Filed under: Album Reviews
My introduction to Nine came whilst doing a brief stint of voluntary work in a local charity shop in an effort to break the habit of perpetual sitting on my arse whilst at university. This isn’t quite as altruistic as it sounds, as this particular branch of Oxfam did have a relatively large store of vinyl which admittedly contributed to my decision to volunteer in this particular shop (no such thing as a selfless act). Granted, the majority of it was absolutely awful, but one afternoon I stumbled across a 12” that caught my interest. A man with twists in his ‘fro, baggy slacks and timberlands was bustin’ a hip hop stance which instantly drew me to the record, and given that it featured a Portishead remix, it seemed like 99p well spent. I wasn’t wrong.
‘Whutcha Want?’ is a classic underground gem with soaring strings and the bass hook off ‘Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay’. I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of this guy before and hankered after more.
Unfortunately, both of Nine’s releases are notoriously hard to come by, reaching silly money secondhand on the internet having never been granted the reissue treatment. ‘Nine Livez’ still eludes me (the album that ‘Whutcha Want?’ appears on), but I was lucky enough to find his sophomore release for a paltry fiver at a local record shop and it is bangin’ from front to back.
Nine’s delivery is one of the most distinctive in this era of rap music. His gravelly rumble of a voice is incredibly forceful, but this effect is achieved without shouting or straining. In fact, his delivery feels relaxed and effortless, only adding to the rawness of his vocals which rarely grate in the way that some of the genre’s more gritty vocal performances can do. The content is relatively predictable, but Nine carries it with ease, weaving clever street narratives and boasting about his impressive displays of lyrical prowess.
The production side of things doesn’t disappoint either, the lyrical rawness matched by stripped down, no frills drums and loops. The beats here are absolutely bangin’ and demonstrate the simplicity with which quality hip hop can be successfully executed. Interestingly, the majority of board duties are handled by Rob Lewis, an unlikely looking caucasian whose only other major production credits are on DJ Chuck Chillout & Kool Chip’s ‘Masters Of The Rhythm’ LP and as guitarist on PRT’s ‘The New World Order’ album. It looks like he may be one of those strange anomalies that stepped into the realms of hip hop production, put together some quality beats and then moved onto other things. This is a shame, because the man demonstrates a serious talent for the genre that could have been more heavily exploited. In all probability, I suspect that he is now working in the industry as a studio engineer or multi-faceted producer, makin’ waves behind the scenes. Whatever the case, props are most definitely in order.
If this is something that you have struggled to get a hold of or have simply slept on, you are in for a real treat. This is dark, gritty NYC hip hop with an original edge that will have your head nodding for years to come. Peep it.