9th Wonder & Buckshot

Even as hip-hop continues to stretch its sonic and conceptual boundaries, there is something comforting about the tried and true formula of beats and rhymes, which, when done right, hit the spot like a good cheeseburger after a few too many dinners of organic fusion concoctions. From the rumble of the drum kicks and wail of the filtered soul sample that set off the opener, “Big Bang,” it’s clear that boom-bap vets 9th Wonder and Buckshot are firing up the charcoal and taking it back to the grill for the The Solution, the third collaboration between the two seasoned hip-hop chefs.

The familiarity between the producer and the MC is readily apparent, with 9th tailoring his soulful tracks to Buckshot’s ruggedly melodic flow. “What I Got to Say” is a menacing banger, with Buck resurrecting the Beady-Eyed Thug persona of his Black Moon days over pounding drums, heavy keys, and dementedly chopped guitar stabs. Triumphant horns and a bouncy keyboard give “Keep It Going” the perfect backyard barbecue feel, as Buck spits playful braggadocio that conveys more of a playful smirk than a threatening scowl. “Shorty Left” bears the hallmarks of both artist, with a thick bassline topped by an airy vocal sample and Buck flowing with the controlled intensity and captivating vocal inflections that define most of his classics.

The Solution is an easy listen front to back, and will keep heads nodding like the most potent opiates available. Yet, the brevity of songs and lack of thematic cohesiveness make it feel more like a mixtape than a proper album. An over-reliance on sped-up soul samples would make that mixtape sound right at home in 2004. It’s a sound not quite recent enough to feel current, but not quite old enough to inspire nostalgia.

9th Wonder and Buckshot have delivered a plate of comfort food that fans will enjoy, if not necessarily savor. The Solution is more than sufficient sonically and lyrically to affirm both principals as still viable artists. But it is ultimately predictable enough that you can’t help but think both might find greater inspiration by working with new collaborators.

-Jeff Harvey