Your Sunday iPod Add: Soweto Kinch: Jazz, Hip Hop and A Morality Tale

Soweto Kinch

Welcome back (again) to your Sunday iPod add, which will hence forth be called, “Your Sunday Playlist*.”

For those who indulge in and appreciate both hip-hop and post bebop jazz and at times wondered what sounds would emerge if these two genres collided head on; meshed their energies; twisted and tangled their rhythm and rhyme; or collaborate a freestyle from a common theme. Well wonder no more!  Let me introduce you to Soweto Kinch!  Kinch, according to his social media page is an “Award winning alto-saxophonist and MC” and “is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians in both the British jazz and hip hop scenes.” Yes, Kinch has his feet firmly planted in both genres where he is capable and thriving.

(Photo copyright John Watson/

(Photo copyright John Watson/

A few months ago I, Mr. Johnny-come-lately, embarrassingly later than even George Colligan at, stumbled onto Soweto Kinch’s music (as I tend to do happily with plenty of artists) and was blown away by his fluid versatility and dexterity in both the hip-hop and post bebop jazz genres.  Upon hearing his music, I was reminded of other artists who have dabbled in combining hip-hop with jazz, most notably A Tribe Called Quest’s album “Low End Theory,” which featured the iconic bassist Ron Carter amid stripped down jazz samples and certainly Guru’s “Jazzmatazzjazzmatazz Vol. 1,” in particular, genre bending album, which employed heavy post bebop hitters such as saxophonist Brandford Marsalis, pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, vibist Roy Ayers, the late trumpeter Donald Byrd, and the late guitarist Ronny Jordan. While these albums elegantly blended the rhythmic lyrics of hip hop with syncopated drum grooves and bebop chord progressions, Kinch’s music, rather, abuts freestyle post bebop tracks next to freestyle hip hop jams, which allows the listener to hear the similarities in the music’s spontaneity and freedom. Kinch’s movement back and forth between the genres recalls the origins of both jazz and hip hop’s gritty sounds and street attitude. The magic and intention of jazz and hip hop is not lost on Soweto Kinch.

The first track of Kinch I stumbled onto was “Never Ending” from the album The New Emancipation. After this, I began a fever pitch search for more of Kinch’s music. I found all of his brilliant music and surprisingly some videos of his legendary rap battles on the streets of London (check it). Ultimately, I found his most recent album (recent to me) The Legend Of Mike eman This is a tightly put together concept album. Kinch described it as “an exploration of the seven deadly sins in the modern context. It also follows the travails of one young character, Mike Smith as he’s attempting to get signed by a major record label and curtail his normal style to see what he thinks they will find successful or appealing.The album contains post bebop burners, spoken word, and heated rap, which all serve to drive a narrative a modern day morality tale. The Legend Of Mike Smith is compelling to listen to as any concept album out there.

So if the idea of Common meets Charlie Parker meets a 90s Greg Osby meets a Mos Def is intriguing, then take a listen and wonder no more!mike smith

Add some Soweto Kinch to your playlist. You will thank me later.

Your Sunday iPod add: Cold Specks

Why aren’t you listening to Cold Specks?  Hello! She’s only a click away.  Her music is probably better than anything you listened to today.  Trust me, she sings what you like.  You like Dylan?  You like Nina Simone? You like Sting?  You like Stevie Wonder?  You like the blues?  You like folk music?  You like coffee shop ditties on guitar?  You like turn of the century Southern gospel???  Chances are you said yes to one or all of these questions.  Why aren’t you listening to Cold Specks?  Besides having one of the coolest stage names in show business today, Cold Specks owns the most unique voice you’ve ever heard.  It’s slightly raspy yet soft enough to draw you near your speakers.  Also, her voice is magical.  It’s infused with the sound of wisdom–a wisdom far beyond her age of 24.  Her voice seems to come from a guitar strapped centenarian storyteller bent on telling you one more tale.  When I look at her face and hear her sing I am easily perplexed.  When was the last time an artist did this for you? 

A Canadian who now hails from London and a nominee of the 2012 Polaris Music Prize, Cold Specks has upped the ante on the expectation for the human voice.  So, again, why aren’t you listening to Cold Specks?  Now that you know about her you have no excuse.  Watch her videos below, add her to your iPod, and buy her album, titled I Predict a Graceful Expulsion.  You will thank me later.

Cold Specks is on tour. Check her out at a venue near you.

Black Music Month Pt. 4 of 4: Hip Hop

In much the same way as Jazz, Hip Hop was formed in the Black ghettos of America, led by a youth culture, and today has a critical global presence and influence. Citing the boroughs of New York as its birthplace in the late 70s, Hip Hop extended its influence across the U.S. with a quickness unlike any other music genre.

Graffiti in Rome

Adopting its musical reference from the well styled, rhythmic, and groove oriented R&B and Funk songs of the 1970s, Hip Hop spread the message of a converging youth culture.  Hip Hop’s formation was about the here and now of the Black community and how the youth fit into that sometimes turbulent process of growing up and survival in the inner cities of America.  In a short period of time, Hip Hop developed a unique culture of graffiti, dance, turntables and microphones.

Bronx DJ making history

Today, Hip Hop utilizes cutting edge musical technology and individual character “swag” that drives a crucial portion of American and global commerce (much more can be said about this).

Hip Hop, with its ability to give voice to youth culture, has extended beyond the Black ghettos and inner cities to reside in places such as affluent American suburbs, Koreatown, the Barrio, to locales such as London, Paris, Rome, Accra, Johannesburg, Moscow, New Delhi, Sydney, and Tokyo.

In terms of Hip Hop’s introduction to the world, I think Wonder Mike of the Sugar Hill Gang expressed it

Sugar Hill Gang (from corbis)

most prophetically: “I am Wonder Mike and I’d like to say hello, to the black, to the white, the red and the brown, the purple and yellow . . .

As we conclude BMM 2012, lets remember that Black music is deeply woven into the American fabric.  A group of people, who needed to audibly express the sentiments of oppression and the battle for freedom, forged this music to soothe their soul in the midst of their struggle.  Black music has a transcending power of triumph.  Ultimately, Black music has become one of the defining factors of the American identity and is embraced world wide like no other music.

Hip Hop is Black music and Authentically American.
(Jay Z and Kanye West)

So don’t let the end of June be the end of the appreciation of Black music.  Indulge yourself!

Hip Hop first spoke to the world from the boroughs of New York. Take a listen as the world hollers back: