THE DOZENS: HIP-HOP MEETS JAZZ by Jared Pauley

hip-hop and jazz

For well over forty years, jazz music and hip-hop music have flirted with each other on numerous occasions. When jazz artists began to experiment with sounds beyond free jazz and the avant-garde, they unknowingly helped plant one of the important seeds for hip-hop music. Hip-hop artists returned the favor in the 1980s, sampling some of the most respected music in the jazz catalogue. In the 1990s, popular hip-hop acts took jazz samples to the top of the charts while others worked directly with respected jazz musicians. With the new millennium, this trend continued as jazz artists began incorporating elements of hip-hop into their music through the use of emcees and more importantly deejays.

This Dozens list represents a small portion of existing music but overall an attempt was made to highlight the important steps and linkages between jazz and hip-hop.


Buckshot Lefonque: Breakfast @ Denny's

Track

Breakfast @ Denny's

Artist

Branford Marsalis (tenor sax)

CD

Buckshot Lefonque (Columbia)

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Musicians:

Branford Marsalis (tenor sax),

DJ Premier (turntables)

.

Recorded: 1994

Albumcoverbuckshotlefonque

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

With the hip-hop jazz scene in full explosion, Branford Marsalis teams forces with Gangstarr's DJ Premier to create one of the quintessential recordings of the early 1990s. Marsalis provides a bluesy 2-bar lick over a head-banging bassline while DJ Premier scratches in voices and sound bites. Overall, this single represents a nice merger between early '90s boom-bap and jazzy undertones.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Bob James: Nautilus

Track

Nautilus

Artist

Bob James (keyboards)

CD

One (Warner Bros.)

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Musicians:

Bob James (keyboards),

Gary King (bass), Steve Gadd (drums)

.

Recorded: 1974

Albumcoverbobjames-one

Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

Though this track predates its hip-hop usage, Bob James's "Nautilus" became one of the most sampled tracks in hip-hop history. James's looped Rhodes and catchy A-minor bassline provide the main basis for the head and the solo section. Such hip-hop artists as Wu Tang Clan's Ghostface Killa, Rakim, and DJ Shadow sampled this song and ensured that James's funk would be heard by generations of other listeners.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Guru: Loungin'

Track

Loungin'

Artist

Guru (vocals)

CD

Jazzmatazz Volume 1

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Musicians:

Guru (vocals), Donald Byrd (trumpet).

Recorded: 1993

Albumcoverjazzmatazz

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

MC Guru (aka G.U.R.U., a backronym for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal), has always rapped about jazz. From his Gang Starr collaborations with DJ Premier, the rapper evolved and began 1993 with his first release, Jazzmatazz. Nothing special here, but Donald Byrd's trumpet notes help to spice up the usual formula of verse-chorus-verse-chorus. This record is a good and necessary listen for anyone wanting to learn more about jazz and hip-hop recordings.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Digable Planets: Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)

Track

Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)

Group

Digable Planets

CD

Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (Pendulum)

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Musicians:

Doodle Bug, Ladybug, Butterfly (vocals)

.

Recorded: 1993

Albumcoverdigableplanets-reachin-anewrefutationoftimeandspace

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

In 1994 it was impossible to get away from this song. The opening bassline is as recognizable and jazzy as anything that came out during the early '90s. Butterfly and company ride the beat with smooth lyrics and a relaxed flow, creating a hypnotizing groove that swung pretty hard for a hip-hop group. The single was a Top 20 hit in 1994 and went on to win the group their first Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Group or Duo.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Miles Davis: The Doo-Bop Song

Track

The Doo-Bop Song

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet)

CD

Doo-Bop (Warner Bros.)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet),

Easy Mo Bee (production)

.

Recorded: 1991

Albumcovermilesdavis-doobop

Rating: 87/100 (learn more)

Miles Davis, jazz's most prolific experimenter, collaborated with hip-hop producer Easy Mo Bee for what became the trumpeter's last album. Davis injects his cool, muted sound throughout the song, which is orchestrated over a familiar piano riff. The only downside to this song is that the rapping halfway through kind of dampens the mood; but still this record proves why Davis could float between musical styles like it was no one's business.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Herbie Hancock: Rockit

Track

Rockit

Artist

Herbie Hancock (keyboards, synthesizers)

CD

Future Shock

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Musicians:

Herbie Hancock (keyboards, synthesizers),

Grand Mixer DST (turntables), Bill Laswell (production), Michael Beinhorn (synth programming)

.

