The new guard of soulful, improvising artists on the scene today — musicians such as Kamasi Washington, Kendrick Lamar, and Robert Glasper — freely fuse jazz and hip-hop in their sounds. This is an evolved place from earlier eras when a hip-hop artist would sample a jazz riff into the production, or a jazz musician would play with beats and a DJ scratching over a bebop head.
Beginning with Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan in the ’20s, through the efforts of ’60s and ’70s pioneers like Herbie Hancock, Donald Byrd and Quincy Jones, and into the golden age of hip-hop with trailblazers like a Tribe Called Quest and Guru (and later with M-Base members like Steve Coleman and Greg Osby), the line between hip-hop and jazz has been progressively blurred.
And now, jazz and hip-hop stand together, shoulder to shoulder.
Below: a timeline of key moments in the intersection of the two genres. While you’re reading, click play, above, on our Jazz Loves Hip-hop stream.
1926: The first scat solo on record
DJ Kool Herc is widely credited as the originator of hip-hop, and the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” is recognized as the genre’s first song. But the true influence for the concept of rap came from scat solos by jazz musicians. This can be traced back to the first scat solo on record, from Loius Armstrong and his Hot Five in 1926.
The world owes a debt of gratitude to gravity for creating the opportunity that led to Armstrong’s scat solo in “Heebie Jeebies:” The improvised vocal solo happened because Armstrong had dropped the sheet music for his trumpet melody.
1983: Jazz meets hip-hop on MTV
There were seminal moments in the history of instrumental jazz that became key influencers for future hip-hop generations. From Jones’ classic “Soul Bossa Nova” through the recordings of Byrd in the ’70s to Hancock’s innovations, we have many examples of jazz recordings from this period that foreshadowed the eventual introduction of hip-hop music in the early ’70s. This video was in heavy rotation on MTV in 1983, signifying a major culture shift in the two genres: an instrumental jazz song with hip-hop influences.
We’re lucky to live in a time when musicians are no longer bound by genre or musical boxes. https://www.cbcmusic.ca/posts/19652/jazz-meets-hip-hop-badbadnotgood-kendrick-lamar read more
[music playing] So the sample that Pete Rock grabbed from this Ahmad Jamal record… Right here. Uh… it comes up right here– he just took like two bars. Right here. Ooo! Right there. Wooh! He took that and gave it to Nas. [music playing] [piano playing] Jazz is the mother or father of hip hop music. They’re both musics that were born out of oppression.
They both are kind of like protest music.
You know, going against the grain.
Naturally, if you’re a hip-hop producer that wants a lot of melodic stuff happening, you’re probably going to go to jazz first.
[music playing] That’s the part! Yup.
So that’s what he did.
He just took it, and he actually slowed it way down in pitch.
You know. And then added his own bass line to it.
You know. Put stupid drums on it and just… Ooh!
What’s cool about this is there’s not much chopping. Uh, chopping is basically like plastic surgery to music. You know you take stuff out, put stuff on, so you almost don’t recognize it as the original.
Lifting something…taking something–just taking something is literally just taking it as it is and not changing anything.
With Ahmad Jamal, you don’t have to do a lot of chopping, because his music is already crazy. Hearing this over and over again [piano playing]
I could pray to this, you know? So that’s one of the things I got from Dilla. He made people want to actually play like his beats.
And that’s the thing, you know, that’s the beauty of music. You can learn so many different things from everywhere. It’s full circle. You know. That’s the vibe..