Jazz Samples in Hip-Hop


Robert Glasper, the great pianist and composer whose work with Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Bilal, Kendrick Lamar, Common, and so many others has helped to blur the lines between Hip-Hop and jazz, once said that “jazz is the mother of Hip-Hop.” Equally as fluent in the be-bop language of the 1940s and 50s as he is in the work of legendary artists such as Q-Tip and J Dilla, Glasper surely knows what he is talking about when it comes to the intersection of jazz and Hip-Hop. 



In fact, as Glasper states, the intersection of jazz and Hip-Hop has a long, storied history. Ever since the early nineties, groups and artists from all across the genre have incorporated jazzy samples and sounds into their music. From Tribe to Nas and everything in between, here are our picks for some of the best jazz samples in Hip-Hop beats from the first golden age of jazz rap.


#1. Jazz (We’ve Got) – A Tribe Called Quest


There’s really not much to say about this one, it’s all there in the title. In this classic cut off their brilliant sophomore record, The Low End Theory, Tribe proves that they have the jazz and they bring it in full force. Sampling a Jimmy McGriff recording of the classic jazz standard, “On Green Dolphin Street,” the track features little else, as the sharp drums and rhymes from Q-Tip and Phife perfectly compliment the sample, making “Jazz (We’ve Got)” an example of the potential for brilliance when jazz and Hip-Hop are introduced to each other by the right beat maker.



#2. The World Is Yours – Nas


One of the most memorable tracks off of one of the greatest Hip-Hop LP’s of all time, “The World Is Yours” features a legendary Pete Rock beat that takes its inspiration from the more improvisational side of modal jazz. Sampling Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music,” Pete Rock was able to find a four bar loop featuring nothing but piano and turn it into one of the dopest beats of all time.



#3. Runnin – The Pharcyde 


Produced by the legendary J Dilla, this Pharcyde track off the west coast group’s second LP is undoubtedly one of the most famous beats in both the producer’s and group’s respective discographies. Many fans will be able to recognize the beat after mere seconds of hearing it, but few actually know the origins of the instrumental. The guitar sample that is most prominently featured at the start of the track comes from a Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfa recording, “Saudade Vem Correndo.” Dilla manipulates the original recording by chopping and looping the sample and pairing it with his classic, backbeat-heavy drums. With “Runnin,” J Dilla and The Pharcyde were able to show just how varied jazz samples in Hip-Hop can be.



#4. Shook Ones, Pt. II – Mobb Deep


Often found on any number of lists of the greatest Hip-Hop songs of all time, “Shook Ones, Pt. II” is a classic and for good reason. Mobb Deep, the legendary duo from Queensbridge turned it all out in 1995 when they released The Infamous, one of the most timeless albums in all of Hip-Hop history. Among the sixteen tracks included on the album was the brilliant “Shook Ones.” Produced by Havoc, the track features a sample of jazz pianist, Herbie Hancock’s “Jessica,” which was chopped and looped to give the track the vibe that it needed and deserved, making it one of the most genius uses of a jazz sample in Hip-Hop history.


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