The Dream Merchant Vol. 2 – 9th Wonder

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9th Wonder polarizes hip hop heads; either you love his true-school soul samples (that have rejuvenated great minds and opened doors to young blood), or you despise that his Charmin soft drums and sub-par squad are polluting the music with more stagnant snooze tapes. The truth is 9th Wonder is working on both sides of the line.

With The Dream Merchant Vol. 2, Mr. Wonder has his moments of stellar or, at the least, suitable production. He also invites guests who have the talent to make the most of their opportunity. On “Baking Soda”, Treal offers a detailed come-up story over a Buckwild style beat. Unfortunately, the storyline Treal offers is almost verbatim Season One of The Wire, and it doesn't help when he spits “they well practiced on my Stringer Bell tactics.” Still, Treal’s attention to detail saves this from the pile of tall-tale songs.

Equally surprising is Camp Lo's return from hiatus. The Uptown emcees returns, revitalized and esoteric as ever on “The Milky Lowa”. Even 9th cannot tarnish the silky milky flows of the Lowa ones.

But comparisons to DJ Premier have to stop after this album because it might be going to 9th Wonder’s head. On “Saved” 9th gives a “D’Evils” impression and completely bites the Snoop sample of “dear god, I wonder can you save me.”

Then he attempts to add to the Crooklyn Dodgers saga, enlisting Mos Def, Jean Grae and Memphis Bleek as the Crooklynites to present the current state of affairs. For the record, unless it's on a Spike Lee soundtrack, it can never be an official Crooklyn Dodgers track. It's not that Mos, Jean and Bleek are not deserving of the legacy, it's that following a hard knock 90s original and signature jazzy Premo classic with anything less than another classic is disrespectful. 9th falls significantly short, even if the cuts are nice.

9th Wonder deserves credit for getting Mos Def to actually rap, keeping Camp Lo relevant and occasionally coming through with an ill sample, but it is time we stop gassing him up as a second coming. Otherwise we might get a “Shook Ones Pt. III” that allows such things as half-way crooks.