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Listen To This South African Kwaito Tribute To J Dilla

The South African collective SPAZABASS' EP 'Kwaito Dilla Jazz' consists of kwaito interpretations of J Dilla's beats.

On the last day of J Dilla Month, the South African collective SPAZABASS released a tribute to the late hip-hop and neo soul producer J Dilla. Titled Kwaito Dilla Jazz, the eight-track project consists of interpretations of some of Dilla's most iconic productions.


Slum Village's "Fall In Love" and "The Look of Love," A Tribe Called Quest's "Find A Way," Erykah Badu's "Didn't Cha Know," and a few others, all take a kwaito form on Kwaito Dilla Jazz. The band played around with the same samples Dilla used on those beats, chopped them and placed them between those bouncy old school kwaito rhythms, and not without a touch of jazz by way of live instrumentation and the boundless approach to production. Think of The Roots' Dilla Joints project, just without the kwaito.

The production is reminiscent of the rich soundscape that sways between house and kwaito with touches of jazz. It's a style that defined the kwaito/house duo Brothers of Peace's albums, especially the Zabalaza series: Zabalaza: Project A, B, C and D.

Read: Hip-Hop & Kwaito's Long Love-Hate Relationship

SPAZABASS is a collective which consists of renowned DJ and producer Papercutt and alternating session musicians Tshepo Venon Mokoena (guitar), Sizwe Maxwell Ndlovu (bass guitar) and Brian Minor (bass guitar). Papercutt, who also executive produced the project, handled the percussion, drums and sampler. The project's session engineer is Bekhi "B.MA" Magangane, while the man who mixes and masters most of your favorite SA rapper's projects Zeph worked his magic.

Kwaito Dilla Jazz is two-stroke nostalgia in that during J Dilla's prime, kwaito was also poppin' in South Africa. The two genres may not have seen eye-to-eye in the 90s and early 2000s, but they have since kissed and made up, and given birth to the subgenre new age kwaito. Kwaito Dilla Jazz is different from new age kwaito, however, in that it doesn't attempt to make a contemporary hip-hop and kwaito hybrid, but celebrates both genres in their vintage form. The catch is of course the fact that you haven't really heard a neo soul and kwaito blend. At least not one of this kind.

Listen to Kwaito Dilla Jazz below (or directly here) and follow Papercutt on Twitter.

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6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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