Roy Ayers’ Tiny Desk Performance Shows Why He’s 1 Of Hip-Hop’s Biggest Influences (Video)
Vibraphonist Roy Ayers is a legend of Jazz, Funk, and Soul music that collectively has had a tremendous impact on Hip-Hop. A product of Los Angeles, California, Ayers would work with flutist (and another prominently-sampled artist) Herbie Mann by the mid-1960s, before going off on his won. In the ’70s, Ayers made a series of albums as his band, Roy Ayers Ubiquity, that continue to influence sound and style today.
While records like “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” and “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” were sampled (and outright covered) for their sound and soulful vocals, Ayers’ element of cool also inspired a lot of MCs and producers, across genre. Ayers’ spirit in his songs was that of a thoughtful, proud, and soulful artist with confidence and swagger. He played his vibes not unlike a DJ, which is why leaders in Hip-Hop, House, and Funk gravitate towards his records, especially during the Polydor years. Ayers also has a great voice. Guru asked him to work on Jazzmatazz. Pete Rock celebrated him on a mix. Erykah Badu recruited him for Mama’s Gun. Tyler, The Creator worked with Roy on Cherry Bomb, before sampling him on the Grammy-nominated Flower Boy.
At 77 years of age, Roy Ayers still oozes cool. He was a recent guest on NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series.
He plays “Searching” from 1976’s Vibrations LP, a 1983 Fela Kuti and AfroBeat-inspired cut, “Black Family,” and perhaps his most beloved song, the title track to ’76’s indelible Everybody Loves The Sunshine. He says it’s his favorite song, as he closes out the three-song concert with a smooth, modern take on a song referenced, covered, and sampled by Mary J. Blige, D’Angelo, Tupac, Common, and Brand Nubian, among countless others. The album was recorded at the same Electric Ladyland Studios were the Soulquarians formed.
Ayers’ band of Mark Adams (keyboards), Trevor Allen (bass), and Christopher De Carmine (drums) truly show out in this cooled-down showcase. Ayers’ vocal feels what he feels when he feels it, still in the sunshine behind the electric vibes at 77.
Notably, for Jazzmatazz Heads, Guru’s solo debut (featuring Roy Ayers) is celebrating its 25th anniversary. In honor, Universal Music Group has re-released the LP as part of its “Urban Legends” reissue series. A 3-LP set includes the original album, its instrumentals, seven additional B-sides, remixes, and rarities—plus a 12-page booklet.