Sound Field


Jazz Shaped Hip-Hop, but How Did Hip-Hop Change Jazz?

Hip hop’s foundation and evolution owe itself to jazz. And it’s reciprocal. Jazz has borrowed from all facets of hip hop culture and musical contributions, showing that one of the country’s oldest genres is still young at heart. LA Buckner talks to Karriem Riggins about the Dilla formula. Linda Diaz interviews Lakecia Benjamin about the ways hip hop has influenced her as a jazz saxophonist.

AIRED: February 01, 2021 | 0:20:44

(jazzy drum music)

- Jazz and hiphop,

it's a relationship that's ancestral,

two of the most influential music genres

to ever come out of the United States.

The improvisation, grooves, rhythm,

and sound of jazz continues to influence hiphop to this day.

- Hiphop is indebted to jazz.

That's not up for debate.

But let's not act like hiphop hasn't influenced jazz either.

Later, LA and I are gonna work together

to create our own jazz hiphop track,

but first, let's talk about how these genres continue

to crosspollinate today.

- Before we get into the history

of how this crosspollination came to be,

let's test your knowledge on some jazz and hiphop trivia.

Who's the jazz artist

behind this go-to sample

in hiphop? (soft hiphop music)

If you guessed keyboardist Bob James, you're correct.

James has been called hiphop's unlikely godfather,

and has been sampled in over 700 hiphop songs,

making him the most sampled jazz artist of all time.

Next is true or false.

Is Nas's father a trumpet player?

(jazzy hiphop music)

That's true, Olu Dara is a trumpet player

who has played alongside Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers

and, of course, his own son, Nas,

appearing on the rapper's seminal debut album "Illmatic."

Now, one more.

Who's the legendary jazz artist

that has referred to Kendrick Lamar as a genius?

(lively jazz music)

Yep, Herbie Hancock described Kendrick as such

in a 2019 New York Times interview.

So, did you get them all right?

If so, good job.

If not, that's fine, you're gonna learn more now.

- Today, jazz and hiphop are like peanut butter and jelly.

Their relationship is so well known

that it's hard to imagine one without the other,

and despite their musical differences,

they're both an artistic expression

of what it means it be black in America,

but the pairing of jazz and lyrical wordplay existed

long before hiphop was created in the late '70s.

Let's go back to 1920s Harlem,

where black art and literary figures

were leading a renaissance.

There were many figures pivotal

to the Harlem Renaissance,

among them the legendary poet Langston Hughes.

Hughes is credited as the creator of jazz poetry,

which means poetry that demonstrates a jazz-like rhythm

or the feel of improvisation.

Take this live rendition of his classic poem

"The Weary Blues" for example.

- [Langston] The singer stopped playing

and went to bed

while the weary blues echoed through his head.

- [Linda] 40 years after the Harlem Renaissance,

figures like Amiri Baraka would take the idea

of jazz poetry further during the Black Arts Movement

of the '60s and '70s.

- [Amiri] Against his lost white children,

Black Dada Nihilismus.

- By 1970, jazz poetry had found itself

in the hands of people who are now regarded

as hiphop's godfathers,

Gil Scott-Heron and the Last Poets.

A continuation of what Hughes and Baraka did,

Scott-Heron and the Last Poets used cadence,

improvisation, and rhythms of jazz to create poetry

that spoke on the black American experience.

However, where Hughes and Baraka performed

with full jazz ensembles,

Scott-Heron and the Last Poets sometimes performed

alongside just conga players, percussion,

and nothing else.

♪ When the revolution comes ♪

♪ White death with froth the walls ♪

♪ Of museums and churches ♪

♪ Breaking the lie that enslaved our mothers ♪

♪ When the revolution comes ♪

As the 1970s came to a close,

hiphop was born.

The new genre would borrow less from jazz

and more from upbeat disco and funk,

but jazz remained influential,

as you'll soon find out.

- So when did jazz

and hiphop's crosspollination really begin?

Well, you can say it traces back to hiphop's beginnings,

with this 1979 hiphop classic.

