Appreciating Classical Music Through Rap

by Sarah Friedland, Arts Writer

Having grown up with a classical music background, I doubted that my rapper boyfriend, Dylan, and I would ever find a common ground in the music world. So when Dylan told me that I should ask my sister to play one of his beats for him, I was surprised.

“She won’t do that,” I said. “She’s a classical percussionist.”

“Yeah, don’t you recognize the beat in the song I just wrote? That’s classical,” Dylan responded.

tchaikovsky (1)


I was skeptical at first but after searching “symphony orchestra” on YouTube and going to 10 minutes and 55 seconds into the first result, I heard it. Dylan had randomly discovered one of Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky’s most recognizable symphonies – Symphony No. 6 “Pathetique” – and fallen in love with it. I proceeded to show him one of my favorite symphonies, Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” hoping to inspire him to use more classical music in his raps. He actually had already heard it without realizing it though. Two of his favorite artists, Ludacris and Lil’ Trill, both sampled it in their own songs.

“Bow Down” by Dylan’s group, BIM, uses the melody from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 as the basis for the beat.



The conversation got me thinking. How often do rappers use classical music in their own songs? After just one night of searching, I found my answer – quite a lot. Eminem samples Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor,” Kelis takes a tune from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Nas uses Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” and Dylan is already working on his third classical music-based beat.

This combination of old and modern music styles shows the development of music over time. We always build on the past to create new genres. Older generations tend to look down on modern music yet much of it is derived from their favorite music. We can trace the influences of pop, rap, soul, rock, and classical music all the way back to the age of Gregorian Chants. No type of music could exist without the basis of its predecessors. Because of this, music truly has the power to unite people of all ages and cultures.

“Bow Down”: BIM

Tchaikovsky Symphony NO.6 : Seoul Phil Orchestra

Sources: 1, 2

Media Credits: 1, 2: Jake Ausel

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