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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.

WATCH: Thelonious Monk Jamming Out In This Exclusive Preview Of The Jazz Loft Documentary

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.

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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.


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