by K. Chambliss
This might seem a little off the beaten path, but trust me—it’s for your own good. Today, we’re going to do a little improv in the spirit of one of my favorite music genres, jazz. Because nothing, I mean nothing screams renaissance or even classic man like jazz. So pour up your favorite scotch. Light that cigar (if you enjoy that sort of thing), and let’s get into it.
Now, if your knowledge of jazz involves Kenny G, Dave Koz, Harry Connick Jr., LaLa Land, Lisa Simpson, or even jazz hands, let me be clear in saying that you do not, nor have you ever, had your ears to the streets (no judgment—just facts).
But what does jazz have to do with the streets you might ask? To which the only acceptable reply would be, “Absolutely everything!”
For starters, jazz originated directly from the streets of New Orleans in the late 19th century, and it’s been influencing music, art, literature, style, culture, and basically our entire existence ever since.
But no other genre has sampled jazz quite like as hip-hop. So to connect the dots for you, and officially put those ears to the streets, here’s your jazz starter kit—featuring a few hip-hop classics.
Rakim and Coltrane
This first one is not even a song. It’s more like an entire body of work influenced by an even more influential body of work. Rakim is without question one of the greatest emcees to ever pick up a microphone, but did you now that his entire style derived from legendary jazz saxophonist, John Coltrane? Get this: Rakim grew up listening to jazz, and each time he wrote a rhyme, he’d write it to match the rhythm of John Coltrane’s solo playing style. Mind blown right? Coltrane is a god in my eyes, so when you listen, listen to it all, carefully. I’d start with Giant Steps and A Love Supreme.
A Tribe Called Quest-Low, End, Theory and All That Jazz
This album is basically a full out love affair with jazz. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. First, it kicks off with “Excursions,” which samples the bass-line of Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers’, “A Chant for Bu.” Then there’s the sample of Dr. Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel” on “Buggin Out.” There’s also “Jazz (We’ve Got),” which samples “Green Dolphin Street” by Jimmy McGriff just to name a few, but definitely, check it ALL out.
P.S.-Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers are also sampled on the unforgettable Digable Planets track “Cool Like That.”
Nas “NY State of Mind” and Donald Byrd
I would be remised if I didn’t say that both this song and album (Illmatic) still go harder than hard. The sounds and unmatched lyricism definitely embody life on “the streets.” But this sound may have never reached our eardrums if it weren’t for the famous jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd’s “Flight Time” being sampled on the opening track. Byrd’s influence can actually be felt and heard throughout hip-hop as his work has also been sampled by the likes the aforementioned ATCQ, Public Enemy, 2Pac, De La Soul, and even Wiz Khalifa. To get into more of Byrd’s work, I suggest testing the waters with Stepping into Tomorrow and Street Lady. I keep both of these on heavy rotation.
By now, you should be feeling velvety smooth, especially if you’ve refilled that glass a few times. Besides, this is more than enough to get you started. So, till’ next time, keep your ears and mind open and enjoy the vibes. You’re welcome.