Charlie Parker’s Connection to Hip Hop

Primary author: Gabriel Condon

Primary college/unit: Arts and Sciences
Campus: Pullman


I presented my research entitled, “Charlie Parker’s Connection to Hip Hop,” at the 2020 Jazz Education Network Conference (JEN) in New Orleans. JEN is the premier jazz education conference in the world. My research uncovers the common ancestry that jazz and hip hop share as Black American musical genres.
My research provides an analysis of revolutionary bebop saxophonist, Charlie Parker’s rhythmic vocabulary. It shows the integral role syncopated rhythmic accents play in Parker’s composed and improvised melodies. The use of syncopation is an African tradition. These traditions were brought to America by slaves, who were in turn influenced by other ethnic groups present in New Orleans at the beginning of the 20th century.
A rhythmic analysis of hip hop music from the 1990’s and early 2000’s shows a similar use of accented syncopation. This similarity in rhythmic vocabulary inspired my further research into the possibility of combining the jazz and hip hop genres.
To explore this, I composed melodies in the style of Charlie Parker that used the rhythmic content from “Juicy,” a composition by acclaimed hip hop artist, The Notorious B.I.G.. When composing the melodies, I used Charlie Parker’s melodic techniques to authentically integrate the syncopated accents from the Notorious B.I.G.’s rapping into my compositions.
The effectiveness of the composed melody proves the rhythmic connection that jazz and hip hop share as Black American musical genres. It also demonstrates unexplored possibilities of collaboration between hip hop artists and jazz artists.