Revolutions: Jazz Hip-Hop Fusion

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Photo Credit: DJ Okawari

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    Revolutions: Jazz Hip-Hop Fusion

Written and produced by David Cavazos

This week we’re heading over to the other side of the world to visit the remix culture. A collaborative genre has been flourishing within Japan for years. DJ’s, producers, and hip-hop artists have been combining fusion jazz with hip-hop beats to produce phenomenal results.

The start of this new collaborative genre is believed to have begun when Japanese musician Hiroshi Fujiwara brought back hip-hop albums from his tour in America and started to incorporate the style into his own music. Hip-hop was not widely accepted throughout Japan, and just like within America, needed time in an underground setting to thrive before bursting through the mainstream.

Because hip-hop was not a commercial success instantly, many japanese DJ’s and MC’s took advantage and used the genre like Americans did as a form of angst expression. However, the sound didn’t evolve the same way it did in the states. Most of what the Japanese culture knew of hip-hop during the late 80’s and early 90’s is what we now call “Old School” hip-hop. This was the basis they used for the development of their genre. So while we were slowing beats and emphasizing bass, they were expanding catchy beats and dance culture while slowly heading towards jazz.

Nujabes was the hip-hop producer who made gold by playing with the idea of jazz fusion and hip-hop beats. His beats and creativity with sampling created a strong movement within Japan and reached up Japanese pop-culture. His innovative approach consisted of relying on strong mids with hip-hop beats underlying the sound. This created a driving yet laid back warm tone to listen to. American hip-hop artists even took notice of Nujabes and began to collaborate combining lyrics over his beats making a warm sounding hip-hop that’s almost haunting.

Although unfortunately Nujabes passed away in 2010 after a traffic accident, his legacy remains and inspires new Japanese hip-hop artists such as DJ Okawari. Okawari follows the same concept and is beginning to not just implement jazz, but also romantic classical styles of music on top of his beats.

Along with Japanese artists, new American producers who love the style Nujabes and his predecessors created are following suit. Evan Awake is an American producer who is producing jazz fusion hip-hop with his own personal twist, adding more Americanized R&B to the mixing pot. This genre and stylization has since sparked a global culturization. Even mainstream hip hop artists like Pharrell consider Japan and it’s remix influences to now be a major inspiration. With both regions inspiring one another, the future of the stylization and genre looks rather bright.

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