Fe

The 5 Best Mulatu Astatke Samples in Hip-Hop

We break down the 5 best samples of Mulatu Astatke's Ethio-jazz in hip-hop, featuring tracks from Nas, Damian Marley, Cut Chemist and more.

At 72 years-old, Mulatu Astatke is a walking legend.


Known as the pioneer and inventor of Ethio-jazz, Astatke sparked a musical revolution by pairing jazz with traditional Ethiopian melodies and instrumentation, as well as Latin rhythms.

Standing over the timbales, conga drums and, of course, the vibraphone—instruments that he introduced into Ethiopian popular music—Astatke can still be caught playing on any given night at Addis Ababa’s African Jazz Village or across the globe. He recently played at New York City’s Met Museum.

“As you know, all these rhythms we’re talking about were born in Africa. And I’m an African. You have to listen to the combination of this music. We have five notes and four different modals in Ethiopia. That’s what I have used [for Ethio-jazz],” Astatke told Okayafrica in an interview from last year.

As those Ethio-jazz sounds have spread across the world since their inception in the early 1970s, they’ve become cult favorites for beat heads, producers, and MCs to chop-up, sample and rap over.

Below we focus on the 5 best Mulatu Astatke samples in hip-hop.

“Yègellé Tezeta” Sampled by Nas & Damian Marley

Nas and Damian Marley sampled Mulatu Astatke’s 1972 track “Yègellé Tezeta” for their hip-hop-meets-reggae joint album Distant Relatives. The pair used the bass line, high-end melodies and pretty much most of the other elements from the original as they trade bars that touch on themes of ancestry and the plight of African states (the album includes song titles like "Africa Must Wake Up").

Nas and Damian Marley can be heard delivering lines like, "Y'all feel me even if it's in Swahili / Habari Gani / Mzuri Sana / Switch up the language and move to Ghana," throughout the song. It's not Amharic but the Ethio-jazz sound of the beat is definitely there.

“Gubèlyé” Sampled by Oh No

Stones Throw Records rapper/producer Oh No’s entire 2009 album Dr. No’s Ethiopium is a must-listen for anyone fond of Ethiopian jazz and folk samples.

In one of its standout tracks, “Juke Joint,” the California-based producer flips what’s originally a serene and somber composition from Mulatu Astatke (1974’s “Gubèlyé”) into a spell-binding head-nodder.

“Kasalefkut-Hulu” Sampled by J-Live

“Kasalefkut-Hulu” (1972) has been sampled countless times—it’s been used by Wu-Tang affiliate Killah Priest, it’s heard on a song that features Mystikal and Master P and a later version of it can be spotted in K’naan's “ABC’s” and Four Tet’s “Parallel Jalebi.”

Our favorite though has to be its use in J-Live’s “Longevity,” as Mulatu Astatke’s undeniable vibraphone melody is contorted into the perfect sonic bed for the New York MC's lyrical finesse. The Sister Nancy, MC is my ambition, sample doesn’t hurt either.

“Addis Black Widow” Sampled by Gaslamp Killer

Mulatu Astatke collaborated with London-based musical collective The Heliocentrics on the 2009 album Inspiration Information, Volume 3. A few years later, Brainfeeder producer Gaslamp Killer transformed Astatke & The Heliocentrics’ “Addis Black Widow” into the haywire blend of distorted beats and chiptune keyboards heard in "Impulse," a track featuring Daedelus. This could be Ethio-jazz for a dystopian future.

“Emnete” Sampled by Cut Chemist

The high melodies from Mulatu Astatke’s 1970 track “Emnete” are expertly chopped-up to accentuate this beat from Cut Chemist (heard around the :57 second mark). The veteran DJ/producer, a former member Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, used the sample in “East Side,” a track from his 2010 Sound of the Police, which also features a host of other Ethiopian-inspired beat work.

Music

Listen to Solo’s New Single ‘Promises’ Featuring Kwesta

Solo and Kwesta connect on 'Promises.'

Solo and Kwesta share a bouncy kwaito beat on "Promises." Kwesta's at home over an instrumental of this kind. It's, however, a shift on Solo's side, who hasn't been known for new age kwaito. The rapper adapts his delivery accordingly, using fewer words than you'd normally expect in his verse.

Keep reading... Show less
News
"85 to Africa" album art.

Listen to Jidenna's New Album, '85 to Africa'

Plus watch the music video for his latest single "Worth the Weight" featuring Seun Kuti.

It's been two years since Jidenna dropped his debut album, The Chief, today, the artist shares his latest studio album 85 to Africa.

In the lead-up to the album's release, the artist dropped the singles "Tribe," "Sufi Woman" "Sou Sou," and "Zodi" featuring fellow Nigerian artist Mr Eazi. He also held several listening parties across the US ahead of its release, and from what we can tell from videos that have been circulating on social media—they've been a really great time for both Jidenna and his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
Audio

Mr Eazi & Simi Drop the New Single and Video For 'Doyin'

A head-nodding Afro-R&B track produced by Killertunes.

Mr Eazi seems to be in unstoppable work mode right now as he's been popping up in big singles and collaborations all over the place this summer, as well as continuing his emPawa Africa initiative.

For his latest single, "Doyin," Eazi connects with Nigerian singer Simi for a head-nodding Afro-RnB track. The new song, which is built on woozy synthesizers and mid-tempo beat work, was produced by Killertunes. Eazi and Simi trade verses in the addictive single, which comes paired with a new music video directed by Manuel Concha.

Read: The Music Business of Mr Eazi

"Doyin" is the first song released through emPawa Distribution, a digital music aggregator focused solely on distributing African music, which Eazi announced after the success of emPawa Africa. Speaking of the initiative, emPawa Africa is now reopened to submissions that will help fund the music videos of 30 up-and-coming artists and offer mentorship from big name artists.

Keep reading... Show less
Music

Listen to Rick Jade (Bontle Modiselle and Priddy Ugly)’s Album ‘D.N.A (Da New Africa)’

Rick Jade release their debut album.

Bontle Modiselle and Priddy Ugly, collectively known as Rick Jade, aren't half-stepping. Today, the couple released their debut album D.N.A (Da New Africa).

D.N.A consists of 10 songs that dabble in pop, trap and even kwaito. Guest features on D.N.A include Forcalistic, KLY and some members of the collective Frsh Citizen, which Bontle and Priddy are part of.

In his previous projects, Priddy Ugly had some moments of showing emotion and sharing intimate details of his life. But on D.N.A, he explores that side of himself further.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.