Known for his signature growl and a vigorously melodic flow, South Bronx native known as Nine ignited the music scene at a time when hip hop’s birthplace lacked solid representation. Soon after his arrival, he tore a huge hole into rap’s status quo by ushering in a hardcore vibe that catered directly to the urban landscape and paved the way for the maelstrom of rugged mc’s that subsequently followed. With “that voice” that packs an effortless punch over jagged beats and deft picturesque rhymes capes, Nine‘s unique style creates a larger-than-life presence yet he still relates to the man on the street. Having oscillated between chart topping success and the barrels of the underground, his career amounts to one of the realest pages in the street rap game. Well respected amongst his peers, Nine’s vocals appear on releases by world renowned recording artists such as Madonna, Portishead and the Beastie Boys.
Nine is an artist that creatively pursued hip hop from the moment he first heard it seep into his childhood bedroom window, and from there, it would become more than just another hustle out of the hood. As a young teen, he ran behind rap pioneers such as DJ Chuck Chillout and Andre Harrell (Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Uptown, Motown) while performing in local battles and park jams with neighborhood friend Funkmaster Flex as the group Deuces Wild. Honing lyrical skills; crafting his own unique style; paying dues. Hustling to get closer to hip hop. “Everybody has their story about how music saved them. Everything I did from drug selling, drug using, kids outside of marriage, getting arrested, was side shit. Out of a whole day, 15 hours was dedicated to ‘how am I gonna make it as an artist?’ Music is my story. The distraction was everything else that happened in between trying to chase it.” In 1994, Nine found his niche when his incendiary voice exploded onto the scene with the underground smash “Six Million Ways to Die”. Hip hop never heard a voice so rough.
Nine finally got his name up in lights in 1995 with the hit single “Whutcha Want?” off his debut album Nine Livez, but just when east coast hip hop took an over-indulging glittery turn, the rap pragmatist headed back to the reality of the gritty streets. The following year, Profile Records apprehensively released Cloud 9 with little hype and far fewer copies. “What about the dudes who don’t give a fuck about that shit. Who have become so used to not caring about having 20 pairs of sneakers or anything on that level.” Ahead of its time, Cloud 9 went on to become a timeless classic acknowledged by worldwide hip hop fans of the collectable CD. He released a handful of underground singles, appeared in a few acting gigs on stage and on the TV series “New York Undercover,” then downshifted from the spotlight only making rare appearances and performing behind the scenes production. “The game was so flooded, I felt like it was my time to sit out. After doing it for so long, I just stopped.”
Changing shifts in the music business oftentimes leave noticeable voids. With time off the charts but not away from the mic, Nine continued to record while waiting for the right time to make his return. While rebuilding his presence online, fans responded with long lost love and a thirst for new music. In 2006, Nine assembled a collection of previously recorded material and released the underground banger Return of the Hardcore: Songs Recorded 1999 – 2004, properly reacquainting heads with the prodigal MC favorite they longed to hear from. “I got fans that are forever. Most people come and go‘til the next rapper of the moment is available, but these are the people that keep it alive.” There is a short-list of living rappers that are able to successfully release dated material as if it were just recorded. This is a testament to the integrity behind Nine’s body of work that continues to speak for itself.
Although he’s been in the rap game for a minute, Nine has very few miles on him. In 2009, he returns with an unencumbered style and swagger to match on Quinine: the Overseas Shipment , released through his imprint Brand Narcotic and Smoke On Records. "You can’t just spit bars on tracks and put out records. I learned how to make songs back in the day. I wouldn’t write a song today with the same voice and style as then, so why would I use a style from 1997?” And he doesn’t. Nine bears soul with ease on the albums’ melodic introduction “What’s Done Is Done,” quickly addressing the hiatus while dismissing cynics and nonbelievers alike. The hypnotic “Furious” takes you on a walk through the mind of the man. Title track “Quinine” injects pounding horns against undulating strings as the lone MC reclaims his place in the current hip hop line-up. With perspectives that range from celebrity slump to the latest fuss on the state of “Hip Hop,” Nine’s thought provoking lyrics are compiled with conscious intellect and street-level metaphors that will keep the rewind button busy on “Say Somethin,” “Gimme My Money” and ”Kill ‘Em Again.” “Homicide” plays like a powerful crime drama assaulted by sinister horns and Nine’s murderous lyrical play, while the anthemic “Yes” finds Nine at his braggadocios best, but at the same time aware that “The music changes, and if you don’t have the opportunity or the motivation to change with it, you’re done. None of this would have been coming out of me if I sold a million Cloud 9’s when it came out and been sittin’ up in the mansion with the whip right now, none of these rhymes would have came out. That comes from the same place it was born, struggle, desire and love.”
Forever reinventing himself, Nine proves that past hype was not in vein. “I didn’t come back to be #2. I want the belt, the crown and everything that comes with it.” So get ready for your fix of Quinine.