World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Jazz rap

Article Id: WHEBN0000213798
Reproduction Date:

Title: Jazz rap  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: A Tribe Called Quest, Hip hop music, Dream Warriors, Jazz fusion, Alternative hip hop
Collection: Fusion Music Genres, Hip Hop Genres, Jazz Fusion, Jazz Genres
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Jazz rap

Jazz rap is a subgenre of hip hop music that incorporates jazz influences, developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The lyrics are often based on political consciousness, Afrocentrism, and general positivism.[1] AllMusic writes that the genre "was an attempt to fuse African-American music of the past with a newly dominant form of the present, paying tribute to and reinvigorating the former while expanding the horizons of the latter".[2] Musically, the rhythms have been typically those of hip hop rather than jazz, over which are placed repetitive phrases of jazz instrumentation: trumpet, double bass, etc. The amount of improvisation varies between artists: some groups improvise lyrics and solos, while many of them do not. A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Digable Planets are pioneers of the jazz rap genre.


  • Precursor 1
  • Beginnings of a trend 2
  • Native Tongues 3
  • Jazz artists come to hip hop 4
  • 1990s–present 5
  • Notable jazz rap artists/producers 6
  • References 7


(2nd ed. London: Rough Guides, 2005) lists Louis Armstrong's 1925 recording of "Heebie Jeebies" in his timeline of hip hop. In the 1970s, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, and The Watts Prophets placed spoken word and rhymed poetry over jazzy backing tracks. There are also parallels between jazz and the improvised phrasings of freestyle rap. Despite these disparate threads, jazz rap did not coalesce as a genre until the late 80s.

Beginnings of a trend

In 1985, jazz fusion band Cargo, led by Mike Carr, released the single "Jazz Rap", appearing on the album Jazz Rap, Volume One [2]. In 1988, Gang Starr released the debut single "Words I Manifest", sampling Dizzy Gillespie's 1952 "Night in Tunisia", and Stetsasonic released "Talkin' All That Jazz", sampling Lonnie Liston Smith. Gang Starr's debut LP, No More Mr. Nice Guy (Wild Pitch, 1989), and their track "Jazz Thing" (CBS, 1990) for the soundtrack of Mo' Better Blues, further popularized the jazz rap style.

Native Tongues

The design of Tribe Called Quest's 1991 single emulates the famous Blue Note style and logo.

Groups making up the collective known as the Native Tongues tended toward jazzy releases: these include the Jungle Brothers' debut Straight Out the Jungle (Warlock, 1988) and A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (Jive, 1990) and The Low End Theory (Jive, 1991). The Low End Theory has become one of hip hop's most acclaimed albums, and also earned praise from jazz bassist Ron Carter, who played double bass on one track. De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate (Tommy Boy, 1993) featured contributions from Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, and Pee Wee Ellis, and samples from Eddie Harris, Lou Donaldson, Duke Pearson and Milt Jackson.

Also of this period was Toronto-based Dream Warriors' 1991 release And Now the Legacy Begins (4th & B'way/Island/PolyGram). It produced the hit singles "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style" and "Wash Your Face in My Sink". The first of these was based on a loop taken from Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova", while the second sampled Count Basie's 1967 rendition of "Hang On Sloopy". Meanwhile, Los Angeles hip hop group Freestyle Fellowship pursued a different route of jazz influence in recordings with unusual time signatures and scat-influenced vocals.

Jazz artists come to hip hop

Though jazz rap had achieved little mainstream success, jazz legend Miles Davis' final album (released posthumously in 1992), Doo-Bop, featured hip hop beats and collaborations with producer Easy Mo Bee. Davis' ex-bandmate Herbie Hancock returned to hip hop influences in the mid-nineties, releasing the album Dis Is da Drum in 1994. Jazz musician Branford Marsalis collaborated with Gang Starr's DJ Premier on his Buckshot LeFonque project that same year.


Digable Planets' 1993 release Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was a hit jazz rap record sampling the likes of Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Herbie Mann, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It spawned the hit single "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)". Also in 1993, Us3 released Hand on the Torch on Blue Note Records. All samples were from the Blue Note catalogue. The single "Cantaloop" was Blue Note's first gold record.

This period was the high-water mark for jazz rap's popularity among hip hop listeners, following which it came to be regarded for a time as a trend which was "played out". Musical jazz references became less obvious and less sustained, and lyrical references to jazz certainly more rare. However, jazz had been added to the palette of hip hop producers, and its influence continued throughout the 1990s whether behind the gritty street-tales of Nas (Illmatic, Columbia, 1994), or backing the more bohemian sensibilities of acts such as The Roots and Common Sense. Since 2000 it can be detected in the work of producers such as J. Rawls, Nujabes, Fat Jon, Madlib, Kero One, and the English duo The Herbaliser, among others. A project somewhat similar to Buckshot Le Fonque was Brooklyn Funk Essentials, a New York-based collective who also released their first LP in 1994. Prince himself contributed to the genre on some songs from 1991 to 1992, as well as with his New Power Generation album Gold Nigga, which mixed jazz, funk and hip-hop and was released very confidentially.

One hip hop project which continued to maintain a direct connection to jazz was Guru's Jazzmatazz series, which used live jazz musicians in the studio. Spanning from 1993 to 2007, its four volumes assembled jazz luminaries like Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Courtney Pine, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett and Lonnie Liston Smith, and hip hop performers such as Kool Keith, MC Solaar, Common, and Guru's Gang Starr colleague DJ Premier. In 2011 Kendrick Lamar presented Ab-Souls outro featuring Ab-Soul the song featured an off beat sycopation of jazz inspired riffs with a downbeat mashup of drum and bass and late 40s drum beats while a mellow jazz bass in the background showing that the group Black Hippies gave tribute to old MC's while ushering in new lyrics and fresh ideas for up and coming generations so Rap Jazz or Hip Hop and Jazz could live on. In September 2014, Statik Selektah released his album "What Goes Around" with a notable Jazz Rap influence, unique among the actual rap atmosphere. Another recent Jazz rap talent producer is Beats By The Pound (also known as The Medicine Men) with notable songs including the Jazz-inspired TRU (group) - Fuck Them Hoes, Heaven 4 A Gangsta (TRU Remix), Kane & Abel (group) - Gangstafied & God and Gunz, Master P - R.I.P., Make 'Em Say Uhh!, Make Em Say Uhh #2 & C-Murder - Down for My N's, Mystikal - I Rock, I Roll. In February 2015, Canadian Jazz band Badbadnotgood released 'Sour Soul' with Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah. A month later, Kendrick Lamar released To Pimp a Butterfly, which incorporates jazz, funk, and spoken word.

Notable jazz rap artists/producers


  1. ^ Borthwick, Stuart; Moy, Ron (2004). Popular Music Genres: An Introduction, p. 166. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1745-0.
  2. ^ Jazz-Rap. Allmusic. Accessed October 29, 2008.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.