The fusion of jazz and hip hop music manifested in the mid to late 80s and early 1990s. Hip Hop artist started this sub genre paying tribute to jazz legends reinvigorating the music. Hip Hop Jazz Albums also replaced simplistic beats with more complex instruments laying down lyrics over, flute, trumpets, double bass, saxophones, and pianos.
Music Life Social explores six of the best Hip Hop Jazz albums of all time.
1. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory
The Low End Theory is one of hip hop’s most acclaimed and classic albums, by the iconic group A Tribe Called Quest. What made this album different and a classic was a minimalist sound stripped to the essentials: vocals, drums, and bass. The bass drum and vocals emphasize the downbeat on every track. One best bass players of the century Ron Carter hired on the track “Verses from the Abstract”. The Source magazine gave the album a 5 mic rating, an instant classic.
2. Guru – JazzMatazz Vol. 1
Rapper Guru was one half of the hip hop duo Gangstar released his solo debut JazzMatazz in 1993. This album was the ultimate fusion of hip hop and jazz. his album is one of the first albums to combine a live jazz band with hip hop production and rapping. The album featured many notable jazz artist such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers. The album was not a commercial success in America, but it sold very well in Europe.
3. Digable Planets – Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
Digable Planet debuted their album in 1993 to much acclaim leaning heavily on jazz samples. The album featured the classic single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)”, breaking into the Top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and winning Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1994.
4. The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II
The Pharcyde dropped their debut album when gangsta rap was dominating the airwaves. Bizarre Ride II provided a fresh alternative in the hip hop scene. The combination of jazzy production and lyrical humor offered a different take from West Coast artist. Despite moderate sales, this album is a underground classic. The album’s second single, “Passin’ Me By” utilizing a sample from Quincy Jones’ “Summer in the City”, became a hit and instant classic.
5. Gangstarr – No More Mr. Nice Guy
Gangstarr is one of the most under rated duo’s in hip hop history. They have catalog that can compete with any duo or group. Let us strictly focus on their debut album No More Mr. Nice Guy
. This is not their best album, but it still had some great songs. The album showcased Gang Starr’s jazz influence, Guru’s smooth lyrics, and Primo’s sharp scratches. “Manifest,” and “Positivity” are two of tracks that really stand out on this album.
6. Madlib – Shades of Blue
In my opinion Shades of Blue was a sleeper. West Coast Artist Madlib dropped this album in 2003, paying homage to his Blue Note Records roots, where he samples from Blue Note’s archives. The album also contains interpretations of Blue Note classics performed by Yesterdays New Quintet. What makes the album so unique is that he remixes the original compositions with scratching and rap soundbites.
Hip Hop Jazz albums are not as common today, but jazz samples are still used throughout this generation of hip hop music.