New artist are looking back at the classics for musical inspiration.
Written By Kyle Renwick
Lately, our favorite rappers have been giving a soulful boost to their latest projects; from Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.a.a.d City to Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y’s Live in Concert to Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. The concept of using the old to create something fresh and original isn’t new to hip-hop, but today’s rappers and producers have gone beyond basic sampling of old records and instead used classic sounds and songs as the basis for their own conceptual records.
Live In Concert is a perfect example of such conceptual projects. The entire project was molded around Bobby Humphrey’s acclaimed 1975 album, Fancy Dancer. For all six of the EP’s tracks, Wiz and Curren$y rapped over Humphrey’s records with no additional sampling from any other artist.
In the past, these two have been known to enjoy their soul samples. Their first extensive use of 70’s soul samples was together on their first collaborative effort, How Fly. That project opened with the track “Car Service,” which sampled Smokey Robinson and The Miracle’s “Much Better Off.” Live in Concert is, in many ways, a matured, more refined version of How Fly. On the new EP, Humphrey’s jazz flute sections are ubiquitous throughout the album and elevate the ethereal vibe both rappers are known for. The production gives Wiz and Curren$y the space to show off their unique melodies and rap smoothly over hypnotic production. This project pushes the diversity of sounds within rap music and further emphasizes jazz’s lasting influence in hip-hop.
More recently, Chance The Rapper conceptualized his latest project, Acid Rap in a similar fashion to Wiz and Curren$y. On Acid Rap, Chance included elements of jazz, reggae, and electronic pop to create a project that was stylistically diverse, yet identifiably hip-hop. The blend of styles creates a melodic consistency throughout the mixtape and compliments Chance’s off kilter flow. The sampling of Jazz records are giving rappers like Chance more room to be creative with their voices and rhyming techniques. On drum heavy songs, rappers tend to rhyme strictly on the rhythm of the beat. But jazzier tones give rappers more freedom to switch flows, sing, and adlib when they want, just as Chance The Rapper did on Acid Rap.
Producers are the main force behind the jazz trend. Harry Fraud, the go-to producer for French Montana and Curren$y, and Soundwave, a mainstay on Kendrick Lamar’s past projects, are some of a few producers making jazz a staple of their production. Rapper/ producer Tyler the Creator often ditches samples all together, and composes original piano chords with a rooted jazz sound. In recent years, hip-hop producers have become increasingly eclectic in their approach to beat making. It’s a definite sign that the climate of hip-hop is warming up to change.
Another considerable point is the influx of jazz in hip-hop has coincided with the reemergence of lyricism. For the most part, MC’s have always sounded good over jazz, funk and soul instrumentation. Rising new acts like Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson have been able to boast their lyrical prowess over jazz based production, which they feature heavily on both 1999 and Rare Chandelier, respectively. Because of choice production, the new breed of MC’s have drawn so many comparisons to classic hip-hop acts; from Tribe Called Quest to Big Daddy Kane.
The use of jazz in rap not only stretches the boundaries of rap music but also signifies rappers legitimacy as true artists.