Hip hop's debt to classical music

"An interesting, possibly even dirty, little secret about hip hop is how often its producers turn to classical music when they’re trying to make whatever joker they’re producing sound, at least momentarily, like a god. From solemn East Coast legends like Nas to party MCs like Ludacris (before his disastrous Grammy makeover), plenty of rappers have skimmed grandeur off of classical music; what follows are just a few examples of this odd meeting point between two disparate art forms" - writes Jayson Greene in Stylus Magazine, and then goes on to identify the top ten classical music samples in hip hop.

Now read the unlikely story of Malcolm Arnold and the rock idols.
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Pliable said…
Just love this comment on the article over in Stylus Magazine:

Posted 07/22/2007 - 12:53:05 PM by GanjaLand:

groshitsky..if u don't like it then why do you bother here? I happened to like this. Not too many reviewers today have the knowledge or the balls to get into this topic. These artists are partially bridging the gap between yesterday's music and today's. They bring something to the kids that they often never hear of otherwise. Guys like Mozart and Beethoven, they were the big acts of their day and weren't too different in terms of pop-star popularity as the Nas and Ludacris of today. I could just imagine the headlines if they had tv and paparazzi back then.."Beethoven gets drunk at the pub and crashes his carriage, pg 3 for pictures." haha, anyway, our music of today owes much homage to these guys, they set up the fundamentals of good pop music that has had major influence, and still stands up on its own today. You think rap producers are mixmaster gods? Imagine writing hour long symphonies and orchestrating 100s of musicians into something completely unheard of.
Pliable said…
Email received from an eagle-eared reader:

Have been enjoying your blog here in Canada for quite a while.

If you check the listing in that article for Young Buck - Say It to My Face you will notice that the author confuses the Mozart Requiem with the opening chords of Don Giovanni used in Forman's Amadeus.

Cheers from the colonies ;
David Cavlovic
JMW said…
What i find interesting is how often classical works make a one or two measure appearance in a hip-hop or house song. Someone behind the console is trying to add something of substance. I've heard imposed upon a hip-hop fabric pieces that are as stylistically disparate from it as Bartok's Violin Concerto No.2.
Shida Bee said…
Goodness. Well, I agree that hip hoppers using classical just might allow the younger, uninformed generation an opportunity to familiarize themselves with classical music. As a black classical musician in her late 20s, I grew up in this era of hip hop. It's NOT a secret that hip hop producers use ALL types of music regardless of the genre from musical theatre/show tunes like Jay-Z's Annie inspired 'Hard Knock Life' to Busta Rhymes using the theme from Hitchcock's 'Psycho' score for his hit 'Gimme Some Mo.' It's well-documented and deliberate. Secondly, saying (contemptuously) that rappers have "skimmed grandeur off of classical music" posits classical in the same tired elite, purposeful distancing position of us vs. them, high brow vs. low brow. As Pliable said, classical has its share of scandal, composers who have died of drugs overdoses and some who have died from things like syphilis and gout. The music doesn't make the people any better or worse. What a double-standard! Personally, I see nothing "odd" about the "meeting point." Inspiration and appreciation can and will be had by all people regardless of color or musical affiliation.
Henry Holland said…
I tried to comment over there (couldn't be bothered to register) that Orff hasn't suffered "centuries of abuse for being a Nazi" because a) if you take the Beer Hall Putsch as a starting point (1923), we're still 16 years away from a century and b) Carl Orff died in 1982 (!!) and well...do the math!

Young kids today and their lack of ability with Google! :-)

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