December 28, 2020

9th Wonder & Buckshot - Chemistry (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDM-CD-2012

© 2005 Duck Down Music Ltd.
espite all the campaigning done on 9th Wonder's behalf (slow down already, ?uestlove), the North Carolinian's most successful efforts have been in rallying to the cause of MC's bleeding on the cot. After his group Little Brother's decent debut, The Listening, 9th pre-empted Dangermouse's ballyhooed Grey Album by rethinking Nas' God's Son as Illmatic's reprise, an achievement which bought him studio time with Nas nemesis Jay-Z on The Black Album. Convolution is a wonderful thing-- his Hovi track, not so much. Following his work with rap's fave retiree, 9th spun an album of breezy takes on Left Coast G-funk on Murs' 3:16. Now, he's teamed with the oft-forgotten Buckshot of Black Moon/Boot Camp Clik for an album that breathes life, yet again, into the mid-90s NYC sound. Here, as opposed to some 22-year-olds nostalgia jacking, it's fitting, as Chemistry blends 9th's backward-glancing production and Buck's timeless street talk to results that find both pushing the outer limits of their natural abilities.

Chemistry's biggest surprise is Buckshot's energy. It's been a rough road for the BDI MC, and he's starving here, taking large bites out of the new guard. For instance, "Everybody got a label or a mixtape/ Saying you gettin' money/ But next week, it's back to your shift and break/ 'Til your back shift and break." Spoken like a man who's been touted as the Next Man but realized he isn't.

Buckshot still stretches his syllables like a rubber band, letting the ends of lines snap with the beat. The sing-toast style that is the calling card of Boot Camp's finest merges nicely with 9th Wonder's rolling bass, swooning string samples, and stop/start drum programming. Buckshot's decision to partner with 9th says as much about his self-awareness as his business acumen, linking up with the one producer in his price range that can recreate the Beatminerz/Large Professor/Premier aura of Buck's heyday. Working with new blood with old ideas has Buck feeling his fighting legs again; Buckshot's soft talk/big stick approach always has and always will sound best in front of a string section and pulled taffy basslines. Put him up with some synthed-out thugtronics and his allure would be lost amongst the clamor. Apparently written on the fly after hearing 9th's tracks for Boot Camp alum Sean Price's album, Buck's rhymes are a reminder of the verbal wizardry that had him mentioned alongside Nas, Big, and the Wu fellows once upon a time. His voice has always been a simmering fire, a gravelly, almost whispering menace certainly inspired by some Rakim mirror mugging.

Albums like Chemistry are written off by a lot of people who don't get down with its retro leanings-- and it certainly doesn't help that 9th Wonder is only a serviceable replacement for those with whom he's compared. His sample selection is tasteful, but someone needs to buy my man some drums. It's a simple question of technique. His predecessors-- Pete Rock, Primo, Large Professor via Paul C (Google "Dave Tompkins Paul C"), and even Boot Camp's own Da Beatminerz-- all chopped sampled drums, and the results were full, thick slabs of marbled beats. 9th programs his own, and they are hollow and processed. But, that's how it goes when a snare can be traced and tapped for royalty payments.

Thankfully, Buckshot doesn't seem to care he's rhyming over a facsimile of the salad days. He's thrilled to be back in the game, even if it's one he can't necessarily win.

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tags: 9th wonder and buckshot, chemistry, 2005, flac,