So what happens when three best friends from Atlanta — each packing their own estimable music credits — come together to pool their talents? A new genre tagged “trap jazz.”
Trap Jazz is also the title of an insightful docu-film chronicling the origins of this creative undertaking by musicians Chris Moten, Devon “Stixx” Taylor and Cassius Jay, whose collective credits outside of that realm include working with marquee talents such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Questlove, Machine Gun Kelly, Future, Migos and Post Malone. Directed by Sadé Clacken Joseph and presented by Black multimedia platform Andscape and HULU, Trap Jazz premiered Aug. 23 on the streaming service.
Internationally, Trap Jazz will premiere on Star+ in Latin America on Oct. 6 and Disney+ in all other territories on Oct . 27. Beyond the film’s soundtrack, the trio is also working on another trap jazz album with their bass player Raschad Marshall.
As much as the docu-film is about trap jazz and its genre parents (“This is the next sh–” says veteran producer Jazze Pha at one point), its spotlight also shifts to other areas — like the spiritual connection between Moten, Taylor and Jay, the personal challenges they’ve experienced, how Atlanta’s stance as a music mecca helped shape their careers and, above all, why creative freedom is crucial.
How did the notion of trap jazz first come to mind?
Moten: It’s something that I started in 2015. I’d been playing with a lot of celebrity artists, traveling and working as their music director. Then I decided that it was finally time for me to do something of my own. Something that would be very catchy; that people wouldn’t have to work hard to understand what it was. After that, I knew I needed some help. So I called Cassius and kept bugging him every day until he gave me exactly what we needed: a book of songs with some beats and I put my little 2% on there. Then we called Devon and became a group of like minds. Quincy [Jones] got a chance to hear it, and that was dope.
What do you want people to realize after listening to trap jazz?
Taylor: Jazz music is a way to express anything that you’re going through emotionally. You just sit down and play whatever you want. A lot of kids right now think jazz is lame. But what we’re trying to do is bridge the gap to where they hear these beats, these cool beats. And then they can hear the melodic jazz lines, which are also cool. I don’t think jazz is ever going to die. Because if you really think about it, jazz riffs and chords are in R&B, hip-hop and gospel. It just depends on how you play it. You’re never going to get away from jazz. I don’t care what anybody says.
Moten: As long as we continue to let the kids hear the street sound, the R&B sound, the sounds being heard most today, and sprinkle in jazz, then it will never die. In that sense, if you really talk to some of these kids, they’re actually looking for something different than what they’ve been forced to listen to. So we’re never going to lose jazz because it’s going to continue to evolve. It may be called different things. But it’s still going to be a form of jazz. I like to call jazz structured chaos because it doesn’t have a destination. Jazz is so much about expression and improv that I think old school jazz players would say today, “Don’t try to micromanage the music. Let it breathe and be a complete expression.”
Jay: People have been accepting this music with open arms. Every day that you wake up, you’re creating your path, your destination. So that’s the way we process this music. Jazz is improvised. You’re creating your own runs, riffs, patterns, substitutions and chords. That’s how we create. There’s no format, no pattern. You can’t tell me this is what we’re about to create today in the studio because I’m going to create whatever the f**k I feel like creating because it’s ours. We’re three different personalities. You’re going to get jazz from Chris; the straight-head drums, banging and trap from Devon and straight ghetto from me [laughs]. That’s the whole creative vibe. That’s what you get when you get us. No structure; no right or wrong.
And what one life lesson do you want viewers to take away from the docu-film?”
Jay: Creative freedom. I want people to just fly when they hear trap music. And when they think about creating something, they can say, “I can do what I want to do. I can go where I want to go. There’s no limit.”
Taylor: God gave us creative freedom to do what we want to do. We also want the younger generation to take away that you don’t have to be out here gang banging or selling drugs. Many people think music and musicians are lame. You can still be cool doing music.
Moten: No matter what we go through in the Black community, there are a lot of complications, trials and tests that keep us from reaching our potential. No matter what you’ve gone through, you can still come out on top, accomplishing every goal that you’ve set. All it takes is to just stand up, believe and keep doing it [pushing forward] every day.