1983, Music

Future Shock (1983) by Herbie Hancock

I thought Herbie Hancock made this!?!?! What’s a jazz musician doing embracing emerging culture?!?! Sacrilege!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s a group of jazz critics and fans who believe jazz musicians should not be interested in any music that has been produced since rock and roll first appeared. This same group think there is something demeaning in a jazz musician making music that cannot clearly be categorized as “jazz” (in this exclusive definition). I imagine those people were very, very mad when this record came out. (Maybe they weren’t mad. Maybe they had already rejected Hancock when he got successful embracing funk music 10 years earlier. Maybe they never considered him a jazz musician.)

This is a record by a man who is ostensibly a jazz musician but, with the exception of a token piano solo, it is not identifiable as jazz.

Rather it is Electro, which I have learned is sort of like ’80s instrumental hip hop. (There are vocals on some tracks, though it’s singing.) Hancock plays some melody lines on various synthesizers and does play the odd solo – including at least one we might describe as “jazz” or “jazz derived” – but often spends his time playing rhythm on the Clavinet or something else. He is accompanied at times by a turntable, as well as normal rock instruments. It’s hard to think of a bigger middle finger to the conservative jazz critics, which is great.

The music itself is pretty funky, though it has dated an album lot, given its reliance on emerging musical technology. The melodies are catchy enough. The lyrics, when they exist, are forgettable.

But “Rockit” was a hit and, arguably, the first time someone from the older musical generation had both embraced elements of hip hop and been successful at it. It’s probably pretty damn hard to overstate the influence of the single, if not the actual record. But the record is pretty good too.


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