Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit, Grammy-winning producer of Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and other stars, has carved out an intriguing career as a hip-hop academic. He posed for a photo in his office on Duke’s East campus Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Chuck Liddy Chuck Liddy
Patrick “9th Wonder” Douthit, Grammy-winning producer of Beyonce, Mary J. Blige and other stars, has carved out an intriguing career as a hip-hop academic. He posed for a photo in his office on Duke’s East campus Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017. Chuck Liddy Chuck Liddy

Entertainment

The Kennedy Center’s new hip-hop dream team includes LL Cool J, Q-Tip and NC’s 9th Wonder

By David Menconi

dmenconi@newsobserver.com

March 07, 2018 11:02 AM

9th Wonder’s run as a major figure in hip-hop – from music to academia – continues.

The Winston-Salem native’s latest coup: an appointment to the Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council (HHCC), a 19-member dream team made up of some of the most important figures in the game. Other members include the rapper/actor Common, Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, 2017 Kennedy Center Honors winner LL Cool J and even former Duke/NBA basketball star Grant Hill.

A Tribe Called Quest mastermind Q-Tip is artistic director of the council, which is described as “a dynamic community of high-profile visionaries who graciously lend their names, talent, expertise and resources to a wide range of initiatives.”

Wonder lives in the Triangle now and will fit his Kennedy Center duties into an already-packed schedule that includes teaching at Duke, NC Central and other universities; curating projects at museums like the Smithsonian and National Museum of African American History and Culture; producing acts like the Grammy-nominated Rapsody; and occasionally putting out an album of his own.

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Good thing he’s an adroit multi-tasker.

Wonder, whose name is Patrick Douthit, is a Grammy Award winner who has worked with Jay-Z, Erykah Badu, Beyoncé with Destiny’s Child and many other musical A-listers. He won his Grammy through his work with Mary J. Blige on her 2005 album “The Breakthrough.”

In 2016, he was nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy, shared with Triangle-based Rapsody, for their work on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 album “To Pimp a Butterfly.” He continued his partnership with Lamar, producing “Duckworth” on the Grammy-winning album, “Damn.”

His academic career began more than a decade ago at his alma mater, N.C. Central, teaching hip-hop courses that were equal parts history and how to break into the industry. From there, he has gone on to teach and do research at Duke, Harvard (subject of the 2014 documentary “The Hip-Hop Fellow”) and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the Smithsonian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi