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Jazz and Hip-Hop Artist Kassa Overall Reshapes Beatmaking From the Inside Out

Spencer Ostrander
Kassa Overall

What’s the opposite of sampling when constructing a great loop? Kassa Overall has some ideas.

On his recent album Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, the Seattle-born, New York-based artist often lays the groundwork for a great song by capturing a stellar collaborative improvisation, steering the flow from behind the drum kit. Then he digitally modifies those organic performances to create precise hip-hop compositions that feature his own ethereal lyricism.

Many artists in both jazz and hip-hop have dabbled in this exercise over the years, often at their own peril. But with Overall’s command of modern beat-making, combined with his dynamism on drums, he is able to elevate both genres while creating an original sound.

Credit Spencer Ostrander
Kassa Overall

On this Checkout podcast, he talks about his creation process, which moves between the stage and his laptop, and is currently being documented in “Time Capsule,” a series of concerts at The Jazz Gallery. His performing/recording experiments have featured some of New York’s finest pianists, such as Jon Batiste, Jason Moran, Aaron Parks, Kris Davis, and most recently Craig Taborn.

Here he shares his first “Time Capsule” with the public, a composition featuring the piano virtuoso Sullivan Fortner. It’s a sardonic take on a jazz classic, “Someday My Prince Will Come. Holding on to that sentiment, Overall calls out some of our leading hip-hop artists today by asking why they aren’t more connected to the roots of great African American music.

Kassa Overall’s final “Time Capsule” performances will take place on June 21 and June 22 at The Jazz Gallery. Surprise guest musicians are expected to be there, along with the premiere of a new work by visual artist Nate Lewis.

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For more than 15 years, Simon Rentner has worked as a host, producer, broadcaster, web journalist, and music presenter in New York City. His career gives him the opportunity to cover a wide spectrum of topics including, history, culture, and, most importantly, his true passion of music from faraway places such as Europe, South America, and Africa.