Hip Hop and Piano

By B.L. Barbour

Whenever we think of rap, we picture an emcee rhyming and a DJ scratching, beat mixing, matching and juggling.  All these physical actions at the turntable are combined to create a unique background sound for the vocal acrobatics they accompany.    Along with scratching, rap uses music samples from previously released music.  Artists sample beats and weave their rhythmic delivery of the spoken word to match the exact cadence of the music.   This intertwining of words and beat makes rappers able to truly appreciate the music that forms the backdrop for their artistry. That music hails from a wide range of music genres. Snoop Dogg’s Rider’s On the Storm is an example of sampling an old rock tune by the Doors and melding it with the spoken word.  Mixing genres like this is magic for the real music lover who enjoys good sounds no matter who makes them or from what genre they originate.

If you like good music, music with a rhythm you can move to and a beat you can snap your fingers to, even you might find some rap music you could enjoy because of this propensity to borrow from other genres.   People who find the piano to be a titillating instrument might like listening to these songs which feature the instrument: I Ain’t Mad At Cha or Lost One.  Tupac’s I Ain’t Mad at Cha is being rapped over the piano melody from the song, Don’t Leave Me by Blackstreet.  You’ll also see another example of the piano being the featured instrument in a not so-oldie-but-goodie, Jay-Z’s Lost One featuring Chrisette on vocals with the keyboards heard throughout the song.

Dance with the Devil by Immortal Techniques features an ingenious use of a soap opera theme song.   Immortal Techniques used the piano version of the theme song from The Young and the Restless as the backdrop for their rhymes.  There was such a demand for this sound, it was originally released in 2001 and re-released again in 2004.

The piano is also the featured instrument in the following rap songs:  Up Against the Wall by Group Home, Chum by Earl Sweatshirt, On My Block by Scarface, What I’m Here For by Gang Starr, No Rest for the Weary by Blue Scholars and Feather by Nujabes.

Stick your toe in the bath water.  It’s not too hot.  Yes, you can learn to appreciate a rap tune if you listen to these well arranged songs.  This great music melds perfectly with the spoken word delivered with the beat sensitive sassy funk of the true RAP ARTIST.


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