♪ You don't stop the rocking ♪

♪ To the bang-bang boogie ♪

♪ Say up junk the boogie ♪

♪ To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat ♪

Yes, that's the Sugarhill Gang's historic "Rapper's Delight"

that begins with a scat rap delivery from Wonder Mike.

Though "Rapper's Delight" made this phrase popular,

old school historians would likely credit its origin

to Keef Cowboy and Lovebug Starski.

(Keef scats)

This style of rapping is similar to scatting,

a jazz vocal style that uses emotive syllables

instead of words in solo improvisations on a melody.

Scatting was popularized by Louis Armstrong in 1926

when he released his song "Heebie Jeebies."

Although scatting had already existed

before "Heebie Jeebies,"

the song is credited with pioneering the techniques

that became a part of modern scatting.

(Louis scats)

Fun fact, the scatting

on "Heebie Jeebies" was not intentional.

Armstrong claimed that his sheet music

for "Heebie Jeebies" fell off his stand,

and, not knowing the lyrics,

he instead just made up a melody to fit.

Another hiphop classic to use scatting

is "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaata

and the Soul Sonic Force from 1982.

(Pow Wow scats)

Just like Armstrong's "Heebie Jeebies,"

the part wasn't supposed to happen.

According to Tom Silverman,

Soul Sonic Force member Pow Wow had forgotten the lyrics

he had written down going into the fifth verse of the song,

so he improvised instead.

Scatting's influence can be felt

throughout hiphop's evolution.

Think of the fast raps of Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane,

Busta Rhymes, Twista, and Tech N9ne,

or even the hook from this 2014 hit by Rich Gang.

(Young Thug scats)

There have also been rappers

who have shared how jazz influenced their delivery flow.

Check out the track "Inner City Boundaries"

by Freestyle Fellowship.

♪ I'm me, I'm y'all ♪

♪ The enemy, friend, and the law ♪

♪ The beginner then end-all ♪

♪ The final call, the raw ♪

The phrasing is irregular throughout,

his delivery bouncy and not glued to the tempo of the track,

making for moments when he's slightly ahead of the beat.

Listen to their track "Six Tray"

where P.E.A.C.E. raps over a six-four time signature

in the song's first minute.

♪ Blue-eyed devil killer ♪

♪ Black man, a nine millimeter ♪

♪ In a president's residence, false evidence is evident ♪

♪ Black six tray ♪

♪ Who outta shape ♪

- Now that we've offered some examples

on how jazz influenced rapping styles in hiphop,

let's move on to another example

of the two's crosspollination, improvisation.

Going off the dome and creating in the moment

is built into the fabric of both genres.

Jazz wouldn't be what it is without soloing,

and hiphop wouldn't be what it is without freestyling.

What's the difference between saxophonists Eric Dolphy

and Booker Ervin trading two- and four-bar solos

and rappers Skyzoo and Torae going back and forth?

♪ I never wrote this at the top ♪

♪ You know what we like ♪

♪ Let's do it, baby ♪

♪ You got the Bowery brothers chilling ♪

♪ On Sway in the morning ♪

♪ Listen to it early in the day while you yawning ♪

Now, let's finally address the topic

you're all thinking about, sampling.

Sampling is the bread and butter

of the pair's crosspollination,

and honestly, we could devote a whole episode

to jazz samples in rap

solely from the late '80s and early '90s,

but first, we have to acknowledge

how the breakbeats of hiphop's early days predated the rise

of rap sampling jazz,

because those breakbeats were also taken from jazz cuts.

(lively drum music)

You might remember Bob James

from the quiz at the top.

This is Bob James's "Take Me to the Mardi Gras,"

his 1975 cover of Paul Simon

that became one of hiphop's most recognizable breaks.

In hiphop, the break is all about the drums and percussion.

Hiphop founding figures like DJ Kool Herc

are credited with creating the breakbeat,

which he did by playing two copies of the same record,

and looping its break.

Fellow legend Grandmaster Flash took this further

in his own way, and often used those first 10 seconds

of "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" to showcase his talent.

This break has been sampled by everyone

from Run-D.M.C. to Missy Elliot.

