Jazz and hip-hop are two forms of American music created by blacks. But while the two art forms are closely related, many hip-hop listeners are unaware of the legacy of jazz musicians.
In his new film, Last Stop On The 4 Train, John Robinson pays tribute to jazz legends and reveals how hip-hop has a connection to jazz.
Here is what Robinson had to say about the documentary.
When did you first decide to create the documentary, Last Stop On The 4 Train?
I first decided to do the LS4T doc two years ago while having a conversation with my comrade Thomas Simmons. He made me aware of Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, my birthplace, and how this very place is the final resting place for some of our beloved jazz greats like Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Max Roach, Coleman Hawkins and more.
How did jazz influence hip-hop?
Jazz has influenced hip-hop on many different levels from sampling by legendary hip-hop groups like A Tribute Called Quest, Gang Starr, De La Soul, Pete Rock and CL Smooth and many others. It’s also being played live on stage by groups like The Roots, Talib Kweli, myself (John Robinson) and others. We all easily recognize that jazz is the grandfather of hip-hop. The way the piano and bass are used in hip-hop beats as well as the drums and horns, there is no secret that jazz is very much alive in hip-hop music.
How are jazz stars and hip-hop stars similar?
Jazz and hip-hop stars are similar in that they both have many instances of super groups or collaborations, i.e., Miles and Trane, Bean Bags (Coleman Hawkins and Milt Jackson), Clifford Brown and Max Roach and the list goes on. This is similar in hip-hop collaborations like Mad Villain (MF DOOM and Madlib), Method Man and Redman, Nas and Damian Marley and more. Another similarity is how both have many examples of established fan bases in other countries around the world, sometimes even more so than their fan bases here in the U.S. Most of all, they both still exist worldwide in it’s purest form on an underground level. This is due to the lack of support of substance and integrity music in the mainstream.
Why hasn’t jazz resonated with more young blacks nationwide?
One reason is because the public schools in the neighborhoods across America have a lack of music programs because of budget cuts and no funding. Another reason is because jazz music is constantly over-intellectualized as if some of the most highly recognized jazz masters were not regular people. In addition to this, all the stories are not being shared with young people which is another reason I also decided to do this jazz doc. I wanted to connect the dots and attach more people with the stories and legacies of the masters spoken about in the film.
When and why did jazz lose its prominence?
I personally don’t feel like jazz music has lost its prominence. I feel that real music on a whole is no longer in the fore front of mainstream TV and radio and therefore we feel the absence of certain music genres more often then ever. The music is alive and well and my proof is that I know a lot of next level jazz musicians of today that travel the world and share their gifts globally.
Can hip-hop suffer the same fate as jazz by losing its overall popularity?
Nope, not if I can help it. There is a powerful movement that has existed for a very long time as the constant fight against mindless music running the politics of the mainstream. But the realness will eventually come back to the forefront, however; we are now living in a time where you no longer have to rely on only traditional methods of marketing to get seen and heard. I can clearly see how much hip-hop is being exploited, watered down and the countless other negative attacks and misrepresentation of the culture and music. Hip-hop is alive and well in the hearts and minds of emcees like myself.
How can we all keep the legacy of jazz alive?
One of the main ways is by bridging the gap with other genres of music that have young audiences to introduce them the legacy of jazz music and how many of our ancestors have blessed us with musical blueprints that will never ever die. Another way is by sharing info and creating more content that educates people in a unique way to empower people with knowledge and history. Also by helping spread the word on projects like Last Stop on the 4 Train, my new jazz doc.
What do you want people to think about after viewing this film?
I want people to be inspired to go research the life and times of other great musicians and visionaries across the board. I want people to take a deeper look at the legacies of our masters who have contributed so much to our lives, even still today. I want younger people to be able to bridge the gap between hip-hop and jazz music and see the similarities of the two genres. I want people to identify and relate more to the stories of our ancestors being told by true lovers of the music and culture.
For more info on the Film go to: www.Laststoponthe4train.
RSVP to the Exclusive Atlanta Screening of the Film here: