Hip hop samples of Jazz
By Nomali Cele
Hip hop’s calling card, the thing that grounds it as a black art, is probably the ways it borrows from other black arts – past and present. With sampling, hip hop has been known to take music from the past and remake it in the sound and traditions of today. Sampling creates a lineage of sound that connects generations, experiences and genres. Jazz music itself bends genre to include everything from African rhythms, Western choral, Blues and more. Jazz is one of the top sampled genres in hip hop.
In his honest return to the studio, the widely acclaimed 2017 album 4:44, rapper Jay-Z sampled the ineffable Nina Simone. “The story of O.J.” is a tale about the idea of black exceptionalism and how it panders to whiteness but ends up falling short because no amount of excellence can cure racism. Throughout the song, the silky refrains from Simone’s “Four Women” can be heard. “My skin is black, my skin is black, my skin is black,” Simone sings under the raps.
One of the best samplers in hip hop, both as an artist and as a producer, is Kanye West. For nearly two decades, West has excavated the black experience and its soundtracks to make sense of his place and art as a black man in today’s world. Before Jay-Z’s 2017 sample, Simone’s version of“Strange Fruit” could be heard on Kanye West’s “Blood on The Leaves”. Her voice can be heard on nearly 150 other hip hop songs.
In the late 1990s when hip hop and neo-soul were intertwined, trumpeter Donald Byrd could be heard on a number of popular songs of the time. Artists including Nas, Erykah Badu, A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy have all sampled Byrd.
Other frequently sampled Jazz greats include Miles Davis, George Benson (sampled in rapper Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.”) and Grover Washington Jr (notably sampled by a Tribe Called Quest, Notorious B. I .G. and Cypress Hill. Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” has been sampled over 100 times since its 1976 release, appearing in songs by such hip hop artists are Dr. Dre, Mos Def, Tony Yayo and R&B queen, Mary J Blige.