It’s remarkable that – after nearly 25 years in the music industry – this EP is Black Thought’s first solo project. (He planned the solo debut Masterpiece Theater in 2000, but it was eventually absorbed into The Roots’ 2002 Phrenology.) Musically, 9th Wonder and the Soul Council’s production is spare and subtle, with tracks like “Making a Murderer” notable mostly for their hard, totemic percussive notes. That leaves the focus on Black Thought’s words.
True to the title, he doesn’t offer any choruses, just streams of verses that cover his own lyrical prowess, history and politics, and whatever else comes to mind. His voice sounds gravelly – two decades of constant touring will do that – and substitutes tonal nuance for raw power, like a horn player blowing his lungs out. “These rappers are Peter Pan/I’m pan-African,” he raps on “9th vs. Thought.” A mic-trading session with Rapsody on “Dostoyevsky” is a notable highlight.