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Producer 9th Wonder on Producing Beats for Kendrick Lamar

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 28, 2020

I’ve said this before, but I could sit and listen to musicians talk about how they make their music all day long, particularly rap & hip hop producers because of all the history and context they are intentionally inserting into the music. In this video, 9th Wonder talks about DUCKWORTH., a song from Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. that he created three beats for.

In an associated article, Marcus J. Moore (author of The Butterfly Effect: How Kendrick Lamar Ignited the Soul of Black America) writes:

But it’s on album closer “DUCKWORTH.,” produced by 9th Wonder, that the elements of jazz, hip-hop and soul come into the sharpest focus. 9th has a history of blending records from all genres into kaleidoscopic sets of deep soul and hip-hop. Each track has its own distinctive flair, but you can still tell it’s a 9th Wonder beat — the drums lock into a hypnotic groove and the vocal samples crack with nostalgic beauty. “DUCKWORTH.” mashes three beats into a tight coil of repurposed folk, progressive rock and experimental soul, on which Kendrick details a chance encounter between his father, Kenny Duckworth, and his future label boss, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. Years before “Top Dawg” became a music mogul, he walked into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and saw Kendrick’s future father working there. “Top” was planning to rob the restaurant and stood in Kenny’s line to demand the cash. But Kenny had seen “Top” rob and shoot up the store before, so to spare his own life, he gave him free chicken and two extra biscuits to get on his good side. “You take two strangers and put ‘em in random predicaments,” Kendrick rapped. “Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence?”

Watch all the way to the end of the video — you get the rare treat of watching someone realize something about their own work and their collaborating partner that they hadn’t before…