Little Brother's The Listening introduced hip-hop to a new kind of Southern soul courtesy of 9th Wonder, a producer whose crate-digging prowess won him props from luminaries like ?uestlove, Kanye West, and Jay-Z. After an amicable break with Little Brother, 9th Wonder taps a sprawling guest list of rappers for The Dream Merchant 2. It's a sleeper that initially appears heavy on goodness but short on greatness, but in time reveals surprising depth, from the breezy summer-cookout vibe of "Sunday" to "Saved," an introspective Joe Scudda/Saigon collaboration built around a hook purloined from Snoop Dogg's Death Row heyday. Producer showcases tend to get lost in the tumult of aggressive voices competing for attention, but 9th Wonder's mellow hyper-soul production holds everything together nicely.

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