MIDWAY, N.C. — The 9th Wonder is about to add another item to his long list of accomplishments.
It’s hard enough to find enough room to list them all: artist, producer, educator, record company executive, industry authority. But he’s done it all without moving far away from his hometown.
Before he became one of the biggest names in hip-hop, he was growing up in the small Davidson County community of Midway, south of Winston-Salem. Back then, people knew him (and still know him) as Patrick Douthit. Most people around the world know him by his stage name, The 9th Wonder.
“It’s always important for me to let people know where I’m from,” he told me recently when we walked around his childhood home. “So many people become big and huge and kind of forget or don’t want to admit they’re from humble beginnings.”
He’s performed with, composed with, consulted with and produced for just about every top hip-hop artist over the last 15-20 years. They include Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Erykah Badu and J. Cole (who also calls North Carolina home).
At the same time, he’s kept a love of educating young people about his industry and his craft. Today, he teaches courses mainly related to hip-hop history at Duke and Harvard universities and is currently the Artist of Residence at North Carolina Central University.
On Thursday, he’ll be inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In doing so, he’ll join the likes of artists from Charlie Daniels, to Kellie Pickler to The Fantastic Shakers.
“Most of the time when you go in the Hall of Fame, that means your career is over, “ he said.
But The 9th Wonder is 44-years-old and is as busy as ever. Even so, he’s been in the business long enough to see hip-hop change.
“It’s all about telling your story, and the story is not always a pretty one,” he told me.
In fact, The 9th Wonder believes the positive/inspirational stories hip-hop generated years ago aren’t as widespread today.
“I’m more on the sound side of things, I’m a music producer, But the artists I work with, that’s more of a struggle for them because they’re trying to figure out what path to take,” he said.
He does believe there are artists like Drake and Rapsody (a young artist who grew up in eastern North Carolina and records on The 9th Wonder’s label) who are producing the inspirational work.
It’s also why The 9th Wonder himself still spends a lot of time teaching courses at universities.
It’s even helped him become friends with just about every member of the Duke basketball team and even Coach K himself! He believes interacting with young people has its benefits.
“I don’t think we do enough listening to the next generation,” he said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned probably from the next generation is that things change. “
For more information on the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, click here.