9th Wonder Makes A Powerful Case For Tolerance Between Generations In Hip-Hop

In recent weeks, there have been several incidents, primarily on social media, that suggest a generational divide within Hip-Hop. Three of the biggest breakout stars of the last year ran into isolated incidents, and collided with some of Rap’s veterans. Beyond simply music, age played a factor in the conflicts between these artists.

At the beginning of September, highly revered producer and MC Pete Rock posted an Instagram caption dissing Memphis, Tennessee artist Young Dolph. The co-founder of Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth criticized Dolph’s “In My System,” for its glorification of drug use, particularly cocaine. “We gotta raise children better than this,” wrote the acclaimed artist. While Pete subsequently deleted the post, it prompted Dolph to lambast the producer for Nas, Public Enemy, and AZ, calling him “old” and urging him to choke.

Atlanta, Georgia artist Lil Yachty would follow, with Pete Rock again criticizing the rapping abilities of the 19 year-old on social media with a reposted caption of “when a wack rapper is asked to freestyle.” Putting down what he calls “mumble rap,” the producer belittled the teenager’s rhyme abilities. Following Rock’s post, Yachty called out the 25-plus-year DJ, producer, and fellow rapper with a series of ageist tweets. In his response, Yachty stated his solidarity with Dolph. In each case, the fans of the parities further attacked the artists’ social media pages with their own thoughts.

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However, this issue is bigger than just Pete Rock’s opinion. An artist approximately 17 years younger (with a P.R. tattoo), Ab-Soul, would decry Lil Uzi Vert’s refusal to rhyme to a DJ Premier instrumental during a February HOT 97 appearance (At 11:23, Uzi told Ebro, “I’m tellin’ you right now, if you pull up one of them old beats, I’m not rappin’ on it.”). Ab-Soul, a TDE artist, recently stated his frustration with “Lil” rappers, calling them “weak” and citing the infraction. Premier, who is credited as half of Gang Starr, spoke to Uzi—and took no umbrage. Outside of that, Uzi, a 22 year-old Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native, responded to Soulo’s points showing his admiration for the Carson, California’s lyricism and work. Uzi’s DJ is DJ P For Real, son of Grammy Award-winner Prince Paul—a contemporary of both Pete Rock and DJ Premier.

Approaching 20 years since Tupac Shakur died, Yachty told Billboard he could not name five songs from ‘Pac or The Notorious B.I.G. “If I’m doing this my way and making all this money, why should I do it how everybody says it’s supposed to be done?,” asked the MC in the feature. Rich Homie Quan, another ATL artist with a strong modern following, flubbed some of Biggie’s verse during a live spot alongside Lil’ Kim on VH1’s “Hip-Hop Honors” show. While Kim defended Quan as a last minute performer, she called it “a dagger to the heart” days after it happened.

This month’s wars of words across generations (with critiques on both sides involving age) are not a new trend. From Boogie Down Productions’ “I’m Still #1” (said to be a response to criticisms made by Grandmaster Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5) to B.D.P.’s KRS-One and Nelly’s millennium-era conflict, to Ice-T and GZA vs. Soulja Boy less than a decade ago, this is hardly a new phenomenon.

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Enter 9th Wonder. Since his 2003 arrival on the music scene, the Grammy Award-winning producer has praised Pete Rock and DJ Premier as two of his biggest influences. Moreover, as a veteran, 9th has worked with a host of younger artists in his career. In addition to mentoring Rapsody (who recently signed with Jay Z’s Roc Nation), 9th has worked with the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Anderson .Paak and Nipsey Hussle. Perhaps more importantly than that, 9th is a Harvard University Fellow, as well as a past instructor at North Carolina Central University and Duke University. The musician, DJ, father, and academic is regularly around young people, especially those interested in Hip-Hop—in addition to many of the culture’s pioneers and innovators.

In a series of tweets on September 9 and again on September 13, 9th made sense of the rift. Complex News produced a video on the message. Several of the most notable tweets are below as well.

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This is not the first time 9th Wonder has bridged the gap. In 2007, Little Brother released their third album, Getback. Although 9th had exited the group prior to the album’s release, he produced single “Breakin’ My Heart.” The song featured Lil Wayne, who was then a platinum superstar widely distance in the eyes of many fans from the North Carolina group who had never cracked the Top 50. 9th addressed the fan reaction in a video published around the single’s release.

Like he has at many institutions of higher learning, 9th Wonder may have just held class—for everybody.