9th Wonder Talks “Duckworth,” Working with Kendrick Lamar

blame it on JES7 April 15, 2017

It took seven years for it to finally happen, but Kung Fu Kenny finally clutched himself the perfect 9th Wonder beat to close out his fourth studio album, DAMN.

What began as a simple tweet back in 2010 eventually transpired into one of the most talked-about songs from Kendrick’s latest album: “DUCKWORTH.” which tells the story of TDE’s Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith’s run-in with Kendrick’s father, Ducky.

In an interview with Complex, 9th Wonder detailed some interesting tidbits of how the song came to fruition, his reasons for choosing the song’s sample and confirmed whether there was any truth to the story told in the song. As if there was any doubt.

We’ve highlighted a few key points of the interview for you reading pleasure below.

The birth of their working relationship

The day he tweeted me is the day I arrived in L.A. for Rock the Bells 2010. So that was a Friday. But the next day, I met him and Ab and Schoolboy and Jay Rock all at Rock the Bells, and they were saying how much they were fans and they listened to me for years and everything. At the time I’m talking to him, I’ve heard about him because I knew about Overly Dedicated and a few other things. So I was like, what’s going on. But he never mentioned the tweet to me—he wasn’t like, “Yo, I tweeted you yesterday.” He never said anything about it. So it got lost in time.

We kept in close contact. With Kendrick, “close contact” means you talk to him for about three weeks straight, and you won’t talk to him again for maybe nine months. This is how he operates. He turns himself off from the world, and I totally understand that, 100 percent.

So we kept in touch. Rapsody ended up on To Pimp a Butterfly because they’ve always been fans of each other. After that, he mentioned to me, “We gotta do something.” I played him like 15 beats in the studio one night. Out of the blue last summer, he sent me a text of just a short video of him playing part of the song that you now hear as “Duckworth.”

I knew the beat was mine. I heard the words, and I was like, “What’s this?” He just put back, “LOL.” To me, that keeps it fresh. I think being on the internet all the time, there’s no new turn-ons, there’s no freshness to anything. Kendrick keeps it fresh.

Sampling Ted Taylor’s “Be Ever Wonderful

People always ask me, why do I choose samples the way I choose samples? I don’t usually choose samples with voices in them, because I care about what the soul singer is saying. It’s more of the instruments behind it. I’m trying to capture the instruments behind what the sample is saying, instead of the Blueprint algorithm where the sample says something, and you have to rap around that. That was legendary in its own right, but I like the instruments behind the voices. It just felt good to me, man.

Truth on “Duckworth”

When we got to hear it in its entirety, I was like, “Wow.” The first thing I asked [Kendrick] was, is this a true story? He said yes, it’s a true story. That’s the thing that’s been going around on the net. Top Dawg has confirmed that it’s a true story. The beauty of that is, he chose to tell that story, and we’re like four albums in. Usually, people will tell that story the first time.

Future collabs between the two?

No, I cannot. [Laughs.] My label Jamla Records and Top Dawg Entertainment, we have a special bond and we both believe in uplifting the culture in any way we possibly can. They have the utmost respect for us; I’ve got the utmost respect for Kendrick, Top, Ab, Schoolboy, Isaiah Rashad, Sir, SZA, Lance Skiiiwalker, Hollywood Dave, retOne, everybody over there. They look at my camp the same way, and they treat us the same way. And I just really respect that a lot.

Read the rest of the interview at CMPLX.