Music education always & always looking forward.

A Hip-Hop Music History Mini-Seminar: Jazz Samples in Gang Starr's "Jazz Thing"

Tons of jazz samples & deep reverence for the art form to be found in this lyrically clean early hip-hop song.

If there were ever a tailor made song for classroom use in terms of connecting hip-hop and jazz, this is it.  The song is a definitive example of old school hip-hop and it might jar your students a little bit hearing it, but it's a fantastic listening example for classroom use.  Check it out.

Shout out to "Catmaster" Leon Anderson at Florida State -- an unbelievable musician and a great teacher, who also very strongly believes in making educational connections between hip-hop and jazz.

“Jazz Thing” - Gang Starr

Intro: A rap group formed in the late 1980s, Gang Starr received little radio or MTV airplay but was highly influential, particularly in the early 1990s. “Jazz Thing” was released between Gang Starr albums in 1990 and used in the film Mo' Better Blues.

Analysis: “Jazz Thing” serves as an homage to jazz, from its roots in Africa and gives a brief description of jazz's American history, from slave songs to Louis Armstrong to Diz & Bird to Ornette Coleman to Sonny Rollins. “Jazz Thing” also discusses how black culture was essential in jazz's creation and preservation as well as hope for the future of jazz in America. The song makes use of a number of jazz tunes, primarily Thelonious Monk's “Light Blue”, Louis Armstrong's “Mahogany Hall Stomp”, Duke Ellington's “Upper Manhattan Medical Group”, and in the remix known as the “Video Mix”, Charlie Parker's “Cool Blues” is also sampled. The “Video Mix” of the song was also produced by Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard, both of whom play on the remix. This best-known remix features a number of short vocal samples, a prominent one taken from narration written by actor Lonnie Elder and assisted by Langston Hughes that first appeared on Charles Mingus's “Scenes in the City” from the 1957 album A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry.

Considerations for Teaching: This song is an essential listening example and incredibly useful teaching tool for any secondary teacher looking to teach about the history and importance of jazz music. The song contains no profanity and does not discuss any offensive subject matter.

Prog & Pop Simultaneously: Changing Meter in Genesis's "Turn It on Again"

The Catchiest Meter Trick: Changing Meter in Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer"