During his packed Thursday night show at Carrboro's Cat's Cradle for the opening night of the 2009 Signal Electronic Music Festival, D.C. rapper Wale welcomed a special guest to the stage: Wearing a leather coat and, as Wale noted, Jordan 3's, Durham's Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder ambled onto the stage, greeting the hometown crowd before mentioning Back to the Feature, his long-awaited mixtape with Wale. Neither Wale nor 9th offered a definitive answer as to when the tape would finally be available, but the pair did reveal more details about 9th's contribution to Wale's forthcoming Interscope debut, Attention: Deficit, due later this year. The track includes Def Jam soul singer Chrisette Michele. Excited to hear that.
After Wale launched into a diatribe about saving hip-hop, 9th brought the crowd back around by "introduc[ing] a friend of mine who came out here to work with me for a coupla days." The guest, Mississippi rapper David Banner, had been lurking in the shadows at the back of the stage in a green Adidas jacket and thick-rimmed black spectacles.
Slowly growing but sustained applause suggested the crowd's skepticism that Banner—a rap superstar—would simply be hanging out backstage with up-and-comers in a small N.C. club. "What the fuck did I tell you? What did I tell you about bringing motherfuckers to my show, dog? Mississippi, don't be comin' to my shows, 'Hey, what's up?'" Wale joked, calling Banner by the state of his birth. "9th, we gonna talk after the shit. I'm gonna play North Carolina again. Don't be bringin' niggas to my show that's more famous than me, dog. I'm on my motherfuckin' Kanye West shit, dog. This is my ego."
Banner was making one of what he says has been several recent trips to work in Durham with 9th Wonder. He suggested to one fan that he's recording an entire album with 9th Wonder, but Banner—a cordial sort with a wide grin suiting his reputation as a philanthropist—couldn't confirm that on the record quite yet: "The thing about 9th Wonder is that I have been successful and he has been successful before we even worked together, so we don't have to worry about money or selling a lot of records," Banner explained after the show. "That's how folks used to make music back in the day."
Banner's optimistic about the future of hip-hop right now, too, saying that he thinks the worldwide economic downtown will cleanse the industry of some of its gimmicks and hacks: "Music is purging itself right now," Banner said. "The talent will rise."
If you've got your Google Alert honed in on the Durham educator and beatmaker, you might've heard about this collaboration via an intriguing set of videos capturing the two in the studio (including a look at 9th's Little Brother and RUN-DMC T-shirts). Check them below. Also, see Aychkay for more video from and words from last night.