If North Carolina has etched out a place in hip-hop music, Little Brother’s 2003 debut album,Â The Listening, should serve as its official soundtrack. Before the soul-driven sample was reinvigorated in the genre, 9th Wonder was behind the boards for the trio crafting a unique mix of DJ Premier-esque chops and drums that has since become signature for the producer. Forget Petey Pablo, this is what Carolina artists were supposed to sound like.
That was over seven years ago. Little Brother has since broken up, 9th has grown into a Grammy-winning producer and formed his own imprint. And while the stables of Jamla and The Academy, the two labels under 9th’s It’s a Wonderful World Music Group umbrella, are chock full of Carolina’s finest, the young label has yet to produce a product so ingrained in the state. Until now – you had to know that was coming.
Signed to the Jamla Records side of IWWMG, Remo first worked with 9th on his Dream Merchant Vol. 2 compilation a couple years back. Since then his narrative tales of life in his native Winston-Salem have embodied the Southern nature of hip-hop. And much like LB before him, Remo’s long-awaited debut, Entrapment, does the unenviable task of setting the sentiment of a state to music.
There’s “The Game (Tre 4),” Â a quick-hitting shout-out to Winston-Salem where Remo admits to once being a trapper too. The matter-of-fact delivery of such a line captures the essence of the album: what’s done is done, but it’s up to me to shape what’s ahead.
Remo is about the come-up. “They can’t stop my grind or burn our homes/My mindset is trap harder,” Remo rhymes on “Wonderbread,” a sonic-soul beat by 9th Wonder and featuring David Banner. Remo employs this “I hustle harder” mentality throughout, but in a much more deliberate manner on the first half of the album.
By the time the title track has passed, Remo is onto another mindset. “What is Your Name?,” an account of one woman’s life path, the storytelling Remo is on full blast. Even on the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League-produced “It’s Like That,” a track that at its worse would have been a forced collab to get some attention off name alone, Remo weaves some solid verses over haunting piano strokes.
For Remo’s true parable, one should look only to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop.” With Tyler Woods on the hook, Remo goes at his personal come-up. Chronicling his past failed contract with Interscope among other things, the E. Jones beat provides the perfect ride-out music to Entrapment’s closer.
9th Wonder may only produce four tracks on the album, but with the help of Khrysis, AMP of Act Proof and Eric G, the LP never loses focus nor momentum. And as a native North Carolinian, I can say it feels like home.
Remo is focused on the future, not the past. “Demons from my past left them at the crossroads,” he spits on “What it Takes.” It seems that all he really wants for the present is respect. He easily earns is with Entrapment.
Big Remo is performing on the Red Bull Music Academy stage as part of an Evening with 9th Wonder at the 2010 A3C Hip-Hop Festival.