Jazz rap is a fusion of alternative hip hop music and jazz, developed in the very late 1980s and early 1990s. Known for intellectual, often socio-political or Afrocentric lyrics and jazz beats (sometimes performed by a live band, instead of sampled), jazz rap has never become a mainstream success, nor has it been a consistent seller among hip hop fans.
Though some claim the proto-hip hop, jazzy poet Gil Scott-Heron the beginning of jazz rap, the genre arose in 1988 with the release of the debut singles by Gang Starr ("Words I Manifest", which samples Charlie Parker) and Stetsasonic ("Talkin' All That Jazz", which samples Sonny Liston-Smith). One year later, Gang Starr's debut LP, No More Mr. Nice Guy and their work on the soundtrack to Mo' Better Blues, and De La Soul's debut 3 Feet High and Rising have proven remarkably influential in the genre's development. De La Soul's cohorts in the Native Tongues Posse also released important jazzy albums, including the Jungle Brothers' debut Straight Out the Jungle (1988, 1988 in music) and A Tribe Called Quest's debut, People's Instinctive Travels and Paths of Rhythm (1990, 1990 in music).
A Tribe Called Quest's follow-up, The Low End Theory (1991, 1991 in music), included only a small amount of jazz, but the album was a critical success and is regarded as one of the most influential hip hop albums of the decade. Though jazz rap had achieved little mainstream success, jazz legend Miles Davis' final album (released in 1992 posthumously), Doo Bop, included hip hop beats and collaborations with Easy Mo Bee, a rapper. Concurrently, Digable Planets' Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was released to critical acclaim; it is often considered the first cohesive album of jazz rap.
Later in the decade and into the next millennium, Guru's first Jazzmatazz project, featuring live jazz musicians in the studio, is perhaps the most critically acclaimed jazz rap album yet. The Roots, an actual band that includes rappers, also achieved unprecedented commercial success for a jazz rap group.