top of page

Weekly Playlist: Classical Cross-Over

[PC: CunninLynguists, all three members]

Classical music and Hip-Hop outwardly seem to embody dissimilar modes of being, each sound categorization [genre] developing on their own musical plane, accompanied with their own historical lineages, and subsequently providing an outlet for the creational spirit of entirely disparate names and faces. Hip-Hop, a relatively young genre [‘born’ in the 1970s], whose contemporary existence has shifted far from its pre-commercialist orientation as ‘a strategy of resistance’, bears little to no resemblance to the traditional forms of ‘classical’ music, whose lengthy maturation has been aided by standardized musical symbology [Western notation] and strictly curated architectural regulations [Music Theory], although now developed to the point where ‘no-holds-barred’ mentality thoroughly dominates [i.e., Experimentalism, Postminimalism, the furthering of High-Modernist capabilities]. Despite obvious differences regarding compositional voicing, technical characteristics, and even notational adherence, Hip-Hop and Classical music share similar cultural positions as acoustic mouthpieces of the current, socio-anthropological framework. The hypothesis that Hip-Hop could ‘one day become classical music’ should not be mocked and ignored entirely, because just as classical music epitomized the loftiest demonstration of human capabilities and held the power to elevate the mundane individual to the distinguished performer, so too is Hip-Hop engendering such fantastical assumptions within the mind of contemporary listeners.

So, how does Classical music fit into the rapidly evolving sociosphere of musical preference, which I consider to be the era of Post-Genre, where not only sampling of distinct genres are neatly fitted into a completely unrelated musical category, but the home-genre itself is either one or various subgenres, all which challenge the notion of the ‘traditional form’ of said category [i.e., Comedy Rap, Dirty Rap, Horrorcore, Cloud Rap, Pop rap, even LGBT rap]. Some of the most well-known Classical samplings’s in Popular musical life have been from Artists like Nas and his globally-recognized song ‘I Can’ [Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’ / Bagatelle No.25], Madonna and her 1992 song ‘In This Life’ [Gershwin, Prelude No.2 in C# minor, ], and one of my favorites, Puff Daddy and his 1997 song, ‘I’ll be Missing You’ [Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei]. Even Lady Gaga used classical repertoire [albeit from a relatively underappreciated composer, Vittorio Monti] when constructing her 2009 song ‘Alejandro’, where she chose to use Monti’s 1904 composition ‘Csárdás’, although the unfortunate outcome of her choice was that his name has been now posthumously associated to only one work, a tragic fate and one shared by many others as well [i.e., Holst and The Planets].

[PC: Xzibit, Alvin Nathaniel Joiner]

In efforts to bring attention to the role that Classical music plays in Hip-Hop, and how similar these two genres really are in invoking the vivid expressions of their respective ethnographies in diverse yet analogous fashions, I present to you five songs via five Artists that I believe have chosen their Classical piece[s] not simply because of a need for ancillary, acoustical backup, but based on a desire to discreetly strengthen, through elegantly melodic lyricism, the emotionality and fundamental significance of the textual evocations made by their lyrical faculties, references and all. I do suggest that, in order to comprehend how each Artist has reworked the Classical piece of their choosing, you listen fully to the original orchestration of each composition. This ensures that the listening experience can be properly fulfilling for you! When you know what you're listening for, it stands right out!

If you enjoy this and the selection that I have chosen, please feel free to leave a comment, like, or share! If you have any suggestions on what should be talked about next or any song suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Thank you for checking out this week’s Playlist, and here we go!


1, Xzibit - Paparazzi

Against the backdrop of Faure’s Pavane [Op.50] with its melancholy minor sonorities and courtly rhythmicity, paired with a syncopated, drum-kit beat, Xzibit [Alvin Nathaniel Joiner] raps with steady dynamism about the state of Rap itself and the players within the game who, all too quickly, are spellbound by the attractiveness of affluence and supposed fame. The Pavane, and its ‘Belle Epoque’ style [1880-1914, French for ‘Beautiful Epoch’], highlights the message of moral corruption and the desire for ‘money and fame’, as this period [in music specifically] is associated with attainability and easily understandable formats of musical construction, via the forms of small-form pieces like songs and romances.

2. Cunninlynguists - Lynguistics

Using allusion, metaphors, and poetic devices left, right, and center, the duo Kno and Deacon The Villain [Ryan Wisler, Willis Polk II] thoroughly integrate the spirited bowing of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto In D [Op.35, Mvt.1] into their back-n-forth, emcee phraseology which borders on freestyle yet remains wholly organized, even to the point of using a formal rhyming scheme. Layered over a continual ostinato bass-beat, the truncated violin melody consonantly [and constantly] sounds and is manipulated through cut-offs and fixed reverberations, although the main theme’s double-octave beauty does blossom at the beginning and end. The duo’s animated verbal gestations pair perfectly with Tchaikovsky’s flight of Allegro fancy.

3. Young Buck – Say It to My Face

Although sparsely used, Young Buck [David Darnell Brown] references Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor [K. 626, started in 1791 and left unfinished due to his death], specifically the first movement [Introit] and the second [Kyrie]. In the opening of his track, he employs the opening cadential passage of the Mass, paired with a techno-spatialized soundscape, to set the overall thematic Mafioso tone, construed through Y. B’s explosive inflexional tendencies and assertive message. The translation to Introit reads like an invocation for eternal rest [Requiem aeternam], while the Kyrie is a call for the Lord’s mercy [Kyrie/Christe eleison], both prayers squarely fitting with Y.B’s castigatory character.

4. Miri Ben Ari w/ Pharoahe Monch - New World Symphony

A shining example of when Classical music meets Hip-Hop and produces a phenomenal result, Pharoahe Monch, [Troy Donald Jamerson] partnered with the Israeli-American Violinist Miri Ben Ari, uses a quotation from Dvorak’s Symphony No.9 [New World Symphony, Mvt. 4] to engender their ‘we are the future’ message with sensational, ostinato gravitas. The interesting part is that the corresponding Album is not P.M’s, but Miri Ben Ari’s and is entitled, ‘The Hip Hop Violinist’, furthering the cross-relationship of the traditional Classical ideas of instrumentation and the urban sound of Hip-Hop and Rap. In the end, Miri showcases her virtuosic capabilities through 16th-note flourishes, all partnered with that recognizable ostinato, signaling the new world really shall and can come.

5. Warren G: Prince Igor

Of the five songs presented, this is the Track which uses the most original, undoctored material within the created soundscape, here using not a classical Instrumental excerpt but an operatic chorus excerpt, complete with text in Russian. Warren G. [Warren Griffin III] sourced his sample from Alexander Borodin’s 1890 opera ‘Prince Igor’, specifically the Act 2 Finale ‘Polovtsian Dances’ and one slave-woman's melancholic call for her homeland ‘Fly away on the wings of wind.’ Another formal collaboration occurs on this track, this time between the Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø and W.G, Sissel playing the part of the slave-woman who sends her despondently crystalline song to the land she cannot go, while W.G’s real, dichotomous intention comes through via the bridge, “Money over power, power over money.”


Writer: John David Vandevert []


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page