Well, you’ve heard of Ali Shaheed Muhammad (yes, the producer from A Tribe Called Quest). And if you caught any of the “Luke Cage” web series, you’ve also heard Adrian Younge’s distinct hip-hop spin on television scoring; ditto his soundtrack for the film “Black Dynamite” and his production work for the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Ghostface Killah.
Muhammad and Younge are both legends in their own right, making it easy to place their new collaborative record, “The Midnight Hour,” among 2018’s essential releases of any genre. The record recontextualizes hip-hop as something that belongs at a small jazz venue, attended by well-dressed folks — except that everyone’s Sunday Best ends up all sweaty from dancing.
There are lush string sections. There are “dirty” rimshots (as Younge describes them). There are traditional acoustic jazz trio arrangements. There’s a loose snare sound at the front of the mix. This is equal parts jazz and hip-hop, in such pristine balance as to have perhaps never been heard before.
“The Midnight Hour” comes from exactly the place it should: one of effortlessness and the kind of sophistication that can only be earned with decades of experience in a genre.
In the video above, “Takin’ Off” host Isabel Zacharias talks with Muhammad and Younge about sampling, formative musical experiences, and the intersection of jazz and hip-hop.