♪ Little Bo Peep cold lost her sheep ♪

♪ And Rip van Winkle fell the hell asleep ♪

♪ Ladies ♪

♪ Woo ♪

♪ You sure know how to work that ♪

In the '90s, hiphop producers took it a step further.

Producers like DJ Premier,

Q-Tip, Pete Rock, and J Dilla,

as well as groups like A Tribe Called Quest

and Digable Planets found melody

and rhythm through looped drum grooves

and saxophone and upright bass parts from jazz tracks.

Now, the MCs were the soloists,

rapping over an array of songs

spanning different eras and sub-genres of jazz.

- I think, like, especially this era

that I came up in music,

listening to records like "De La Soul,"

and "Low End Theory," and "Midnight Marauders,"

a lot of these records introduce a whole new generation

to jazz music.

- Take the track "Jazz (We've Got)"

by A Tribe Called Quest

which sampled jazz organist Jimmy McGriff's recording

of "On Green Dolphin Street."

(soft jazz music)

McGriff's organ and Sam Jones's bass line are looped.

Lucky Thompson's saxophone melody is borrowed

for additional color,

giving it a gritty and moody feel

that complements the punch of the drums

♪ The jazz ♪

♪ The what ♪

♪ The jazz can move that ♪

♪ For the Tribe originates that feeling of pizzazz ♪

- Can you guess which hiphop song samples this song,

"Stretching," by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers?

(lively double bass music)

Yet another hiphop classic

that wouldn't be what it is without an upright bass sample.

Here's "Rebirth of Slick" by Digable Planets.

♪ He touch the kinks and sinks into the sound ♪

♪ She frequents the fatter joints called undergrounds ♪

In "Rebirth of Slick,"

"Stretching" literally becomes stretched.

It's fast-paced bebop is much slower

in the rap classic.

Okay, but where are the samples

that use one of jazz's most recognizable instruments,

the saxophone?

Fear not, my fellow woodwind enthusiasts,?

Recognize this one?

♪ They reminisce over you ♪

♪ My god ♪

That's Pete Rock and CL Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You,"

which samples saxophonist Tom Scott's cover

of Jefferson Airplane's "Today."

(lively jazz rock music)

- Now, I'm in Pete Rock's band, Soul Brothers.

It's interesting now, because, now,

when you play with him, he's trying to get you

to sound like the out-of-tune sample.

The goal is for the drums

and everything, that broken kinda programmed feel

that they had, the goal is to emulate the things

that weren't real from real people.

- I've got to fit one more sampling example

before we move on,

Nas's classic debut "Illmatic."

Released in 1994,

the album features jazz samples

by drummer Joe Chambers, bassist Stanley Clarke,

the Heath Brothers, and pianist Ahmad Jamal,

the latter of which is the foundation

to one of the album's best songs, "The World is Yours."

♪ Whose world is this ♪

♪ The world is yours, the world is yours ♪

♪ It's mine, it's mine, it's mine ♪

♪ Whose world is this ♪

Right from the jump,

you're hit with a sample from Jamal's "I Love Music,"

taken from the Ahmad Jamal Trio's 1970 album

"The Awakening." (soft jazz music)

- So, even before tuning in,

you knew jazz influenced hiphop,

but what about hiphop's influence on jazz?

Well, throughout the '80s and '90s,

some of jazz's most popular figures

were exploring this crossover.

("Rockit" by Herbie Hancock)

Jazz icon Herbie Hancock dove

into the world of hiphop

with his 1983 hit "Rockit."

This track is important for its use of scratching,

courtesy of Grand Mixer DXT.

The moment validated DJ setups as musical instruments,

and showed its capabilities as a tool for improvisation.

(intense scratch music)

Then there's Miles Davis's "Doo-Bop,"

the trumpeter's posthumous album from 1992.

Davis and Easy had some interesting ideas on here,

most notably on "The Doo-Bop Song."

♪ Just kicking that doo-bop sound ♪

♪ Just kicking that doo-bop sound ♪

The track had that boom-bap drumbeat

that had become a staple in NYC hiphop,

as well has a feature from Easy himself.

