9th Wonder Recalls Original Theme For Little Brother's Aborted Third Album

Exclusive: The North Carolina-native explains how Kanye West embraced the power of branding before LB, confirms Death Of A Pop Star 2 with David Banner, and says Atlantic Records released "The Minstrel Show" without making any changes to the album.

Somewhere some staunch Little Brother fan will weep after seeing this interview. 

Grammy-winning producer 9th Wonder stopped through #DXHQ ahead of the rollout of LRG’s briLLiant Youth EP—which he executive produced—and cooly perused through seemingly every historic avenue of his now expansive career. Right after the North Carolina-native reminisces on Phonte’s six or seven hour jaunt through New York City as Percy Miracles (Te’s comedic alter ego) and just before sharing the group’s takeaways after learning that BET banned them for being “too intelligent,” 9th reveals the original theme for the LB’s third LP—the one that would’ve been released had they not disbanded. “The next Little Brother album was supposed to be a Blaxploitation movie called Can’t Win For Losing,” he says.

He continues: “If all of us would have stayed together as three, it was supposed to be the Blaxploitation movement and the cover was supposed to look like a Blaxploitation film with the cartoons and all of that. And it was going to be called Phonte, Big Pooh and 9th Wonder of Little Brother: Can’t Win For Losing, ‘cause we already thought The Minstrel Show didn’t do what we wanted it to do and we’re trying to do the best music that we can and we’re still getting the short end of the stick ‘cause we don’t decide to do this or decide to do that. So we were going to name the album Can’t Win For Losing."

In retrospect, a major label pushing a project called “The Minstrel Show” in 2005 is as unexpected as a hurricane in NY. The critically acclaimed release even came complete with promotional flyers boasting a cartoonish version of the painfully iconic blackface image that smacked equally hard both historically and metaphorically. Then, the Trap Star reigned supreme and the “Turn Up” era was right around the corner. While it may seem like a (Percy) miracle that Atlantic Records would release a record with such racially vivid imagery (especially without making any changes to any of the songs included), the album—and the group’s—pinnacle could have reached higher peaks had Little Brother had a better understanding of the power of branding, something 9th Wonder says their contextual contemporary, Kanye West embraced from the first time they met in 2003.  

“We didn’t know what branding was,” 9th Wonder explains. “Us musicians think that just the music is going to carry us—the beats and the rhymes. Well yeah, that’s to a certain point. If you want to get past a certain point it has to be more than just your beats or raps. You have to have something about you. For Kanye it was his branding. It’s branding, he had the music, he had the rhymes, but he had the Dropout Bear. We didn’t have the Dropout Bear. That became his. It even made him prevalent for having the cover with him that had the bear head off. Then the next album, in Late Registration, you don’t see him in the artwork at all. You just see the bear. Then Graduation, same thing. So he created this persona, this brand that we just didn’t have. He just tapped into that and it was off to the races. So yeah, he did beat us to the punch.”

Branding is something that the Harvard Fellow impresses upon his Jamla Records roster, along with the necessary life lessons to help his artists achieve longevity, something he describes in this conversation. He also explains the modern era of the Universal Zulu Nation, of which he is a part. He even confirms that he’s teaming up with David Banner again for the sequel to their 2010 gem, Death Of A Pop Star. 9th Wonder takes the lectern.

9th Wonder Explains How He Crafts Sound For Jamla Records Artists




  • Mega X

    9th wonder is a fake muthafucker you could talk all that black empowerment but you been moving fake towards alot of people

  • yahini

    It was more than a bear that made Kanye West hot...

    • yahini

      did you see that bear and say " dang i got to cop this album cause that bear is fire." the bear was nothing more than a logo.

    • khordkutta

      ???, the bear was all over the 1st album... what r u talkin bout!?

    • yahini

      What I'm saying branding didn't come into play until his 2nd or 3rd album. He had a following cause he was on and produced for the ROC. Personally I think what killed Little Brother was they weren't fully united.

    • HUH

      He knows that, he's just pointing out how Kanye did smart marketing and branding to get that attention. Kanye took that bear on the road too, which helped a lot of people take notice. He had a following before he put any videos out.

  • Anonymous

    Phonte's ego killed Little Brother

  • Joe Broseph

    Funniest thing about these hiphopdx pieces is looking at the staff in the background.

  • Anonymous

    i'm 22 years old and been listening to all that old school shit for well over ten years. took myself a crash course in hip hop and have been studying and learning a pretty vast, ever expanding library of ill shit. fools that haven't played just a lil' bit of BCC need to recognize. know your past to know where you're headed and all that. i think it makes a perspective more complete and balanced to have an idea of origins of things. i cannot really see a negative side to exploring roots. unless you're an add asswipe with no time or patience to give.

  • dope

    dope interview, and 9th really came with some well thought out answers. this made me want to take a class he teaches.. spoiled Harvard bastards

  • StephenP

    Me being a huge 9th fan (both for his insight and for his music), I have NO problem with this interview being a book-long. It's always great to hear 9th speak

  • Yo

    Yo this is a big ass Interview. You should've cut this interview into 3 parts. Hip HOp DX on their amateur shit.

    • Justin Hunte

      Correct, compelling, complete is always the mission. We did however include four video clips from the interview for anyone who'd rather watch 9th drop insightfulness, rather than read. I really appreciate the comment, Yo. Thank you.