Lift Your Fist
Label: Capitol Records
Hip-hop cats had been flirting with jazz loops since Marley Marl accidentally invented the hip-hop sample, but Gangstarr emcee Guru was the first to recruit jazz legends such as Branford Marsalis, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers to play live over his raps. Though Guru is a formidable emcee -- with a terse, monosyllabic delivery and a thirst for "real" hip hop -- most tracks are atmospheric. Listen to "No Time to Play," where guitarist Ronny Jordan noodles through the wide spaces in the song's beats. Or check the relaxed melancholy of Donald Byrd's trumpet exclamations on the sublime "Loungin'."