David Banner is often presumed to be an angry guy. His vocals and delivery tend to be aggressive, and the “Family Guy” skit (“David Banner, I just slashed your tires) doesn’t help. Producer 9th Wonder helps take the edge off and gives Banner room to breathe on the duo’s collaboration album “Death of a Pop Star.”
9th Wonder handles all of the production, which is a first for a Banner album. The producer employs soul-styled music (as he has done successfully for artists like Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige), which softens the hardness in Banner’s voice and draws listeners to the intelligence in the rapper’s messages.
Banner varies in his themes, but for the most part he succeeds wherever he turns his eye. “Something is Wrong” examines the state of the lower class in America, but his arguments on “Slow Down” are the most impressive. It focuses on the common theme of men (particularly rappers) striving to stay single. Banner avoids misogyny, however, chastising women for advancing on him because of his celebrity, telling a suitor “you been talking all that s— and you don’t even know my real name,” (which is Lavell Crump).
For anyone offended by “Slow Down,” Banner makes up for it on the song “Stutter,” a jam where the rapper indicates his interest in a woman to the point of having guest artist Anthony Hamilton suggest marriage during the refrain. Banner plays with the song title by stammering parts of the refrain as well.
9th Wonder’s soul approach to the album involves inviting plenty of female guest stars to take part. Included among them are Heather Victoria, Lisa Ivey and Erykah Badu. Ludacris also stops by for a verse on “Be With You.”
The result of the collaboration is a success. Banner still makes awkward guttural noises way too often, but for the most part, 9th Wonder provides some yin to Banner’s yang.