Navani Knows The Wonder Year

I love when I go to a movie or an event and leave feeling so inspired. Such was the case last night when I went to see the documentary The Wonder Year at BAM. No, I am not talking about the coming of age TV series starring baby faced Fred Savage, I am talking about the doc that chronicles a year in the life of super producer 9th Wonder.

Directed by Kenneth Price the film is an intimate look at who 9th Wonder is from his roots in Winston-Salem where he shows us the house his father built with his own hands to him talking about his sister that passed away, BrightLady, for which his studio is named after. I was a little skeptical about the movie in the beginning because the camera angles were a little weird, and it seemed like the whole film would just be a close up of 9th talking in a room which could be zzzzzzzzzz.

But alas, there was more to the story than that. We not only hear 9th in his own words tell how he came up with his stage name, what his influences in music were and how he played 9 instruments by the time he was in high school – but we hear from others that know him too including industry peers DJ Premier, The Alchemist, J. Cole, Phonte, Young Guru, DJ Green Lantern, Murs and more. One thing they all have in common is a respect for 9th’s diligence, craft and style. A style that 9th aka Patrick Douthit so eloquently defines as life music – music that is more complex than the average joe can make but not overly complicated in an attempt to impress other producers. Instead, it is somewhere in the middle which to me is a dope concept.

Besides the talk of his background, some of my favorite parts of the film were when you get to see him in action: creating a beat from scratch in his studio and the look on his face while doing so. At the end of the day he is still a fan and that is what drives him. He clearly enjoys it. Even more amusing is the look on the face of anyone in the studio with him that witnesses his magic, they are astounded. As Illmind says, he just has an ear for it. He is truly ahead of his time and that’s what makes him so successful. That and of course the fact that he makes a ridiculous amount of beats in a sitting… like 4 in 40 minutes, and over 400 in one summer. I laughed when he told the story of when he played beats for Jay Z for the The Black album. He played 29 tracks. Then Jay Z described the sound he was looking for for a particular song and 9th pulled out his laptop and sat in the corner and 20 minutes later had the beat for “Threat”. This is just one of many stories proving that it’s not about the machine but really the man behind it. It doesn’t take millions of dollars of fancy equipment to be successful, it can be as simple as a program downloaded off the internet.

9th already has many titles before his name including father, son, husband, CEO, NAACP ambassador, Duke University professor and of course Grammy Award winning Producer but he says he wants to hold one more when he is done making music – that of board of ed member in his hometown. But that won’t be for awhile. In the meantime 9th’s focus is paying it forward like Jay Z told him to by making sure his artists grow (Jamla Records) and get to a good place. Then he can go back to solely making music for fun.

Check out the trailer here:

If you weren’t able to make the New York premiere of The Wonder Year check out for updates.