That beautiful, eclectic mosaic of races, creeds, and colors, getting down just for the funk of it, as prophesied by visionary George Clinton, was first manifested and crystallized in the most unusual of places: the crates of hip-hop DJs. Nothing was spared in that endless search to find the most obscure pieces to help differentiate the various platter-spinners while keeping the party people movin’ and intrigued.
Heads would scour any and all places within their vicinity where vinyl was available, hoping to strike gold. Often, the first places to search were the collections of our family. In my personal search, I’d always notice one theme: A few pieces had an extra layer of plastic to preserve the prosperity of the album cover. As for the actual records, they were handled gingerly around the edges with both hands, making sure not to get fingerprints on the plate.
They were also played when the company was around—not the regular folks, the ones who dressed like they were headed to someplace fancy after. The ones you pulled out the good silverware and dishes from the china closet for because that night, the chicken legs would be eaten with a fork. The ones when proper English was the order of the night. This music in the atmosphere meant you had to level up all around.
That was the power wielded by jazz music. I was left hoping that the music that I was growing up with would buck the odds and grow to have that kind of respect.
It looks like that fateful day has arrived. Upon recognition of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Culture, some of the music spawned from the movement is almost on par artistically with jazz and fiscally, it’s comfortably distanced itself. This comes in a major part by the embracing of the collaboration of the be-bop/jazz community that preceded us. It was a marriage that was bound to happen as we realized the style of music was all that separated our eras.
Poverty, persecution, and pain were still pillars of both cultures, despite the artistic strides. Hell, the Strange Fruit that hung from trees in Goddamn Mississippi in the 1930s still hover over kids coming home from a local store in Florida or riding the F Train in New York. OGs Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones reached out and both cultures shared Grammy Awards.
Skeptics emerged from both sides, saying those successes were experimental and even forced. To their chagrin, newer torch-bearers of jazz emerged, and they have been heavily influenced by what hip-hop does. Now, when projects like Buckshot LeFonque, Jazzmatazz, RH Factor, or August Greene emerge, the music is organic.
Chris Rob, friend of the Nightlife column, recording artist, producer, and music director, grew up creatively planted in both genres and noted, “I think that hip-hop producers and jazz musicians are similar in that the primary goal is to make something tangible for the streets…nothing pop, nothing watered down, but rather a raw sound that is soul-satisfying—an authentic sound that resonates cool and provokes reflection.”
When asked for a prime example of what that sounds like, he offered, “One of my favorite hip-hop samples is ‘93 til Infinity,’ which samples Billy Cobham’s ‘Heather.’ The chord progression is so haunting, and instantly signifies depth from beat one. The sample, combined with the boom-bap drums provided by producer A-Plus (a sample of Larry Graham’s ‘The Jam’ drum solo), created one of the most hypnotic hip-hop classics of all time. It sets the tone of instant cool, smoked- out, backpack vibes that bookmark one of the most creative peaks in Black music. “
Copy. I have a few to add to that. Tune in next week to see if you agree.