In Hip-Hop and Beyond: Thelonious Monk [Playlist]
Celebrating the 100th birthday of a jazz giant
The off-kilter genius of Thelonious Monk ranks amongst music most cherished. And not without cause.
A longtime NYC-resident (by way of North Carolina) and largely self-schooled pianist, Monk’s distinctive sense of melody and rhythm are cornerstone to the experimental foundation of jazz that pushed it through the roofs of smoke-stained clubs and into the cosmic spheres of music. His influence is readily identifiable in contemporaries like Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, but had passed roughly a decade prior to seeing his work incorporated in the still-blossoming culture of hip-hop, embracing the quiet pianist’s meter and compositions by way of the still-new-at-the-time sampling tradition.
Early borrowers of Monk’s touch and feel included the likes of RZA, DJ Premier and later, Madlib. But before sampling even became the accessible and malleable machine for beat-crafting, forward-minded musicians like Frank Zappa, Chaka Khan and others quoted his unconventional lines and phrasings in session and onstage.
As a salute to that incomparable legacy in hip-hop and well beyond, we’ve assembled some of Monk’s most sampledelic works into one sequence, peppered with the tracks that recalibrated his avant-groove. Hear it below in a generation-bridging playlist. No chaser necessary.