A quotation by Barry B. Benson in the 2007 masterpiece “The Bee Movie” boldly poses a question that splits the entire human race into two distinct groups. Benson asks, “You like jazz?” I, personally, really like jazz. I like jazz because I am sporadic and I am random, and jazz is the musical representation of that sporadic randomness. The necessary talent to play jazz is more than just being able to read music, you must also be able to go with the flow and match the mood while improvising.
Because I am also a big fan of hip-hop, I absolutely love when the two genres are mixed. When it comes to modern jazzy hip-hop, it is impossible to leave out Terrace Martin, a multi-instrumentalist, and producer who is well-known for his contributions on all but three songs on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Best recognized for his saxophone playing, right before the new year, Terrace Martin collaborated with St. Louis rapper Smino on “Pecans” and the result beautifully merges their skills in a celebration of jazz, soul, and hip-hop.
While Smino’s last album mainly has him rapping over bouncy futuristic beats, “Pecans” shows Smino backed by a jazzy beat with live instrumentation. He sings on the chorus and raps on the verse, bouncing all over the beat with countless vocal inflections and flow switch-ups. By both singing and rapping, Smino is fulfilling his utmost potential on “Pecans.” At some points he is riding the beat, while other times he is defying it.
From a production standpoint, the track follows a typical jazz structure. It starts with a chorus, then goes to the first verse, then returns to the chorus before going into the solo section (essentially an instrumental verse). The song concludes with solely drums, as all of the other instruments are removed. This is a great move from a musical lens because it makes the song feel like a composition rather than a formulaic song with repeated sections. Different instruments (whether it be a saxophone, Smino’s voice, or drums) all dominate at various parts of the song, giving the listener a different feel every time there’s a change.
“Pecans” is a great change of pace from a lot of the other music that is currently saturating the radio, and every listener should be going nuts over it.
COVER PHOTO: Saintheron.com