Adrian Younge and A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their new ensemble to Strongwater
In 2014, producers Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad worked together on an album by renowned hip-hop group Souls of Mischief, There is Only Now. In the process, the pair realized they had a creative chemistry.
“We just worked together so well,” Younge said recently by phone. “We have 100 percent trust towards each other and each of our ideas, so it changes the way that we proceed.”
That collaboration continued when the two teamed up to work on the score for Netflix series “Marvel’s Luke Cage,” and last year Younge and Muhammad, who’s best known for his role in A Tribe Called Quest, released the self-titled debut of the pair’s new project, the Midnight Hour.
“The Midnight Hour is Ali and I creating what we like to deem a real sophisticated form of hip-hop,” Younge said. “Hip-hop samples old records to make new music, right? But when you go into the old records to understand what they were doing, and you make that kind of music today, you're continuing a really good conversation that was started decades ago. And that's what we're doing. We're continuing a conversation that started with our jazz elders, and we're creating new music for people that still love that old music.”For sophisticated news and elegant entertainment in your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter
With a full ensemble that includes a jazz rhythm section and orchestral players (Younge plays keys and Muhammad is on bass), the Midnight Hour takes inspiration from Herbie Hancock, David Axelrod and Michael Jackson. “It's just understanding what an orchestra does and bringing it in so it can add what I like to refer to as sunlight — just making it more beautiful and more sophisticated,” Younge said.
To fill out the group, Younge and Muhammad drew from a deep well of Los Angeles musicians, including vocalist Loren Oden and guitarist Jack Waterson, but singer Angela Munoz found her way into the group via an unlikely route. “She reached out to me on Instagram,” Younge said. “I get reached out to on Instagram so many times, but there was something about her reaching out. It was different. And when I heard her voice, I was just tripping. I couldn't believe it. And then she just happened to live like a mile and a half from me. So meeting her and seeing her creative spirit and how much she reminds me of myself around her age, it just made sense for us to work together.”
Younge will release Munoz’s new album on his Linear Labs label at the top of the year, along with a record from Oden and a new one from the Midnight Hour. Younge and Muhammad also worked together on the score for “Run This Town,” a film about former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s final year in office.
First and foremost, though, the Midnight Hour is a live band, and the ensemble will make its Columbus debut at Strongwater on Thursday, Oct. 3. For a preview of the group's elegant, jazzy hip-hop, check out a performance from NPR’s Tiny Desk series below.