An evening with ‘The Hip Hop Fellow,’ 9th Wonder

By Branna Calloway

November 19, 2016

On Thursday night, North Carolina’s own hip hop scholar 9th Wonder, with the help of Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African & African American Studies at Duke University were in Charlotte to talk culture, beats and about the documentary, The Hip Hop Fellow. As part of the Harvey B. Gantt Center’s Heritage & History series, the Grammy Award-winning producer spoke on the circumstances portrayed in the film along with hip hop’s place in academia.

This isn’t Patrick Douthit’s (9th Wonder) first foray into cinema. “When Kenneth Price approached me to do a documentary, the first thing I said was “I don’t want a damn reality show,” said Douthit. Five years ago, filmmaker Kenneth Price first released The Wonder Year, documenting a year in the life of the popular DJ, producer and record executive featuring appearances by Drake, DJ Premier, Young Guru, and Fayetteville native J. Cole.


Digging even deeper this time around, Price’s The Hip Hop Fellow follows 9th Wonder into the storied Cambridge halls of Harvard University where he spent three years as a W.E.B. Du Bois Institute Fellow. “Harvard taught me the idea of civil disagreeance. To be able to disagree with somebody but come to a common goal.” In addition to working alongside Professor Marcyliena Morgan in Harvard’s Hiphop Archive, Douthit spent time with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and former student of famed historian John Hope Franklin.

9th Wonder cites Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, his colleague at Duke, as “the next person in line” to take on the legacy of Franklin and Gates. “One good thing about teaching at Duke,” said Douthit, “is you’re surrounded by a myriad of people, of cultures that lets you see the world. He [Neal] gave me the knack to see all sides of the spectrum.” And in turn, Dr. Neal praises 9th Wonder, calling him “a gifted teacher” living “the life you couldn’t have imagined” when speaking of Douthit’s journey growing up in Winston-Salem, NC. “Knowledge is about what you can produce and share with other people. And he [9th Wonder] is the best example of the fact that hip hop is something that over the last 50 years has produced meaningful knowledge both in this country and in the world.”

Photo by Ronald Stewart

That kind of knowledge comes in handy when you’re searching for the perfect break or sample to create a masterful beat. In his Harvard presentation titled “These Are the Breaks,” 9th Wonder showed all the records used to create his top ten produced albums. He introduced to a new audience the art of crate digging that has served as a backbone of hip hop since its inception.

Following the Q&A session, guests were invited to hang out at The Underground for the third part of the night’s film, talk, and beats storyline. North Carolina raised DJ Chela spun for a special edition of Gantt After Dark. Chela was the 2009 Winter Music Conference Spin Off battle runner-up.

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal (left) and 9th Wonder (right)

The evening was filled with enlightening stories and wisdom about the past and current state of hip hop culture. 9th Wonder restores faith in a music phenomenon that has evolved and maintained over time. He’s a true appreciator, creator and educator that has affected the lives of many, describing hip hop music as a wormhole of sounds and music history.

Watch the official trailer for The Hip Hop Fellow

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