Recorded: 1983

Albumcoverherbiehancock-futureshock

Rating: 99/100 (learn more)

It might be safe to say that pianist Herbie Hancock has the most open ears of any jazz musician. He has reinvented himself stylistically many times throughout his career. In 1983, with its skeleton-inspired video, "Rockit" took off from left field and ended up becoming one of the biggest songs of the 1980s. Featured beside Hancock's catchy synthesizer melody is the scratch work by Grand Mixer DST. This marked one of the first times a popular song had utilized DJ scratching, and the song still screams 1980s when you hear it today.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


A Tribe Called Quest: Verses From the Abstract

Track

Verses From the Abstract

Group

A Tribe Called Quest

CD

The Low End Theory (Zomba 1418-2-J)

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Musicians:

Ron Carter (bass),

Q-Tip, Phife Dog (vocals)

.

Recorded: 1991

Albumcoveratribecalledquest-thelowendtheory

Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Very few hip-hop acts crossed over like Saint Albans, Queens' ATCQ. Armed with lyrics, wittiness and spot-on deliveries, the duo of Q-Tip and Phife Dog rip up this swinging hip-hop beat. With the aid of Ron Carter, the bass is an added gem to a song and an album that many consider to be one of the finest ever produced in hip-hop music.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Gang Starr: Manifest

Track

Manifest

Group

Gang Starr

CD

No More Mr. Nice Guy (EMI E2-98709)

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Musicians:

Guru (vocals), DJ Premier (turntables, production)

.

Recorded: 1992

Albumcovergangstarr-nomoremrniceguy

Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

On this recording, MC Guru (aka Baldhead Slick) and DJ Premier flip Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" into one of the most memorable songs to come out of New York in the early 1990s. This was one of the first uses of a bebop sample, and Guru wastes no time spilling his conscientious metaphor-driven rap over it. This record officially put Gang Starr (aka Gangstarr) on the radar.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Miles Davis: Fat Time

Track

Fat Time

Artist

Miles Davis (trumpet)

CD

The Man With the Horn (Columbia CK 36790)

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Musicians:

Miles Davis (trumpet), Bill Evans (soprano sax), Marcus Miller (bass), Al Foster (drums),

Mike Stern (guitar)

.

Recorded: 1980-1981

Albumcovermilesdavis-themanwiththehorn

Rating: 98/100 (learn more)

Miles and company deliver a stellar performance. Al Foster's drumbeat is almost MPC-like as he keeps up a steady, bright crack on his snare. Miller's bassline provides Davis and Evans the perfect funk groove to solo over. In its simplicity, with only a 2-chord vamp, this song planted the seed for what would be heard later in hip hop.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Us3: Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)

Track

Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)

Group

Us3

CD

Hand on the Torch (Blue Note)

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Musicians:

Kobie Powell (vocals), Mel Simpson, Geoff Wilkinson (production)

.

Recorded: 1993

Albumcoverus3handonthetorch

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Growing up in the early 1990s as a teenager meant several things. One of them being that you knew this song. The brain children behind this group, Simpson and Wilkinson, sampled Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" and ended up with one of the biggest hits of the '90s. Along with Powell's raps, this song eventually went gold and ended up being one of the strongest selling Blue Note albums ever. Lifted straight from Hancock's record, the feel of his 1960s original was transplanted to dance floors all across the world through this song.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Madlib: Footprints

Track

Footprints

Group

Madlib

CD

Shades of Blue (Stones Throw/Blue Note)

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Musicians:

Yesterday’s New Quintet: Joe McDuphrey (keyboards), Ahmad Miller (vibes), Monk Hughes (bass), Joe Chambers, Otis Jackson Junior (drums)

.

Composed by Wayne Shorter

.

Recorded: 2003

Albumcovermadlib-shadesofblue

Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

On this album, California-based producer Madlib opened up the Blue Note vaults and produced his most well-respected album to date. Along with Yesterday's New Quintet, they recorded Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" for an audience that otherwise might not have heard it. Ahmad Miller, one of Madlib's various aliases, showcases his diversity and skills on vibes, which are only matched by his skills behind the boards. A must-have for any fan of jazz and hip-hop.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


Medeski Martin & Wood: Start-Stop (DJ Logic Remix)

Track

Start-Stop (DJ Logic Remix)

Group

Medeski Martin & Wood

CD

Combustication Remix EP (Blue Note)

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Musicians:

John Medeski (keyboards), Billy Martin (drums), Chris Wood (bass),

DJ Logic (turntables, production)

.

Recorded: 1999

Albumcovermedeskimartinandwood-combusticationremixep

Rating: 88/100 (learn more)

Following the release of their 1998 album Combustication, jazz trio MMW enlisted the help of their friends to remix some of its songs for this EP. DJ Logic's remix adds some hypnotizing drums to the atmospheric keyboard of Medeski, which creates a sweltering mix of hip-hop, jazz and psychedelia. Wood's bass groove gives this remix all the right ingredients needed to succeed.

Reviewer: Jared Pauley


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