Jazz has a big influence on hip hop today

Photo courtesy of Janine Robinson, UnSplash

By Natalie Luna

In the 1930s and 1940s, African-American musicians expressed their pain and suffering from racism and discrimination through cultural and musical expression, most notably jazz. Jazz has seen many iconic Black musicians from Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington. Along with individual artists, jazz has had a significant influence on overall American culture as well.

The word “jazz” first appeared in print in 1916 though it had been used colloquially before then. As a genre, jazz was originally inspired by slave songs and southern blues. 

In the 1920s, young people were influenced by jazz to rebel against the traditional culture of the previous generations through actions such as bold fashion statements and social engagements. Jazz developed into different styles such as traditional jazz, swing, bebop, and other combinations such as smooth jazz and jazz-rock. In all of these styles, jazz musicians valued finding their own style and sound. For instance, different trumpet players have different styles such as Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong.

Although jazz is not the most popular form of music in the contemporary music world, we wouldn’t have styles like rock and roll or hip hop without it. Jazz was the first truly American form of music and therefore inspired so many others.

One of the most interesting intersections is the influence of jazz on hip hop. Jazz gave contemporary musicians the opportunity to develop their creativity, to improvise, and push boundaries, all of which hip hop is popular for achieving.

One of the most obvious ways you can see the influence of jazz on hip hop is through sampling. Hip hop artists use pieces of jazz songs and splice them into their own work often in a loop. Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, and George Benson are the most sampled jazz musicians, according to the Birdland Jazz Club.

For example, Jungle Brothers, NWA and Tupac Shakur have all sampled jazz in their songs to pay respect to their musical roots. For example, Tupac sampled “In all of My Wildest Dreams” by Joe Sample and “Sadie” by The Spinners in his debut hit “Dear Mama.” 

Like jazz which grew out of a society plagued by racism and oppression, hip-hop grew rapidly in the Bronx during the late 1970’s and was seen as a cultural response to social issues in urban African-American communities. That is when it became a form of artistic expression with the increase of unemployment, drug use, and crime, which had often described their home life at the time. Jazz helped develop a huge and important artistic outlet for African Americans who struggled with discrimination. Hip Hop continues this by acknowledging cultural roots in the Black community. Both genres provide an outlet for the expression of grief and hardships they faced historically and today.