Hip-hop has flourished for nearly 30 years, yet many music snobs continue to discredit the genre, pointing to its use of samples and reliance on machines as a lack of true musicianship. While the validity of those points is endlessly debated, there's plenty of rap groups that do use live instrumentation; Cincinnati's ISWHAT?! has been doing so since 1997. However, vocalist Napoleon Maddox doesn't see a big contrast between man and machine. "It's all about the feelings you get when you hear it," he explains. "It could be lips, sticks, and stones -- or sampled, chopped-up street traffic -- but if it moves you, it moves you."
Besides Maddox and saxophonist- flutist Jack Walker, the group is aided by a revolving cast of musicians, including jazz drummer and Herbie Hancock collaborator Hamid Drake who'll be touring with them in support of their latest disc, The Life We Chose. "I think jazz has had an influence on everyone living, period -- let alone hip-hop artists," says Maddox, discussing the album's unique blend of the two styles. Then again, Maddox doesn't care about swaying the naysayers. "We don't set out to rescue hip-hop. We just want to touch people."