Could you have ever envisioned rapper Nas and songwriter Jack White coming together to cover the Memphis Jug Band's song "On the Road Again" from 1928? The project American Epic, airing on PBS May 16th, explores the beginning of the American recording industry.
Engineer Nicholas Bergh constructed a vintage electronic recording rig of the likes of the 1920s to handle these recording sessions. Musicians featured in the series include Beck, Willie Nelson, the Alabama Shakes, Steve Martin, among others.
In the film Nas mentions:
"The Memphis Jug Band – it sounds like something today. These guys are talking about women carrying guns, protecting their honor, chasing down some woman who's done them dirty. This is not high-society black folks. This is the down-under, street, wild black folks that they're singing about. And it's the same as today – it's the same as rap music today… This music from Memphis: They were rapping about street life and gangsta life and hustling – just a dark side of the world. It just goes to show me that rapping is a natural, poetic thing. It's always been here. As long as there was English and black people, there was rap."
What do you think of the project?