Power to the 9th: Grammy Award-Winning Producer Holds Class on Life, Discovery, and 50 Years of Hip-Hop

The Triad Cultural Arts and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County rolled out the red carpet for one of its own while celebrating 50 years of Hip-Hop. 

Patrick Denard Douthit, professionally known as the 9th Wonder, received a king’s welcome when he visited his home city of Winston-Salem, to celebrate a genre of music that he’s been an integral part of, although it is still mind-blowing to him. 

“A lot of times I don’t believe it because I’m so much of a fan. I’ve been a fan of the music for the first 28 years of my life,” he said. “When you’re a fan of it the way I’m a fan of it, it’s hard to believe that you’re a part of it. Now, I know how people see me and look at me, but still, I ride around listening to my music just like anybody else.”

The reception and masterclass was held Monday, July 24 at Reyolds Place Theatre in the Milton Rhodes Center of the Arts in Downtown Winston-Salem. Filled with fans, loved ones, and old classmates, the class ushered in a spirit of comradery for the teacher and his craft. 

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Owens Daniels Photography

“We are by large account the youngest genre. There are a lot of subgenres now, but we’re the youngest genre. We think about rock, jazz, blues, or anything else, we’re the youngest. Even though we’re the youngest, the worldwide phenomenon of hip-hop is that it’s stretched past race, color, creed, gender, and language. This is universal as math,” Douthit said.  “The things that hip-hop has done from a culture standpoint, I separate what the industry has done to the art form as opposed to what the art form is really, the art form, as the culture has been phenomenal. It’s changed fashion, it’s changed commercials, it’s changed music, it’s changed just everything. It’s changed what we think, the way we talk, and some of the things that we say.”

Douthit is a graduate of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools’ Glenn High School and a former student of Fleming El-Amin, Board Chair of Triad Cultural Arts and former Forsyth County Commissioner. He began making beats in his dorm room at North Carolina Central University. Since then he has worked with Hip-Hop and R&B legends such as Nas, Jay-Z, Wale, Erykah Badu, Rapsody, Talib Kweli, Mary J. Blige, Mos Def, David Banner, Memphis Bleak, The Game, and North Carolina’s Little Brother.  

Along with producing beats, performing, and recording, Douthit is considered the Hip-Hop professor at several higher learning institutions. Since 2007, he has taught music theory and hip-hop history at  NCCU, Duke University, Elizabeth City State University, Wake Forest University, and Harvard University. He also participates in the Nike Academy.

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“I went to North Carolina Central to teach. It’s one thing to do it and it’s another thing to be able to talk about what you do,” I love teaching. I’m getting an updated analysis of what 18-year-olds think every year.” 

His signature production style relies on samples from other artists that he likes and appreciates, especially music from the 70s and early 80s.

“I think the biggest thing for me is I shaped it in a way, as far as a technology standpoint. A lot of producers at the time were using these big machines or hardware that would just truncate samples and manipulate samples and sound. Well, I came along in the late 90s, early 2000s thousand and started to use a laptop to circumvent the machine,” he explained of his early career.  

He said that he enjoys using music from the 1970s and 80s because “it was a time when we were our most daring.”

“I don’t think it’s a better decade musically and with more range than the 1970s. I think that’s where music was at its height.” 

No matter how far Douthit travels, North Carolina will always be home for him. However, Monday was the first time he taught a crowd of friends and family. 

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“Usually when I’m teaching, I’m standing in front of people that know me as 9th but don’t know me as Patrick. So this crowd will be different. I’ve never lectured like this in front of my mom and dad. My old teachers will be here. A lot of old friends will be here.”

But last Monday night, he was the teacher of a craft that he’s become intimate with. To a full auditorium, Douthit walked the audience through the wondrous land and legacy of Hip-Hop with his audio-visual presentation masterclass “These are The Breaks: A Conversation about Positivity, Discovery, and Freedom of Thought, through Hip-Hop.”

Resident Shanika Gray said it was important for her to come out and support her friend of over 40 years and give him his flowers. 

“The City of Winston-Salem is always represented and celebrated by 9th in every venue he’s ever played. It would be awesome if the city celebrated the gifts and talents of our Native Son the way they do for transplants. Where is 9th Wonder Way or 9th Wonder Day with a key to the city? Our young people need to see someone who looks like them, has lived like them, and has made it to the top of his craft, with his city always close to his heart.”

She went on to say that it is important for the youth of Winston-Salem to see role models like Douthit in the spotlight and have hands-on access to the arts. 

“Winston-Salem recently ranked nationally as the hardest city to escape child poverty in the U.S. Our city of arts must become more inclusive and embrace cultural expressions of the Black community just as it embraces art installations and highways with sculptures and arches. Our communities, youth, and families deserve more outlets and opportunities to celebrate culture as it relates to the Black experience,” Gray said. “By interacting with a home-grown genius, Grammy award-winning, international producer, scholar, and hip-hop historian Winston-Salem citizens see what they can be and it resonates on a personal and intimate level. I am excited to have attended the Masterclass. I look forward to more opportunities to let the 9th Wonder of the World continue to shine the light on Winston-Salem and remind our young people that a dream coupled with tenacity, dedication, and effort can take you all the way to the top of your chosen craft.”

The presentation was followed by a Q&A with guest panelists such as Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough, Forsyth County District Court Judge Fred Adams, and NC A&T Professor Bryan Turman. Adams, a fan of classic hip-hop, said that it is “important to have people from various backgrounds and demographics to illustrate that Hip-Hop is a unifying force, which is appreciated and revered by people from all walks of life.” 

Adams went on to say that hip-hop is a shared experience. 

“Whether you are an MC, DJ, or a fan. This celebratory event was important to the residents and the local arts community because Hip-Hop is an art form, which is sometimes misunderstood and undervalued,” he said. “Hip-Hop is a global movement that has universally influenced our culture, including but not limited to our fashion, language, and style.”

This summer, a mural was revealed commemorating Douthit’s legacy as a North Carolina Hall of Fame Musician. 

The mural is located on the corner of Trade and Liberty Streets and was done by Scott Nurkin.  


Chanel Davis is the current editor of YES! Weekly and graduated from N.C. A&T S.U. in 2011 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s worked at daily and weekly newspapers in the Triad region.

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