♪ Backdrop of doo-hop ♪

♪ And this is why we call it the doo-bop, the doo-bop ♪

In the jazz world, do you feel

like there has been a big influence

from hiphop to jazz?

- Absolutely.

You know, across three generations,

'80s, '90s, you know, early 2000 kids,

that's, like, your experience.

Your experience is growing up listening to hiphop.

It's not growing up listening to Duke Ellington,

or Cab Calloway, or Charles Mingus.

The first experience you get with music

is hiphop, R&B, and soul,

and, you know, you may get your second experience

when your mom drags you off to church.

(Linda laughs)

- Today's jazz artists are students

of both jazz and hiphop.

And there's one hiphop producer in particular

that left a massive impact, J Dilla.

(soft hiphop music)

- I think just mainly, like, just Dilla,

the way he heard rhythm,

like, syncopation, melody, harmony, chords,

a lot of that stuff was, like, heavily influenced

from, like, Herbie Hancock.

- Yes.

- You know, he embellished on those ideas,

and it just kept elevating him

to use a whole fusion of that stuff

by the time he made it to "Welcome to Detroit,"

it was like another level of just musicology.

- I was listening to Herbie's album

with "Come Running to Me" on it.

- Oooooo.

- And, like, the little bridge part.

(LA sings)

(soft jazz music)

I was just like, oh my god,

this is "Get Dis Money."

- Right, right. (LA laughs)

- For sure.

You probably know of J Dilla's influence in hiphop,

but did you know he influenced modern jazz too?

It all begins with Dilla's approach to beat making,

and the fact that the late producer

didn't quantize every aspect of his beats.

Quantizing allows beat makers

to perfectly subdivide electric drum machine sounds

into positions within a measure.

If things are slightly off beat,

quantizing lines everything up,

but like his jazz ancestors,

Dilla was all about the feel.

Instead of quantizing, Dilla manually did his own drums

on his trusty MPC3000,

and also like jazz, a lot of Dilla's drums were swung.

Notice the difference between drums

that are played straight,

(intense drum music)

and drums that are played swung.

(lively drum music)

(lively hiphop music)

♪ Let me entertain you ♪

♪ And interphase you ♪

♪ With the new sound ♪

♪ Sound is the side ♪

Questlove specifically highlighted this drum pattern

in a Red Bull Talk, referring to the track

as that drunken song

when he first saw the Pharcyde perform it.

- He found his favorite parts of the record

that a lot of people would consider mistakes,

or like a drummer slipping up, or something,

and he'd be like, woo, that's crazy.

Like, but it never happens twice.

- Right.

- Found those places that he really loved,

and he'd add on a style after that, you know what I mean?

I feel like that's where Dilla came from,

and a lotta that had the swing,

like, you know, a drummer playing,

swinging with the hihat, and the kick late,

and the snare early, that type of thing,

you know what I mean?

- Word.

- That's the way he heard it,

and he would actually play it on the pads that way.

- Well, I know you're a huge fan,

so I wanted to know,

how was it talking to Karriem Riggins?

Like, what was that experience like for you?

Just, tell me about it.

- He was mad cool.

He was super cool.

- They're always so cool.

- I know, that's the craziest part.

- That's the thing...

They're so cool. - That's the craziest part.

(Linda laughs)

- Seeing, like, okay,

he's a super hiphop dude,

but, like, he's a legendary jazz drummer.

He's like the perfect person,

and PBS always gets, like, the perfect people

to talk to, right? (Linda laughs)

But he was, like, the perfect person

because, when we're talking about hiphop and jazz,

like, that's exactly who he is.

(lively drum music)

One of my mentors tells me,

he was like, oh, no, Dilla, like, gave Karriem the formula.

Like, he was there next to Dilla

when he was doing a lot of that stuff.

- That's so awesome.

- Dilla's style has not only inspired other beat makers,

but jazz musicians too.

On his 2007 album "In My Element,"

Glasper included a tribute to Dilla titled "J Dillalude,"

which found him reinterpreting melodies

that Dilla looped in his production.

