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New Perceptions of Jazz and Hip Hop

It is clear by now that Jazz and Hip Hop are connected and have influenced one another, but that influence actually runs deeper than just the music. As I discussed earlier, in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, public and academic perception of Jazz and Hip Hop were flawed in opposite ways. Jazz had finally begun to receive academic attention, however it was losing popularity and was no longer the musical embodiment of rebellion and youth. In contrast, Hip Hop was a young genre that had all of those qualities, but was often dismissed as simplistic and unworthy of real praise from critics and academics. Though these problems still exist for both genres, they have been helped by each other where they were lacking.

Hip Hop today is certainly not treated like Classical or Jazz by critics and academics, however it is far more respected than it was a few decades ago. It still has room to grow, but through its relationship with Jazz, it has been placed within the lineage both of American and Black music. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, Hip Hop scholarship was written from outsiders’ perspectives, and offered diluted views of what the genre had to offer (Oxford Music “Hip Hop”). Since the mid ‘00s, musicologists have begun to treat Hip Hop more seriously, studying the genre much more deeply with input from figures within the culture and now even teaching college courses on Hip Hop (Oxford Music “Hip Hop”). This newfound interest in Hip Hop is a direct result of its relationship with Jazz and its subsequent inclusion into the lineage of American music. It is also no surprise that many of the artists who receive the most acclaim, such as Kendrick Lamar, are heavily influenced by Jazz and A Tribe Called Quest.

Jazz already had the acclaim and respect, but by the time Hip Hop was around, it had lost its youthful audience. Now that it has become intertwined with Hip Hop, an entire generation of listeners who probably would never have considered listening otherwise, have been both consciously and unconsciously exposed to Jazz. Both Terrace Martian and Alfa Mist, Jazz musicians I mentioned previously, were introduced to Jazz through Hip Hop. Martin described his early interest in music being satisfied with the only tools available; his parents’ record player. After trying to replicate the sounds he heard in the music of A Tribe Called Quest, he eventually moved on to learn to play multiple instruments and become a successful jazz artist. I also personally became interested in Jazz through Hip Hop and identifying the samples in some of my favorite beats, and I am certainly not alone in this. Music Journalist Ron Hart described his experience being introduced to Jazz through A Tribe Called Quest saying, “For the lay people who rocked this record back in the day, chances are the fact that every one of these songs features at least one jazz sample was of minimal concern. However, for anyone who was raised on The L.E.T., be it first, second or third hand, it was the quintessential gateway drug into the art form and its infinite universe of classic recordings comprising its genetic makeup” (Hart). This testament drives home the point that the benefit from the relationship between Jazz and Hip Hop was and is not a one-way street. The two genres which seem so different from one another, are actually very similar and are some of America’s greatest accomplishments in music that will continue to grow together for mutual benefit.