Monday, December 13, 2010

Fresh and Def Jazz-Rap Combos from the Early 90's

Pharcyde- Pharcyde's creative height was achieved early on in their careers on their first demo, including the hit song "Passin' Me By." The 1994 Red Hot Organization's compilation "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" (the benefit album for AIDS awareness that won "Album of the Year' by Time Magazine) was bolstered by Pharcyde's inclusion onto it with "The Rubbers Song."

Digable Planets- Probably the most unique and stylistic of the Jazz-Rap era, Digable Planets was "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)." Digable Planets was also featured in "Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool" with "Flyin' High in the Brooklyn Sky," a song that featured fellow artists Lester Bowie and Wah Wah Watson.

De La Soul- De La Soul's 1989 release '3 Feet High and Rising" and 1991 release "De La Soul is Dead" (a reference to the changing of the tides of Hip-Hop from a socially conscious movement to its growing characterization by its sub header Rap as a "Gangsta" movement, a transformation that was cemented by the works of Tupac and Biggie in the mid-90s, although "Gangsta Rap'" remains a socially conscious movement, even if you have to dig a little deeper to get there) were at the same time the most critically acclaimed and commercially acclaimed hits of the Jazz-Rap fusion.

De La Soul's playfulness was on display in such tracks as their biggest hit, "Me, Myself and I", while their socially conscious undertone hit you over the head with shock and value in tracks like "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa." The De La Soul tradition is carried on by artists such as Common, Rakim and KRS One to this day to the same critical acclaim, though not the same commercial success.

A Tribe Called Quest- In probably the greatest as well as least recounted tour in all of musical history, De La Soul joined with A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets in 1994, ending with a bang at Lollaplooza. If you ask the Tribe "Can I kick it?" the answer is most certainly going to be "Yes you can!"

This group defines the Jazz-Rap era more than any other. says the group's debut album "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm" was "marked by...light-hearted content (safe sex, vegetarianism, youthful experiences)." (Are you now on instinctive travels marked by the rhythm of your own heart beat? Ask yourself, what is the diamond in the rough?)The Source gave this album, which took six years to become a commercial hit, its third-ever five-mic rating.

Miles Davis- The influence of Hip Hop in the late 20th century is exemplified in Miles Davis's 1992 "Doo-Bop." Jazz was the musical expression of the African-American community up until this point, and "Doo-Bop" signified the passing of this torch onto Hip Hop. Davis's recognition of the importance of this new genre reveals his musical genius, and that he was only 6 tracks deep into "Doo-Bop" before his passing on September 28th, 1991 is a tragedy.

Nas- Much like Nirvana's "Teem Spirit" was for grunge, Nas's "Illmatic" was both the height and death for Jazz-Rap fusion. "Illmatic" remains the ultimate expression of how a young, black male (Nas was 20 at the time, and many of the songs and production were done when he was much younger) can turn the difficult experiences of growing up in the ghettoes of New York on their head. (make sure to read Goodman's response if you choose to follow this link, and keep in mind this article is from 1965.) "N.Y. State of Mind," similarly, is the ultimate musical expression for the world's definition of a cosmopolitan and modern city. Nas was able to cut his lyrics and style down to the effectiveness, efficiency and authority of a young Hemingway.

What if the diamond in the rough could give you success like these people? Would you then be willing to shape it?