Hip Hop producer 9th Wonder started the new year off with a brand new remix album. After releasing 2003’s God’s Stepson, a take on Nas’s God Son, and 2004’s Black is Back, a reworked version of Jay-Z’s The Black Album, the former member of Little Brother drops his latest mixtape Black American Gangster. 9th borrows the vocals from Jay’s 2007 album American Gangster and layers them over 70’s samples to create his interpretation of what the Jiggaman would have sounded like if he had hooked up with the famous soul artists of the era of Afros and bell bottoms.
I wanted Black American Gangster to sound like a 70’s soundtrack, or to sound like a bunch of 70s groups came through and rocked with Jay…
— 9th Wonder (@9thWonderMusic) January 1, 2013
The Durham, North Carolina native uses legendary soul bands like The Jackson 5, Kool & the Gang, and The Stylistics to provide a fresh melodic backdrop to Jay’s cautionary tale about the rise and fall of a drug kingpin inspired by the film about notorious 1970’s crime boss Frank Lucas. Keeping with the 70’s drug dealer movie theme, on two tracks (“No Hook”, “Blue Magic”) 9th also features Curtis Mayfield -the creator of the classic soundtrack from the 1972 Blaxploitation film Superfly.
Remixing a track has been a popular DJ/producer technique in dance music circles for decades, and became a standard practice in hip hop culture in the late 1980’s/early 90’s. But it was 9th Wonder’s God’s Stepson that helped popularize the practice of producers combining artist’s vocals from one particular project and an entire new production landscape. Along with Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album, 9th’s Black is Back was one of the most celebrated remix albums spawned after Jay-Z released the a cappella version of his 8th studio album. Like the various remixed versions of The Black Album, Black American Gangster is one of many unauthorized producer mixtapes based on American Gangster. Some of the other famed adaptations include DJ Skee’s The American Godfather (samples The Godfather Part I and II) and Mick Boogie’s Brooklyn Soul (samples Marvin Gaye).
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