9th Wonder Dream Merchant Vol. 2

9th Wonder Dream Merchant Vol. 2
Cast aside any worry about 9th Wonder’s split from Little Brother; his debut, a solo album of his beats and other people’s rhymes, spanks homers like post-steroids Barry Bonds, but still hugs his old sound. If LB taught 9th anything it’s that a socially conscious style may not pay the bills. Straddling that gangster-ism vs. consciousness hype that 50 and Kanye used to move units keeps this disc from getting stuck in either rut. "Brooklyn In My Mind” reaches for said goal by teaming Mos Def, Jean Grae and former Jay-Z prodigy Memphis Bleek over some muffled bass drums and sweeping orchestration. "The Milky Lowa” hands Camp Lo a beat nursed at J-Dilla’s teat, and both MCs feed until they’re full. "Special Remix” has apple-bottom curves, and the criticism of 9th — that his drum beats are monotonous — while somewhat true, doesn’t detract from the overall effort. Little Brother (Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh) own "No Time To Chill” and the only frustration is that these collaborations will be few and far between. (Ryko)