Midweek Music Pick: Rap And Classical’s Uneasy Marriage

Randall Woolf, rap classical composer

Randall Woolf, composer

Midweek Music Pick: Rap And Classical's Uneasy Marriage - Chicagoist.

I'd like to hear this music, at least of curiosity. (The composer Randall Woolf wrote to me and sent a link to his website, where you can hear samples of all his music. http://randallwoolf.com/
(emphasis mine in quotes below)

As the world embraced jazz, so did classical composers. Hip-hop, which has been around for about as long as jazz had been when it blew up, hasn't received the same attention. Why this is is debatable. Perhaps it's because so much rap music describes social injustice, which, fairly or not, classical music is seen as somehow tied to; there's almost a logical fallacy at play if hip-hop gets performed by an orchestra. Or perhaps it's difficult to produce a worthy product.

Woolf's "Urban Legends," which Fulcrum Point premiered in March, may have suffered from the former, and it definitely succumbed to the latter. Rap's brilliance comes from three places: the content and creativity of the lyrics; the vocal qualities of the rapper, from rhythm to inflection to singing; and the overall musical product, largely the beat/background and how it amplifies the whole song. Unfortunately, the rappers on "Urban Legends" delivered straight rhymes on well-worn topics in monotone, and the beats and orchestral accompaniment were nothing new or interesting. As a whole, it sounded like rap and classical music were on a bad blind date.

Fortunately, "Blues for Black Hoodies," which will receive its Midwestern premiere this Wednesday, is a better piece of music. Some of the lyrics still haven't graduated high school, but the piece is more integrated, particularly the beginning and ending portions. Here the slowly-flowing, barely-evolving strings intertwine with sampled sounds and a spacey beat to give a somber, ethereal wrap to rapper Wordisbon's baritone. As with "Urban Legends," the rapper is recorded rather than appearing live, an omission that does nothing to dispel any elitist notions about classical music concerts, but the musical product achieves coherent integration. It isn't a mix-and-match grab bag; it's something new and worthy.

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