(jazzy hiphop music)

Through Dilla, Glasper found ways

to bring hiphop and jazz together,

both on recordings and live performances,

but he took that even further

with his Black Radio series,

which pairs jazz musicians like himself,

Chris Dave, Casey Benjamin, and others

with rappers ranging from Lupe Fiasco

and Yasiin Bey to Common and Snoop Dog.

♪ Vicariously in every rap I speak with ♪

♪ I hope you speak it for me ♪

♪ If I'm ever speechless ♪

- Now, this brings us to the present,

where the line that once separated jazz

and hiphop has become very blurred.

We're in a post-genre era,

and many artists don't wanna be put in a box.

- I'm so not into now the label of these genres blending

because it's so, like,

I listened to hiphop growing up,

I listened to jazz, and classical,

and all these things that I love.

I feel like it is one thing.

Like, what you listen to is just like a soup,

and you can't really define one thing in a soup,

but it all makes incredible.

♪ Pat Dawg, Pat Dawg, Pat Dawg, my dog, that's all ♪

♪ Bick back and Chad, I trap the bag for y'all ♪

- Kendrick Lamar's groundbreaking "To Pimp a Butterfly"

is a testament to how far that crosspollination has come.

"To Pimp a Butterfly" was a melting pot of black music,

and he used jazz in such a creative

and meticulous way thanks to musicians

like Glasper, Kamasi Washington,

Thundercat, and Terrace Martin.

♪ Pipe pressure, bust 'em twice ♪

♪ Choice is devastated, decapitated the horseman ♪

♪ Oh, America, you bad ***** ♪

♪ I picked cotton and made you rich ♪

The album does more than just bring jazz musicians

and rappers together.

It explores the musical nuances and sonic subtleties

between the two genres.

- But "To Pimp a Butterfly" is but one example

of how varied this crosspollination is today.

Noname, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington,

Thundercat, Louis Cole, Shabazz Palaces,

Hiatus Kaiyote, Moonchild,

Standing on the Corner, Masego,

Nubya Garcia, Melanie Charles,

BadBadNotGood, Nujabes, so many artists

and groups across the world

are defining and redefining that relationship.

Even internet sub-genres like lo-fi hiphop

play a part in this.

Lo-fi hiphop livestreams on YouTube

utilize jazz's distinct chord progressions

and the drunken swing of Dilla.

- The crosspollination of jazz and hiphop

isn't just a fad, but it's something

that continues to have an impact.

It's constantly evolving, and it's moving to its own beat.

Now, let's check out the jazz and hiphop-inspired track

that Linda and I have been working on.

- It's interesting

because I was expecting something that was...

Like, okay, so, when I think of hiphop and jazz,

the people around me, it's very, like, jazz hop,

and that's not what you did,

not in a bad way.

Like, I feel like the way you did it was so creative,

and, like, unique to you.

- I was really struggling, you know,

but I think, like, the pressure of,

like, okay, Karriem is gonna hear this,

Robert Glasper might hear this,

Terrace might hear this, like,

so it has to be good,

but then I just settled with the idea,

like, well, if I like it, if I dig it.

- Mm-hm.

- You know, if I like what happens,

like, it'll be fine.

♪ La la la la ♪

♪ La la la ♪

♪ La la ♪

♪ Ah ♪

All my keys be like this, played like this.

I don't play, like, full fingers, full hands.

All my joints be, like (grunts)

- Yeah (laughs)

- Layer, layer. - Same.

- I call that cheating.

People be like, no, that's producing.

That's how you get it done.

- It is.

♪ Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah ♪

- I was up at, like, 4:00 in the morning

thinking about, like, okay,

what am I gonna do for this song?

- [Linda] Mm-hm.

- I just did a groove that I dig

kinda in between swung and straight.

If you listening, you can't really tell

if it's swung all the way or straight all the way.

I like that cloudiness.

- I ended up, like, writing in the spaces in between

as opposed to, like, on top of the melodies that existed,

intentionally, for rhythm's sake.

I think, you know, I could've added,

like, six different harmonies,

and that would've been very jazz, I think.

- Right, super.

- [Linda] Yeah, but I was like,

I'm gonna just have this one harmony.


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