Review: The Musalini & 9th Wonder, ‘The Don & Eye’

The unexpected combination of the Bronx-bred rapper and the North Carolina producing legend pays tribute to a sound that raised a generation.

After connecting through social media, The Musalini & 9th Wonder quickly got to working but took time to pace out the work that would become their collaborative project, The Don & Eye. When the joint effort was announced, the vision became clear that these two were a match made in hip-hop heaven. Musalini’s slick, braggadocios style fit perfectly into 9th Wonder’s stunningly soulful production like the missing piece of a puzzle, and helped elevate his technique to a whole new level.

Musalini’s pimp-like posture makes up the backbone of the project while 9th Wonder’s exotic beats breathe life into the album’s soul, crafting the perfect recipe for a hip-hop album with a vintage feel.

If there’s one thing Musalini’s music has taught us, its that pimpin’ ain’t easy – unless you’re The Musalini of course. Hailing from hip-hop’s birthplace of The Bronx, New York, the slick-styled spitter embraced the pimp-like persona fairly early, helping him standout in an area crowded with the genre’s most abrasive emcees. After catching the eye of the legendary Southern hip-hop producer, 9th Wonder, Musalini was able to find the missing link that helped strengthen his adopted character.

The Don & Eye utilizes the duo’s defining characteristics to develop a base that best suits the individual styles of both artists. By adopting the flamboyant values present in blaxploitation themes, Musalini and 9th Wonder are able to meet on neutral ground and lay the framework for this project’s concept. With these attributes in mind along with its cohesive nature, the project takes it listeners through the setting of a blaxploitation film with its vintage essence and classy climate. The Don & Eye works perfectly as 9th caters to Musalini’s strengths as an emcee.

With this project, you get exactly what you see when skimming the album’s track list. Each song takes on a specific title related to the blaxploitation themes prevalent in the late 70s / early 80s and perfectly matches the era’s energy. The 38 Spesh-assisted “Don Music” provides a poignant soundtrack filled with cunning confidence while the soulful “Miami Vice” exquisitely encapsulates the free-spirited atmosphere of this period in time. With the foundation laid by 9th Wonder’s passionate production, Musalini is given the alley-oop to come through and kill it with his slick and classy rhymes.

While Musalini plays the main role in this project’s theme, 9th perfectly executes the background position of constructing the album’s ambience. The North Carolina producer stays in the mix with his signature style of soul-ridden beats, providing the project with its vintage feel. The beats embrace a more traditional format to hip-hop production, finding great value in a minimalistic style. Through its conventional composition is where the album pay’s homage to hip-hop’s deep-cut roots in this era while executing the establishment of the main theme.

While many would assume this project to be a typical outcome of the duo’s fusion, The Don & Eye hit the nail on the head and perfectly executes its concept while occupying its niche. 9th’s stunning production structures the project’s backbone with a soulfully jazzy feel while Musalini slides into the scene and lays daring rhymes, complimented with his natural flamboyant demeanor. Sprinkle in the blaxploitation-inspired concept and the overall outcome is an exhilarating, cinematic experience exhibited throughout the album’s run time.

A perfect rapper-producer match is hard to come by nowadays in hip-hop, but the collaborative effort between The Musalini and 9th Wonder checks off all boxes needed for a successful joint project. The Don & Eye shows the two blending their individual styles to produce a hip-hop project that could only be described as the audio counterpart to the 1970’s blaxploitation film, “The Mack.” With its luxurious texture and stylish manner, The Musalini and 9th Wonder kick off the new year with a strong entry to jumpstart hip-hop’s annual releases.

8 / 10

Best tracks: “Deja Vu”, “Paid in Full”, “Don Music”, “Been a Minute”, “Tunnel Vision”