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bbop for bboys

November 26, 2011


Scratchoetry - Alien Army / The Brew Out - Wu-Tang Clan (DJ 2-Tone Jones remix) / The Gift - The Whitefield Brothers(feat. Edan & Mr.Lif) / Jazz Thing (Movie Mix) - Gang Starr / Freedom Jazz Dance (Remix) - Nas, Miles Davis & Olu Dara / Human Language - Mumbles / Heat It Up (Album Version) - Rakim / Mystery (Reprise) - Miles Davis & Easy Mo Bee / Applesauce - DJ Quest / Dark Water Jazz - Jenova 7 / Sum Shit I Wrote - Common / Ha-Doh - DJ Krush & Toshinori Kondo / Vermont - Airnino / II B.S. - Charles Mingus (RZA's Bounce Mix) / Dolphy Surround - JohnnyBoy & Manuele Atzeni / Ruby in the Rough - Celestial Impressions / It Sounded Like a Roc! - MF Doom / Jazz Break #6 - DJ Mark the 45 King / From Heritage - Dday One 

The jazz/hip-hop relationship hasn't been nearly as fruitful or long-established as you'd think it woulda; if funk and soul are hip-hop's parents, jazz is kinda like an uncle who drifts into town now and then, sleeps on the couch, bums hip-hop's cigarettes and tells stories about the good old days.  Trouble is, we look at him like he's a played out rummy bum-ass, but back in the day uncs had skills, scared people just as much as hip-hop does/did, and had seriously bad-ass musical chops. 

The much-maligned 'jazz rap' thing never really made it to a full-fledged genre, I don't think...its original history was really only a handful of songs: various scattered cuts by Stetsasonic, Gangstarr, Tribe, De La and other Native Tongues cats.  As far as albums, there's only really Guru's hugely uneven Jazzmatazz series, the first Digable Planets LP (which actually isn't as jazz-sample-heavy as we think), and that Buckshot LeFonque record with Premo and Marsalis, which nobody really listened to. 
I'd say jazz sampling came about--innovated by Premier pretty much--from the desire to make more cooled-out, chilled tracks, delve into jazz' rich musical crates, and get away from soul and in particular James Brown sampling, which by the early '90s had pretty much jacked the entire catalogue.  Also, those fat basslines son!

Mighta been, as the homie Mobb Deen pointed out, that the huge rise in sampling costs and lawsuits sprung up at the same time as jazz-rap was making moves.  

By '94 (the Silver Age),  jazz rap had been consigned to Brooklyn dinner party background music.  Jazz samples and the odd jazz track definitely pop up as much as any other genre in hip-hop's paintbox--opera or spaghetti westerns, say--but no artist really makes it their signature sound. From there, you got the odd Dolphy or Mingus remix LP tribute, and the eighty gazillion Japanese DJs instrumental jazz-hop LPs, driving in the lane DJ Krush made. (Like that Digables, we think Krush is all jazz-hop, but most of it isn't.) 

Trouble is, jazz as a sample source, like any other, is a house with many mansions...I mean, that human tooth-whitening strip from Entertainment Tonight made a jazz album; on the other hand you got Eric Dolphy, whose stuff is so batshit I know a professional sax player who won't fuck with it. But there's definitely a few things that can ruin jazz-hop: pathetic flutes, weak females on the hooks, ambient meditation whalesong noises, and weak as fuck beats. Also, beatnik sunshine spoken word bullshit rapping.

Mostly the problem is their sampling studies don't take on the really rough, hard-ass crazy be-bop shit of Mingus, Sonny Rollins, Africa/Brass-era Coltrane, Ornette Coleman etc.  

Jazz musicians themselves have either bitterly resented and violently hated hip-hop or expressed a pretty mild interest.  Even collabos that you'd think would be stupid fresh, like the El-P/Matthew Shipp High Water, flunked the dope test because of a weak jazz side; the Easy Mo Bee/dead Miles Davis LP was too...shiny.  Dday One, DJ Krush and Mumbles all have great jazz/rap cuts, but not whole LPs which are famous for being the definitive jazz/rap LP. 

Maybe there's no definitive jazz/rap LP because hip-hop's never been about being definitive.  Is there a definitive hip-hop anything LP?  Hip hop's more about being interpretive, allusive, and using whatever's at hand.

Start curating good jazz/hop cuts though, you end up with enough for three or four mixtapes...so today we got the first of a new series.  (Which is good, because I'm all out of super chicken.) 

Wait, what the...it's International Jazz Rap Appreciation Month or some shit--check out The Find Mag :: 20 Years of Jazz-Hop.  Not one duplicate track neither, but yes, including the dreaded US3 I hoped to avoid mentioning.  (It's some kind of video mix, and no, I won't be doing one of those unless it's Totally Batshit Killing People, The VideoMix (feat. Crank, Crank 2 & Natural Born Killers).)