will be there this fall. I applied for a fellows position at W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard University. So if that goes through I’ll be at Harvard this fall for a year. Harvard has a hip-hop archive there, so that’s where I’ll be if that goes through. My label, Jamla Records…we are doing our thing and trying to fill a void. We may hit the radio, we may not. But there are countless amounts of overlooked artist you can find and get into the artist. That’s the void I’m trying to fill. I’m working with Nike. I just did a program with them to celebrate Black History Month that benefits The Big Brother/Big Sister program. It’s either my label or education.
Tell us where readers can keep up with you…
My twitter is @9thwondermusic and you and check out my website jamlamusic.com.