How Christian Scott & Vic Mensa Blurred the Lines Between Hip-Hop and Jazz

“The Refined Players represents a new vanguard of creators intent on building bridges.”
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If 2017 has taught us one thing, it’s that genre is becoming more and more antiquated.

On his own mission to dissolve genre, New Orleans trumpeter, composer, and producer Christian Scott, in conjunction with 1800 Tequila and Billboard’s Refined Players series, traveled the country to assemble his own five-piece, genre-defying band.

"A sonically riveting and diverse group of talent," as Scott describes his band, "The Refined Players represents a new vanguard of creators intent on building bridges.”

Scott brought together his vanguard—made up of Joe Dyson, Weedie Braimah, Joe Harley, Elena Pinderhughes and Derrick Hodge—in the span of three days, going from New Orleans to Philadelphia, to New York and back to New Orleans to record the final product: “Freedom Is A Word.” With a vocal performance from Vic Mensa, the song is driven by the universal and unending spirit of music.

In that breath, Mensa enters the track through a time warp. His verse is ushered in by a series commanding trumpet riffs and the surprising bravado of a flute. His measured delivery and flow harken back to his earlier, jazzier days (“Hollywood LA”), while the poignant political lyrics position Mensa as a beacon of light for the present and the future.

Mensa’s conviction is matched by the coiling and uncoiling of the arrangement, the melodies and rattling rhythms ceding the floor to each other before coming to an explosive crest. Moving from deep oranges to a royal blue timbre, the track exemplifies its own journey. Finally, with his voice dripping in Auto-Tune, Mensa belts out a despondent truth: “Freedom is a word that I’ve never known.”

Freedom may be a word Mensa has never known, but his work with Christian Scott is nothing short of artistic liberation.

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