Hip-Hop + Symphony = A Sonic Masterpiece

Hip-Hop + Symphony = A Sonic Masterpiece

Legendary rapper Common returns to the Houston Symphony July 29 & 30 for a celebration of hip-hop! Before you join us at the Hobby Center, hear from Common’s Grammy award-winning arranger and producer, Derrick Hodge, on composing hip-hop music for symphony orchestra.

Houston Symphony: What is your creative process for fusing hip-hop and orchestral music together?

Derrick Hodge: I approach each song with a fresh perspective, without thinking too much about the fusing aspect of musical styles. With that in mind, I tend to spend a lot of time listening to the original song, over and over, really diving into the storytelling element of the lyrics and focusing on the original melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic elements.

Once internalizing what I feel the true spirit of the song is, I begin to paint from there! Writing for symphony is a lot of fun in that way because there are so many ways to build a sonic story, from a singular instrument or voice, or within orchestral sections and families of instruments. It becomes a dance of decision making. Exploring this within the context of hip-hop, which is an art form so dear to me, is a blessing.

HS: How does your multi-genre musical background influence your arrangements/compositions?

DH: My Mother was my biggest influence. She encouraged me to always listen to as much music as possible and be willing to explore it. I believe that has influenced my creative career tremendously. I try to stay curious and honest to how the music is speaking to me. That curiosity tends to innately demand respect for different genres of music, which has influenced how I try to not abandon the history of different genres that make each sound unique. My hope is that a level of respect for the art form is felt in any music that I have the honor of arranging/composing.

HS: You've collaborated with numerous artists, what makes your collaboration with Common stand out?

DH: Common is not only my brother, but he is also part of the soundtrack of my musical life. His albums made me dream, his lyrics empowered me to walk in my true light, and he personally was one of the first artists who trusted my creative voice as a producer/writer. It is a joy being on this creative journey with an amazing HUMAN like Common. Hopefully the music created reflects that respect I have for him!

HS: What do you hope the audience takes away from the performance?

DH: Our story is beautiful. Hip-hop is multi-faceted and can work within so many sonic frameworks. I look forward to the audience embracing this fusion of hip-hop and Symphony in a fresh way that doesn’t feel forced, but rather compliments both genres in a way that genuinely speaks to each person in attendance while also uplifting the culture. And… have FUN!

Hear hip-hop and orchestral music creatively fuse when Common performs with the Houston Symphony July 29 & 30. Reserve your seat at houstonsymphony.org.

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