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Music

Scene & Heard

9th Wonder schools Harvard students on hip-hop’s history

When 9th Wonder’s career in hip-hop began to develop at North Carolina Central University in Durham in 1998, it wasn’t necessarily in the classrooms or libraries. With classmates Phonte Coleman and Thomas “Big Pooh” Jones, 9th (born Patrick Denard Douthit) formed the group Little Brother, a reference to their position relative to their musical inspirations such as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul; in other words, the new generation learning from and building on their predecessors’ achievements.

Fourteen years and one Grammy Award later, 9th now qualifies as the proverbial “older brother.” Having survived the industry’s tumultuous digital revolution, his own departure from Little Brother, and hip-hop’s fractured support base over the past decade, he’s accumulated a wealth of experiences that can help teach the next generation, just as he learned from inspirations like J Dilla and Pete Rock. But there’s one significant difference — those guys never had a class at Harvard.

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