Jazz is the mother of hip-hop

Why do hip-hop producers gravitate towards jazz samples?

For a mood, for sonic timbre, for a unique rhythmic component. Swing is a precursor to the boom-bap. “If you’re a hip-hop producer that wants a lot of melodic stuff happening,” pianist Robert Glasper says, “you’re probably going to go to jazz first.”

Glasper has lived in an area of overlap between jazz and hip-hop for more than two decades — and you can hear it in his piano playing, which often drifts into cyclical rhythms akin to a beat-maker’s loops. It’s all one and the same to Glasper: recasting the music of Miles Davis for an R&B audience or rocking live shows with Q-Tip; playing acoustic jazz with his trio or streamlined soul with his Grammy-winning Robert Glasper Experiment.

In this short doc, Glasper identifies three jazz samples, from tracks by Ahmad Jamal and Herbie Hancock, that have served as source material for famed hip-hop producers J Dilla and Pete Rock.

Ahmad Jamal Trio, “I Love Music,” The Awakening (1970)
Nas, “The World Is Yours,” Illmatic (1994)
Herbie Hancock, “Come Running To Me,” Sunlight (1978)
Slum Village, “Get This Money,” Fantastic, Vol. 2 (2000)
Ahmad Jamal, “Swahililand,” Jamal Plays Jamal (1974)
De La Soul “Stakes Is High,” Stakes Is High (1996)

*Correction to the video: Slum Village’s album Fantastic, Vol. 2 was released in 2000, not 2009.


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