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Fusion Reaction

Young artists are drawing new energy from forgotten electric jazz

Dan Bejar with the band Destroyer
Mr Twin Sister
The Clarke/Duke Project (Stanley Clarke, left, and George Duke)
The Crusaders
The Robert Glasper Experiment

The music on Kendrick Lamar’s latest chart-topping album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is certainly hip-hop. It’s seething, inquisitive hip-hop that happens to draw on improvised instrumentals, multi-part song forms and ruminative seventh chords. So jazz, you could say, is its shadow genre.

The album is also politically forthright and proudly black nationalist, yet simultaneously self-questioning and complex. It’s bathed in glistening synthesizers and imbued with a subtle but stubborn sense of swing. To Pimp a Butterfly might’ve come out in 2015, but its shadow decade is the 1970s.

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