Ahead of playing the HeadsUp series as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival tonight, we caught up with Kassa Overall to find out about five tracks that have influenced his sound.

Renowned for his musical versatility and innovation, the New York-based rapper, producer and drummer released his debut album Go Get Ice Cream and Listen To Jazz earlier this year to great acclaim. Across the record, he showcases his prowess as an inimitable jazz drummer, electronic producer, and powerful wordsmith, fusing contemporary hip-hop and soulful jazz with a seemingly effortless and earnest ingenuity. Tonight he brings his sublime, cascading sounds to the Pizza Express Jazz Club.

From Snoop Dogg to John Coltrane, get to know Kassa Overall In Five…

Wise One by John Coltrane Quartet
I originally heard Wise One performed by Elvin Jones, the drummer on the recording, live in Seattle when I was a kid.  The energy was so powerful in the room that it changed my relationship to music.  Years later, after attending a Vipassana meditation retreat I listened to this song.  Halfway through the song I started crying like a baby.  For months after every time I heard the song it brought me to tears.
Love Theme From Sparticus by Yusef Lateef
This is a song that once you listen to it a few times, you probably will listen to it for the rest of your life.  It taught me that a “pop” song can sound many ways.  The requirement of a pop song is to grab people and never let go.  It’s my goal to makes songs that have depth and also grab lots of people.
Burnin’ and Lootin’ by Bob Marley and The Wailers
The special parts in this song are true in most Bob Marley songs.  Meticulous production that uses live instruments in the warmest and most relaxed way.  As well as uncut wisdom.  This song is particularly special because of what I went through dealing with mental illness.  I spent 10 days locked up in a mental health facility and this song felt like it was telling my story and dealing with my pain.
Aquemini by Outkast
On a production level, I could have picked any song from this album.  The use of live instruments feels like poetry, but it still hits hard! It’s hip hop… No, it’s rap!  But I also feel like the raps shows a perfect example of what Nick Payton calls the “African Rhythmic DNA”.  The raps use the same approach of the lead djembe player in a West African drum orchestra.  It also relates to some of the greatest soloists from bebop.  Lastly, the message is uncanny.

What’s My Name (Who Am I) – Snoop Dogg

In 5th grade, I thought that Snoop’s album Doggystyle was the bible.  A lot of the messages in there I don’t agree with to this day, but it shows that raw youthful energy that never gets old.  My dad always told me that art was an expression of realities that people live and it all has value.  That lesson has brought me a long way.  This also has some of the best production rap has ever seen. Shouts to Dr. Dre.
Kassa Overall plays Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho tonight, tickets here.