Friday, July 9, 2010

Miles Davis and Hip Hop

Miles Davis (trumpet)
Doo Bop (Warners; 1991)

I said before the Miles' latter period (1985 - 1991) still needs to be re-evaluated by jazz fans and the outside listening public. Far to often it is shoved aside by the the monumental recordings that presided them (Rebirth of the Cool, Steamin', Workin', Kind Of Blue, Bitches Brew and On The Corner). But I think anyone who is going to listen to Miles' recordings has to eventually get to the point of "what's next?" "what do I listen to after the big records?"

Well, I think covering the final years of his life is a good idea. Not every record is great but they all do tell a story of what Miles was thinking and the direction he was looking towards. One such album is his final recording just before his death in 1991, Doo Bop (Warners).

Now for those who know this was a very incomplete record at best. Miles had been interested in R&B and Hip Hop for quite a few years at this point. He had actually recorded material with Prince a few years earlier. This material remains unreleased (or rumoured released on Prince's Black Album). So the idea and concept of Miles record a "street" dedicated album was really not out of the question. It was more "when" and "what" would it sound like.

I have to say 18 years later, Doo Bop sounds slightly dated but if you place yourself back in that time period, you know full well Miles was on to something. The album was recorded in few short weeks. The not all the material was even complete. In working with his collaborator/producer for the album, Easy Mo Bee, Miles felt a younger contemporary. This was someone he could drop some knowledge on as well learn more about the Hip Hop movement.

The opening "Mystery" with the infectious muted trumpet combined with muffled drum n' bass rhythm was Miles setting down a new marker for a new decade. You felt the futuristic street vibe Miles was searching for. That pounding message would carry through to "Chocolate Chip" with its slowed down mid tempo funky drummer beat and some excellent samples thrown in for good measure. A nice dance floor filler.

Miles was also influenced by vocal sounds of hip hop, so he incorporated rap into some of pieces (provided by Easy Mo Bee and J.R.. The rap pieces don't really work more because the lyrics are really weak and don't seem throughout well at all. The music itself compliments Miles very well. Miles and Easy Mo Bee do add a lot of though into the musical arrangements throughout Doo Bop. "Blow" has a "Pacific State" (song by English techno band 808 State) vibe to it that is very interested (despite the average lyrics laid on top).

Towards the end of recording sessions Miles had visited the hospital for some treatment. It would be turn out that Doo Bop would be the last record Miles Davis would record. The album was completed by Easy Mo Bee and since has received lukewarm reviews. In listening to Doo Bop again and again for this piece I realise there is a lot hear to absorb and I've been enjoying the adventure of going track by track. It's definitely an incomplete experience but its the insight into a legends way of thinking.

If you own the album take a listen again and think about some of the hip hop, techno that even some of the soul jazz that would come (Guru's Jazzmatazz, Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque, Roy Hargrove's RH Factor, et. el) --Miles was still ahead of the game.

1 comment:

  1. Okay... this is sooo cool....the rhyming and flow is a little old school and weak...(the last emcee is the best) but I'm totally diggin the blend of miles Davis and harmonies. I can't believe i've never heard this!