9th Wonder On The Everlasting Marriage Of Hip-Hop And Sampling

R&B's roots in hip-hop are firmly planted in sampling, the Grammy-winning producer explains to VIBE. 

Third time seemed to be the charm for D’USSE's Re-Mixer Series. As a multitude of guests arrived in Los Angeles for Grammy festivities this month, music and spirit enthusiasts settled in at Hollywood's Beauty & Essex to enjoy lessons in music and sampling by legendary producer 9th Wonder.

The third annual D’USSE Re-Mixer Series brought out those curious about the cognac's spirited cocktails along with those who were ready to hear the sounds of DJ Oliva Dope. In addition to 9th's presence at the mixer, fellow music and DUSSE lovers like Memphis Bleek, Rapsody, Insecure's Sarunas J. Jackson and Bacardi Senior Portfolio ambassador Colin Asare-Appiah were also ready to show off their cocktail making skills.

But there wasn't just D'USSE cocktails to indulge. Guests enjoyed rich lessons on the importance of R&B's marriage to hip-hop. While today's resurgence with artists like SZA, Ella Mai, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar have brought emphasis back to the nayhooos of it all, early tunes remind us that hip-hop's skeleton carries plenty of soul.

Chic's "Good Times" provided weight for The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," DeBarge's "A Dream" gave reflection for 2Pac's "I Ain't Mad At Cha" and James Brown's "Funky Drummer" allowed us all to lay back and enjoy Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "Let Me Ride."

R&B sampling continues today in nearly every chart-topping hit. Donny Hathaway's 1972 track "Jealous Guy" gives power to Chance The Rapper's "Juice," Beyonce's '03 tune "Me Myself and I" loops lovingly on Meek Mill's "24/7" with Ella Mai and The O'Jays' 1972 single "Backstabbers" spruced up Drake's "Fake Love."

As 9th Wonder shared the beauty of notable samples as guests like R&B songwriting legend Brian Michael Cox popped in to teach scratching methods to aspiring DJs, the relationship between hip-hop and R&B seemed to be stronger than ever.

"I think we need that," 9th shares with VIBE about today's balance and the current popularity boost in R&B. "I'm a historian by nature so I watch trends and I watch culture. Everything repeats itself whether we're talking about fashion and especially music. When I was 20 years old, D'Angelo was my version of something 20 years before that which was Marvin Gaye and Stevie [Wonder]."

Today, 9th praised artists like BJ The Chicago Kid and H.E.R., who took home two Grammys for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance for "Best Part" with Daniel Caesar, for providing more than just trusty falsettos.

"I think with H.E.R., Ella Mai, Daniel Caesar, Anderson .Paak and BJ The Chicago Kid and a myriad of other R&B artists who are budding believe in the music and believe in the feeling," he explains. "That's another resurgence that happened in the 90s but everything runs in cycles, history repeats itself and nothing is new under the sun."

D'USSE's relationship to music is also something worth noting 9th says. "I think spirits in a way make you euphoric and there are moments in hip-hop that make you feel euphoric too," he says. "Sometimes, your favorite song can be just as important as your favorite drink. When you're dealing with drinks and music, you're dealing with the five senses and how they go together. They also rely on each other too. You can't have one without the other."

With D'USSE's cognac carrying classic notes and grape varieties, 9th views its relationship to the music just the same with classic sounds from legends like Teddy Pendergrass and The O'Jays.

"If I were to have any soundtrack or label that's dedicated to D'USSE cognac, it would be Philadelphia's Gambling Cuff, all the Teddy Pendergrass, The O'Jays 'For The Love of Money' and 'Backstabbers,' 'Love TKO,' 'Turn Off The Lights/ Close The Door,' he listed. "All of those are really smooth, really cool. That's the kind of music that matches the drink."

One can only hope the gems gleamed through any buzzed feelings the cocktails brought forth. If so, it's a lesson in music worth remembering. "A lot of people don't know the history of drinks like that and a lot of people don't know the history of sampling like that either," the producer says. "Bartending [and making spirits] is their passion, music is mine. We just have to make sure people realize it's paramount to everything."

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Scotch Porter Taps VIBE Editor-In-Chief Datwon Thomas For 'Dare To Care' Campaign

Grooming brand Scotch Porter has selected VIBE editor-in-chief Datwon Thomas as one of several men to participate in its "Dare To Care" wellness initiative launching on Father's Day weekend.

"Dare To Care," according to a press release from Scotch Porter, aims to "evolve the perception of manhood." The project will highlight men who use philanthropy, media, education, fashion, music, and advocacy to "aggressively push boundaries to reveal the multiple internal and external layers of themselves to inspire others."

Along with Thomas, other notable participants include Akbar Cook, principal at Westside High School; Carl Banks, two-time Super Bowl Champion and founder of Gil Sports; Emil Wilbekin, founder of Native Son (and former VIBE editor-in-chief); hip-hop artist Grafh; Travis Simons, pastor and life coach; and Iquan Worthington, founder of The Artoholiks.

“For so long you’re taught ‘you can’t cry, you know you play ball... that’s a hard foul’, it’s all these different things,” Thomas said. “It’s about understanding when you need to step up into a position and when you to need to be empathetic to others and yourself.”

The "Dare To Care" campaign will open Father's Day weekend with a multi-city digital billboard review, and across multiple platforms.

Scotch Porter customers can also visit ScotchPorter.com/DareToCare to submit their own videos about how they're driving change around the mindset of being a man. More information about the company and the "Dare to Care" mission are available on Instagram and Twitter (@ScotchPorter), Facebook (ScotchPorter), and join the conversation with the #ScotchPorter hashtag.

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Zumba, But Make It Slap: Grammy-Nominated Producer Sevn Thomas On Creating 'STRONG By Zumba' Music

As New York residents anticipate the summer sun, the dancefloor of popular hotspot Copacabana was transformed into a full-blown STRONG by Zumba session.

With a high-intensity exercise led by Ai Lee Syarief, one beat, in particular, riled up attendees. It's the aptly titled "Knock 'Em Down," created by Grammy-nominated producer Sevn Thomas. Fast and slightly akin to his many hits (turn up Travis Scott's "WAKE UP" and Drake's "Pop Style"), the Toronto native gave the crowd another bop to add to the workout playlist.

Scoring a workout isn't easy, but the pairing seemed ideal for Thomas. "It's the perfect merge between music and exercise," he tells VIBE before the big workout. "They go hand in hand with each other, they complement each other. A lot of people listen to music when they work out to get in their zone and channel that energy. I thought it made perfect sense."

Thomas' collaboration with the STRONG by Zumba brand falls in line with the non-dance workout and incentive to challenge traditional fitness regimens. Past collaborators include Timbaland, Steve Aoki, and Krewella. While Thomas isn't the first hip-hop based producer, his take twists the brand's sound with an arena-like quality and a high tempo beat.

"["Knock 'Em Down"] is energetic, intense—a driving force," he said. "It's the perfect pulse for an intense workout. I tried my best to represent that in the beat as best as I can." 

Thomas' beat was used during the middle of the workout when legs were giving out and water breaks lasted a little longer than intended. As Syarief set up the next set of crossovers and squats intervals, guests like Chanel Iman were moving to Thomas' beat with ease. Thomas also joined in on the fun, STRONG by Zumba gear and all.

"Sevn's innovative sounds, blending of multiple genres with hip-hop beats and wrapped with a hint of his signature Caribbean-inspired bounce syncs perfectly with STRONG by Zumba," said Zumba CEO, Alberto Perlman. "By working with world-renowned producers, we are able to provide the best, most motivating and unique beats in every class that drive the ultimate afterburn."

For Sevn's personal STRONG by Zumba playlist, the producer is all about trap beats and artists like Young Thug's YSL Records signee Lil Keed.

"I really like trap music. That's my type of stuff [to workout to]," he said. "I've been listening to a lot of Travis Scott. I'm not sure if you're familiar with an artist named Lil Keed. I love Lil Keed right now, he's one of my favorites. His brother, his name is Lil Gotit. I love Lil Gotit's stuff too. I've been rotating that stuff when I'm in the gym doing my thing, I kind of zone out to that."

But STRONG by Zumba's workout not only came from a little inspiration from trap music but martial arts as well. Lead instructor and developer Syarief found her way to the brand in 2010 and has been the face of their many workouts like Zumba, Zumba Toning, Aqua Zumba, Zumba Sentao, Zumba Gold, Zumba Gold Toning, Zumba Kids/Kids Jr. and Zumba Step. Syarief says the latest Zumba workouts are less about perfecting reps and more about moving to the beat.

"There are so many fun movements. You're going to sweat, you'll go to your limit, it's going to be hard. But the music is always there to push you," she said. "Even though you feel like, 'Can I still go?' The music will push you and we don't count reps. You won't even think of the reps, just to move to the beats. That's what makes it different than any other workout. We're going to start a bit slow and then it's going to increase the intensity until we really push your limits. You always have small, active recovery bouts in between so you can really catch your breath and then go full high intense, work hard. So that you have the afterburn effect and then you have the active recovery."

When Thomas isn't on the boards, he's trying his hand at developing artists. Currently, he's working with Long Beach native Gibby, a partnership that fits his organic approach, not molding them into a carbon copy of what's trending.

"I think he's going to be super special. He is super special but for the world not to see how super special he is[...] That's one of the things I have on my agenda right now," he said. "It's super cool and interesting to work with a new artist because you see how chemistry and synergy work as well as working with somebody that gets it. An artist such as Gibby, he gets it, it makes it so much easier for me. It's not as much heavy lifting, but it's super dope to see how people are on the same wave and how they can exchange ideas with each other. The end result is always the best when you guys have the finished product, it's kinda like 'Look what we created together.' That's the fun part."  

Thomas also has a few major productions on the way, noting how he's very booked and busy. "I've been getting in the studio with everyone right now," he said. "So I'm super excited to see how that unfolds."

Learn more about STRONG by Zumba fitness here.

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The signs of a Chick-fil-A are seen July 26, 2012 in Springfield, Virginia. The recent comments on supporting traditional marriage which made by Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy has sparked a big debate on the issue.
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Yumm: Chick-fil-A Considers Adding Vegan Options To Menu

Chick-fil-A will jump into the growing market of vegan fast food with the addition of vegan options to their menu.

Speaking with Business Insider Tuesday (May 14), Senior Director of Menu Development Amanda Norris has looked into the idea of more meat-free options for several years. The only meat-free options on the current menu are their fruit cups and signature waffle fries.

“We’re definitely aware, and I would say we’re always interested in, what’s happening in food,” Norris said. “Specifically … a vegetarian option or a vegan option is something we’re looking at, we’re thinking about, and have (done) some (research and development).”

Norris added it normally takes about 18 to 24 months for a new item to appear on the menu so the idea of a vegan Chick-fil-A sandwich won't be available just yet.  "I think it's good. People like a lot of different choices," Chick-fil-A customer Carl Smith told Atlanta's WSB-TV, where the food chain was first created. "As long as they keep their standard favorites, I think having more choices is good, too."

Chick-fil-A is just one fast food giant who is jumping on the vegan wave. KFC recently announced plans to sell vegan chicken sandwiches while Burger King, Carl's Jr., Del Taco and Taco Bell have vegan options.

But it's hard not to credit the popularity of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat for giving customers healthier options. It's also secured a few bags. CNBC reports demand for meat substitutes made a cool $1.44 billion in 2018 with Euromonitor International predicting the number will reach $2.5 billion by 2023.

Impossible Foods also announced Monday (May 13) their funding has reached $300 million. The company partnered with the likes of restaurant chains like Counter Burger and White Castle. Even Ghostface Killah has shared an appreciation for the Impossible burger.

"It's dope. The first time I tried it was in Brooklyn. You could have sworn you were eating regular meat," he told VIBE in 2018. "I had to really ask them and they said, "Yes, it's really a plant-based food." It's the best plant-based vegan food that I've ever tasted, ever."

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