Think back to the first time you heard the great Donald Byrd. For me, it was probably the song “Do it Fluid” with the Blackbyrds, the group formed here in D.C., that featured some Howard University students. There was a group that was formed during Byrd’s years as a professor of music at North Carolina Central University called NCCU. I played a song called “Supertrick” on the radio when I was still in high school in North Carolina, followed by Donald Byrd & the 125th St NYC Band and a song called “Love Has Come Around”. But in reality, I probably heard Byrd on his horn playing behind John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, or Herbie Hancock that my parents played when I was really young. Depending on your age, the first time you heard him may have been with the late rapper Guru on his 1993 CD Jazzmatazz Vol. 1.
Hip Hop Wired says Byrd’s influence on Hip-Hop is indelible. Name a legendary Hip-Hop producer, and he more than likely sampled a Donald Byrd record or at least made sure to have several in their library. Large Professor flipped Byrd’s “Think Twice” for Main Source’s hit “Looking At The Front Door” and so did Q-Tip/A Tribe Called Quest for “Footprints.” Take a trip to WhoSampled.com and you’ll see heavy rap productions names like Evil Dee, Pete Rock and the late J. Dilla that liberally swiped Byrd grooves.
People throw out the word Legendary too much, but if you look back at the music he helped make, made himself, inspired, or allowed to be sampled, Legendary is what Donald Byrd was.