Saxophonist Marcus Strickland follows the April debut of his Nihil Novi LP with the official video for “Drive” directed by HighBreedMusic. The performance clip presented by P. Mauriat and REVIVE features Strickland playing alongside an all-star band including drummers Chris Dave and Charlie Haynes, keyboardists BIG YUKI and Chad Selph, bassist Kyle Miles and trumpeter Keyon Harrold. The latest from the project co-produced by Meshell Ndegeocello, the video captures the magic that Strickland’s Twi-Life regularly brings to the stage – a blend of Black American musical traditions that references hip-hop and exalts the post-blues canon from which it is derived. Strickland details those influences in an exclusive interview with Billboard.
What are some of the things that influenced you during the making of this album that people might not expect?
Starting around 2004, I was just so excited about beatmakers: J Dilla, DJ Premier, and Madlib. It was basically all I was listening to at that point — mainly because before that, people didn’t really pay that much attention to the producers. They’d listen to A Tribe Called Quest, and be like, “Wow, Tribe is dope” — but they didn’t really understand why. Now, all people talk about is the producer. Once I discovered that it was J Dilla behind the music of Slum Village and later Tribe stuff, I just went on a rampage, listening to anything I could find by Dilla. He turned into this monster of an inspiration. I really loved Madlib too — one of my favorite beats of his is “Meat Grinder…”
It really feels like jazz is coming full circle — back into the mainstream, a little, as people start to see more that that’s where the roots of so much contemporary music lie.
Yeah, it’s incredible — I love the many connections between hip-hop and jazz. When jazz came on the scene, it wasn’t seen as “America’s classical music.” It was seen as devil’s music, and it was played in brothels. Jazz was seen as this lowly thing because it wasn’t made by the right demographic for it to be considered art made by geniuses. I think the same thing happened with hip-hop: they both had the same kind of curse at the beginning, but it’s inevitable that eventually, it will be revered just as highly as jazz is now.
The thing that’s very ironic is how many jazz musicians look down on hip-hop. That’s just so turned around. I was born in 1979, so most of the music that surrounded me was hip-hop. A lot of hip-hop musicians, I feel, could have been great jazz musicians if they had instruments in their schools — but they didn’t. So they had to make music from other people’s music. A lot of genius comes from needing something, and not having the normal means of attaining it.