There are many rappers who
are embarking on jazzy joints today. The Neptunes (who I know
personally) are jazz minded musicians who produce some of the best
hip-hop today. This Virginia Beach-based duo consists of Pharrell Williams,
who plays the drums, and Chad Hugo, who plays jazzy tenor sax. Pharrell
makes the beats and Chad works on the harmonies. They have produced
tracks for everyone from Britney Spears to Mystikal, although they are
probably best known for their work with Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z.
Look out for their upcoming work with Snoop Dogg and Clipse. Also try
to check out their own rock band called ‘N.E.R.D.’ (No One Ever Really
Dies). The band’s 2001 album In Search Of… features the slamming
opening track Lapdance, where Pharrell calls politicians
“strippers” (pay attention to the addictively jazzy line that Chad plays
on muffled keyboard towards the end the song). You got to feel empathy for Pharrell when in the music video to the track he says “It’s So Real”
while surrounded by scads of strippers. Don’t miss this group.
Another jazzy producer who
is based in Virginia Beach is Timberland. His best known work is with
Missy Elliot, where he used Indian percussion in making 2001’s So
Addictive album. Recently he produced LL Cool J’s best-selling
club anthem Head Strung. Timberland loves putting together
quirky beats that embrace the history of jazz percussion. Look out for
his duo albums with Magoo.
One of my favorite hip-hop
producers is Rza from the Wu-Tang Clan. I gave a well known jazz
musician a copy of Wu-Tang’s 2000 album The W because it had so
many jazzy tracks on it (like The Gravel Pit and Protect Ya
Neck). Yet his jazziest joint is from the 1999 compilation Rza Hits,
which features the track Ice Cream. Also check out the classic
C.R.E.A.M. from Wu Tang’s first album. My favorite jazzy stuff that
Rza produces is from the Jim Jarmisch motion picture Ghost Dog. Keep an eye out for the jazz loving Rza.
An article about jazzy hip-hop producers wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Dr. Dre. Most
recently, in 2002, he produced the platinum selling Busta Rythmes song
Break Ya Neck. Dre was one of the founders on 1980s West Coast
hip-hop collaborative ‘N.W.A’. When he released The Chronic in
1994, Dre was immediately proclaimed one of hip-hop’s top producers.
There are quite a number of tracks on this album that have jazz feels to
them, yet The Chronic 2001 has even more (like Guilty
Conscious featuring Eminem). There is a really cool guitar line that he
used when producing Tupac’s California Love. Every listener
should check out Dr. Dre’s jazzier productions.