Jazz rap is a sub-genre of hip hop which incorporates jazz influences, developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The lyrics are often based on political consciousness, Afrocentricity, and general positivism. Allmusic writes that the genre "was an attempt to fuse African-American music of the past with a newly dominant form of the present, paying tribute to and reinvigorating the former while expanding the horizons of the latter". Musically, the rhythms have been typically those of hip hop rather than jazz, over which are placed repetitive phrases of jazz instrumentation: trumpet, double bass, etc. The amount of improvisation varies between artists: some groups improvise lyrics and solos, while many of them do not.
(2nd ed. London: Rough Guides, 2005) lists Louis Armstrong's 1925 recording of "Heebie Jeebies" in his timeline of hip hop. In the 70s, The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron, and The Watts Prophets placed spoken word and rhymed poetry over jazzy backing tracks. There are also parallels between jazz and the improvised phrasings of freestyle rap. Despite these disparate threads, jazz rap did not coalesce as a genre until the late 80s.
In 1985, jazz fusion band Cargo, led by Mike Carr, released the single "Jazz Rap", appearing on the album Jazz Rap, Volume One . In 1988, Gang Starr released the debut single "Words I Manifest", sampling Dizzy Gillespie's 1952 "Night in Tunisia", and Stetsasonic released "Talkin' All That Jazz", sampling Lonnie Liston Smith. Gang Starr's debut LP, No More Mr. Nice Guy (Wild Pitch, 1989), and their track "Jazz Thing" (CBS, 1990) for the soundtrack of Mo' Better Blues, further popularized the jazz rap style.
Groups making up the collective known as the Native Tongues Posse tended towards jazzy releases; these include the Jungle Brothers' debut Straight Out the Jungle (Warlock, 1988) and A Tribe Called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (Jive, 1990) and The Low End Theory (Jive, 1991). The Low End Theory has become one of hip hop's most acclaimed albums, and also earned praise from jazz bassist Ron Carter, who played double bass on one track. De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate (Tommy Boy, 1993) featured contributions from Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, and Pee Wee Ellis, and samples from Eddie Harris, Lou Donaldson, Duke Pearson and Milt Jackson.
Also of this period was Toronto-based Dream Warriors' 1991 release And Now the Legacy Begins (4th & B'way). It produced the hit singles "My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style" and "Wash Your Face in My Sink". The first of these was based around a loop taken from Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova", while the second sampled Count Basie's 1967 rendition of "Hang On Sloopy". Meanwhile, Los Angeles hip hop group Freestyle Fellowship pursued a different route of jazz influence in recordings with unusual time signatures and scat-influenced vocals.