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The Holiday Spirit in Hip-Hop

By Posted on 6 3 m read

Rarely do hip-hop artists take out time to create a CD full of holiday joy, but the holiday spirit can commonly be found year-round.  The most amazing power of music stretches beyond the sound itself.  Hip-hop’s Holiday spirit is characterized in its most dynamic essence– the unprecedented culture of sampling.

Blues, Jazz and Soul music was the heart of the African-American community from the 1920s throughout time of civil unrest of the 1960s and beyond.  Although many of Soul’s greats are today acknowledged as legends, very few were actually paid their just due.  Through hip-hop, they are resuscitated, revived, and reborn into a new level of appreciation.

Yesterday, via Twitter, multi-platinum selling producer Just Blaze [Jay-Z, Big Pun, Busta Rhymes, Usher, etc.] took to his account and recalled a few stories that are nothing short of what I would classically consider “The Holiday Spirit”!

“Wow!  Just got off the phone with Johnny Pate [Music Arranger/Producer of “Shaft in Africa,” sampled for Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got”].  If you guys could have heard this [conversation]– tearjerker.  He just turned 88, living on fixed income.  FedEx showed up at his house with a check that paid off his house and car, and his family is now ok.  He thanked me over and over, sounded like he was about to break down, and couldn’t understand what would make me sample his music.  [I] explained to him that “Shaft In Africa” is a b-boy anthem to this day.  He was so appreciative and floored, and kept thanking me for helping his life and his family.  [I] didn’t even know what to say.”

After briefly sharing that he received a similar story from Bobby Byrd for “U Don’t Know”, he went on to tell an unbelievable twist of fate with one of Hip Hop’s most beloved songs of all time, “Song Cry” by Jay-Z.

“I had a driver in LA one day who kept saying “Justin Smith.. Just Blaze.. Justin Smith.. Just… wait…” then he almost ran off the road.  He turns to me and says, “Are you the Justin Smith that works with Jay-Z?”  I say “Yeah.”  He pulls over, gets out, and hugs me. I’m like– ‘who the mutha what?!?’ He gathers himself and explains that he wrote “Sounds like a Love Song” by Bobby Glenn I used for “Song Cry.”  He had a community music center for children that he worked with that was about to close; City took away their funding.  He gets a call from a lawyer one day, saying he had a check for him.  He had no idea I’d sampled his song.  That money he got kept the Community Center open and [he] got some instruments for the kids.  Needless to say, my ride was free that day =)”

The lives of the artists Just Blaze sampled were changed in one day, due to one decision, by a man they had never met.  What you are doing today predetermines your tomorrow, whether or not you will see it next week, next year, or in your afterlife.  Strive to do what you love until you can’t do it anymore.  The right opportunity may just be saving itself for when you need it most!

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