David Banner & 9th Wonder - Death of a Pop Star

Posted January 5, 2011
Tags: David Banner,

True story. David Banner was reading my review of his previous album, in which I said that his...

Death of a Pop Star Album Review

True story. David Banner was reading my review of his previous album, in which I said that his music, which constantly vacillated between strip club ready anthems and politically charged manifestos, often sounded at war with itself. “You know,” Banner said to himself, “that Nathan S. is completely right. I can keep dropping a few revolutionary tracks every album until I die, but people will still think of me as the dude who did Rubberband Man and Play. What I need to do is make an entire album that showcases me as a serious emcee, and if I want people to truly look at me in a different light, I’m going to need some outside assistance. I know, I’ll do a collab album with 9th Wonder! Man, that Nathan S. is a f**king genius.”

Ok, so that’s not a true story, but it should be. Either way, David Banner, a.k.a. the biggest hip-hop force Mississippi has ever produced, is clearly at the point in his career when he’s starting to think about the legacy he’s leaving behind, and wasn’t entirely happy with what he sees in the rearview. In a play to force hip-hop to respect his underrated lyricism, and make music that truly lived up to his lofty ideals, he recruited that master of soul-infused bangers, 9th Wonder, for their album Death of a Pop Star. While Banner and 9th don’t exactly bring out the best in each other, they’re both far too set in their ways to change much, if nothing else it’s fascinating to watch two veterans with distinctly original sounds join forces. Oh, and the music’s pretty damn good too.

“Dreams of screaming demons, hearin death whisper hello … I tried suicide but the gun wasn’t workin.” Just in case you were expecting Get Like Me, those are some of first words we hear on Death of a Pop Star and the message is unmistakable; David Banner is not playing (pun intended). But although he often keeps the lyrical content concrete heavy, 9th’s beats offer just enough soul to keep the tracks from dragging. Case in point, No Denying, a cut whose production sounds made for a soulful meditation on love, but Banner instead detours into both a commentary on the negative effects his music may have had and the soul killing nature of wealth. A lyrical onslaught like that might feel overwhelming, but 9th’s always heartfelt boardwork keeps listeners around just long enough for Banner to truly let his message sink in. It’s an expertly crafted balance that Death of a Pop Star finds again and again, from the not at all silly Silly to the grinding gospel of The Light.

Death of a Popstar isn’t entirely fire and brimstone. In fact, it often covers some very familiar territory – women. Be With You’s sparkling beat, along with Marsha Amborius’ always beautiful vocals, give the album’s most overtly booty-centric song a real sweetness. It’s a long way from Banner’s usual rough sex talk, and it’s a tribute to 9th that he makes David sound more pop than ever, but never soft. It’s crucial to note that even the other tracks that touch on the fairer sex bring an unexpectedly deeper level. The stripper in Slow Down reveals that she’s merely dancing because she’s struggling to pay her baby’s medical bills, and Stutter takes Banner about as far away from his pimping ways as he can get and turns him into a romantically vulnerable, tongue tied suitor. In many ways this is the bravest work David’s ever done – ironically he’s never sounded like more of a pop star.

Unfortunately, Death of a Popstar won’t have the widespread appeal of many of Banner’s previous hits, so a substantial portion of the population will continue to think of him as the man responsible for Tip Drill, but those who actually sit down and listen to the album will never be able to look at the man the same way again. Many secretly struggle to navigate the treacherous road between financial gain and meaningful music, but few reveal that struggle as honestly and openly as David Banner does here. David Banner has always contained deeper depths than his surface may sometimes suggest. Thanks to 9th Wonder’s help, those depths are no longer submerged.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted January 5, 2011
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