June 27, 2013

Matthew Schonfeld is a classically trained theremin-rap master.

Chicago’s Save Money crew is way more than just Chance The Rapper. The collective encompasses the sweeping diversity of Chicago’s arts culture. There are rappers, singers, painters, videographers, producers, and jazz musicians. Nico Segal fits somewhere in between — originally sitting as trumpet player for the defunct Kids These Days, but more recently releasing his own jazz-rap fusion under the Donnie Trumpet alias.

In March 2012 Segal released his debut project, illasoul: Shades Of Blue, flaunting his horn skills and lyricism. Aided by Vic Mensa and Macie Stewart of KTD, Segal used a foundation of old Dilla and Doom beats for swift, mellow poetics. Between the levitative horn solos, accentual piano work, swinging hip-hop drums, and spoken word-like rhymes, you could tell that he had synthesized every volume of Guru’s Jazzmatazz.

Segal recently released his second project as Donnie Trumpet with an appearance from Chance the Rapper and several from Vic Mensa. Last week he dropped the first single, “Zion,” which re-imagines Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion.” Using his horn in lieu of words, Segal creates a platform for Chance to pay elegiac to his mother. Mensa follows with intricate, laid-back wordplay.

The third verse is all Segal and his trumpet: dulcet wavy notes that float until the end of the song. Segal’s reaching at deep jazz influences from figures like Miles Davis, across the hip-hop tradition to J Dilla, Madlib, and Flying Lotus. It’s testament to the flourishing musicality and vibrant ideas of the Save Money Crew.Their sound is multi-dimensional and evidence of the staying power of live jazz instrumentation in hip-hop music. Not only does Donnie Trumpet invoke Chicago’s jazz legacy, it works to progress it. It’s more evidence that you should be keeping tabs on more than just the Acid Rapper.

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