9th Wonder Reveals What He Learned from Pete Rock and DJ Premier

“I’m just doing what Pete and Preem did for me.”

9th Wonder is the latest producer profiled on The Formula, a new video series on sample-based beatmakers from NPR Music.

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Paired with an essay by Marcus J. Moore, the clip deconstructs 9th’s sample choice and approach on “DUCKWORTH.,” the three-part closer to Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning 2017 album, DAMN.. Pulling up his source material for the triple-headed cut (songs by Ted Taylor, Hiatus Kaiyote, and Yugoslavian prog-rock outfit, September,) the producer details his process for isolating sounds. “A lot of times, producers listen to samples and they say ‘That’s a great sample, but he didn’t do it right’,” 9th notes. He goes on, “It’s just like fashion. There might be a shirt on this side. The jacket’s over here. But it takes a mind to pull all those together.” The Ted Taylor sample being the anchor of Ludacris’ “Splash Waterfalls” only challenged him to find new ways to reinterpret the track.

“As Q-Tip started sampling jazz, Dilla and Madlib started to go to other countries and started digging there,” 9th adds, discussing hip-hop’s longstanding relationship with prog-rock as he shifts to the second movement of “DUCKWORTH.” and his flip of September’s “Ostavi Trag.” He caps the segment with some words on the lineage and work ethic of sample-based producers, bowing to the overwhelming output of Pete Rock and DJ Premier during the 90s and what he’s learned from their rituals. “It’s still just paying it forward.”

READ: Questlove Talks Just Blaze’s Sampling Prowess: “He Took Taboo and Made Art Out of It”

Watch 9th Wonder breakdown his production on Kendrick Lamar’s “DUCKWORTH.” below.


Zo is a staff writer at Okayplayer where he covers music.

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