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WSSU kicks off the Slater Series with 9th Wonder in celebration of 50 years of hip-hop

From the bang-bang boogie to body-ody-ody-ody, Winston-Salem’s Patrick Denard Douthit, better known as 9th Wonder, gave some lessons on hip-hip took during the inaugural Slater Series on the campus of Winston-Salem State University.

The record producer and professor, who has a mural of himself painted in downtown Winston-Salem, kicked off the series that was held at Dillard Auditorium in the Anderson Center on Oct. 4. It was sponsored by Truist and the WSSU Foundation.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, against a backdrop of the culture’s signature graffiti wall with prop album covers, 9th Wonder participated in a Q&A with hosts Dr. Donovan Livingston, an award-winning educator and spoken word poet, and Chelii Broussard, WSSU assistant director of student activities, under the topic, “The 50th Anniversary of Hop-Hop Influences Transcending Today’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”

9th Wonder has worked with artists Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, Wale, Chris Brown, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Outcast and Drake, among others. His career started as the main producer for the group, Little Brother. He teaches “Hip-Hop in Context” at North Carolina Central University and co-teaches a class called “Sampling Soul” with Dr. Mark Anthony Neal at Duke University.

The crux of 9th Wonder’s message was to ensure that young people are introduced to the hip-hop artists of yesteryear and those who started the movement in order for them to gain a deeper understanding and respect for the culture. He also discussed the opportunity to teach black history through the hip-hop genre, and for the older generation to not discount the significance of hip-hop’s influence and innovation because of certain artists today.

The next generation doesn’t know about the hip-hop that came out first, he said. Parents are not doing their due diligence in making sure young people listen to artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, for example.

“I don’t blame them for not knowing because a lot of times, we’re not doing a good job in passing it along. We’ve been passing recipes, messages and prayers ever since we came over here in the 1600s,” he said.

Music was one of those things that was passed from generation to generation whether at cookouts or church. But social media has halted that, he said. Parents must insist their children listen to certain hip-hop artists.

He said he was introduced to Parliament-Funkadelic through his brother who was 12 years his senior, and to artists such as Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson and the Pointer Sisters  by riding with his mother shopping back in the day in Winston-Salem.

9th Wonder used his own daughter as an example. She is a student at WSSU and enjoys artists that appeal more to an older demographic because he introduced her to that music.

The professor cautioned people not to judge hip-hop by modern day terms or artists. “I think it’s unfair for a 50-year-old art form to be judged by somebody who just came out two years ago,” he said.

Just as eating at McDonald’s every day would prove unhealthy for a consumer, as such, there is some music out there today that is unhealthy if one consumes it all the time, he said.

9th Wonder said he has learned through his teaching experience that black universities need hip-hop more than ever. “I learned so much more about black history through hip-hop,” he said. His teachers were rappers such as Rakim, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One. “We’ve got to understand the vessel hip-hop can be.”

A child who was born in 2006 is not going to care about Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer or Madam C.J. Walker. “It was hip-hop that was the bridge that made me care about those people when I was 13,” he said.

The generations of today don’t have TV shows that were influenced by hip-hop such as “A Different World” and “The Cosby Show,” he added.

HBCUs need hip-hop to help tell the story, he said. The fact is that there are some white Americans who can tell the story, such as Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Records and who founded the group, Public Enemy.

“It is up to us to be able to tell the story to our own and beat everybody to the punch,” he said.

The Slater Series is a new initiative of WSSU that pays homage to its origins as Slater Industrial Academy. This program was the first in the series.

WSSU Chancellor Dr. Anthony Graham said the series aims to elevate the intellectual climate of WSSU and its community, a commitment of the university’s strategic plan.

Of this program, Graham said, “It’s just not about the music. It’s about innovation. It’s about entrepreneurship. It’s about adding to the culture. It’s about adding to our society. That’s what the Slater Series will focus on … that’s what the institution will continue to focus on.”

For video clips of the inaugural event, click here.


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