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Does Jazz Influence Hip-Hop?
by: Qasim Davis

The Schomburg is a place where inquisitive minds go to explore the ancestry and history of African Americans; a modern day escape in the exploration for knowledge this historical site has been open to those who seek more in life. It would not shock those who know of the culturing enriching events that take place behind the brown walls of black pride, that there would be in-depth discussions (sponsored by Jazz Mobile) that entail weather or not jazz influences Hip-Hop. With a panel compiled of intelligent and talent people, a dynamic debate was bound to happen. The people chosen to address this sensitive issue were Kevin Powell, Mtume, Jimmy Heath, Bruce George, Shelia Anderson and James Browne playing the role of moderator.

The jazz musician and son of the legendary Jimmy Heath Mtume opened the debate by addressing the issue of hip-hop not having the same depth as Jazz. The music that adolescents listen to constantly degrade the African American image with use of the word “nigger”, and the disrespect of woman. His resolution to the problem was to combine the information from both generations to unite the culture within the black community. With the elders passing the information to the younger generations, the youth are forced to reach out and listen. With this statement said, he made the direct correlation of music to culture. That, in fact, jazz has molded hip-hop, scatting, and be-bop helped developed rap. With all of this said, there was still some targeting of the youth, but the three younger adults on the panel jumped on this issue in defense of the hard times that the youth encounter.

Bruce George, the co-executive producer of “Def Poetry Jam”, agreed with the Mtume statement that there is a large amount of disrespect in the music, but the artists’ environment shapes music. He makes the argument that jazz and hip-hop are a lot closer than it may seem. He points directly at the language in both art forms. He later points to how both jazz and rap are exploited; he looks directly at how the rap industry is changing and not for the better. He states the CEO’s of these large record labels are trying to define rap, trying to pin it down. “You can’t pin rap down, if you can pin it down you can define it and if you can define it you can control it.”

This comment opened the stage for the powerful Kevin Powell his argument was that all this music is about protest. And with this said, Shelia Anderson joined the discussion with the same argument. Now defending rap music, saying that there are positive artists like Mos Def and Gang Star. Naming these artist states that their message is no often heard because they address the issue that the record community rather shy away from. Protest music has always been at the root of African American music.

The music is in sync with African American culture, but it is best said by Mr. Jimmy Heath that music has to have a groove and melody. It just cant be about bling bling hoes and bitches. If you do not return to the music of protest, we will be lost in our ignorance.


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