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As two of the more respected producers in the game, 9th Wonder and David Banner have each crafted a different sound in hip-hop. 9th Wonder was part of the movement that brought sample based production back to the forefront, while Banner crafted hits for himself, Ying Yang Twins and T.I., to name a few. 9th and Banner’s collaborative opus Death Of  A Pop Star finds the two producers joining forces, with Banner focusing more on his talents as an emcee. With their seemingly opposite styles of production, the idea of a collaboration album between 9th and Banner is a curious one.

Death Of  A Pop Star is a bit of a mystery, especially in hip-hops’s current landscape of free pre-release albums and leaks. With the exception of the singles “Slow Down” and “Strange”, the album was kept under wraps. And it was worth the wait.  With only 10 tracks, Death of A Pop Star is a short and focused release that shows a more lyrical and deep  thinking David Banner.  On the tracks “Strange”, “Diamonds On My Pinky” and “The Light”, Banner gets a lot off his chest, speaking about the state of hip-hop, but more importantly about the state of the nation and the religious and social issues affiliated with it.  Both are an excellent example of using the music as a platform to speak on relevant issues and Banner performs well in the pulpit.

Production-wise Death Of  A Pop Star is strong, but seems as if something is missing. Which it is. The glaring issue with Death Of  A Pop Star as far as production goes, is the noticeable change from sample use to live instrumentation on the tracks. “Slow Down” is the biggest example of this, as the original track sounded much better with it’s dusty sample.The live instrumentation and singing completely takes away from the essence of the original track. Now, the changes may have been due to sample clearance issues, but they do in fact take some of the luster away from the album. Another issue, though minor, is the 9thmatic persona that now fills a few 9th Wonder affiliated releases. While he is not a rapper, and really does not claim to be, 9th Wonder still drops rhymes on a few releases, including Death of A Pop Star. Even in small doses, it’s clear that 9th’s calling is that of super-producer, not super-emcee.

Death Of A Pop Star is a well crafted, enjoyable listen. While not a classic album, it does have long replay value. The duo of David Banner and 9th Wonder work well together and if this opus is any indication, their future work together is worth the wait.

  Mixtape D.L.
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