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Les McCann At The Ivanhoe

Source: Paul Natkin / Getty / Les McCann

The music world lost a giant before 2023 came to a close with the passing of soulful Jazz great Les McCann.

The Hollywood Reporter shared the sad news that Les McCann passed away at 88 in the Los Angeles area. McCann’s music is no stranger to the Hip-Hop community, as some of his songs were used as samples of the late Notorious B.I.G., legendary producer/rapper Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep, and more.

Per The Hollywood Reporter:

The musician, who released more than 60 albums over the course of his career, had been admitted to a hospital from the nursing care facility he’d lived in for the past four years and was diagnosed with pneumonia, his manager Alan Abrahams told The Hollywood Reporter.

In a prolific career, he was arguably best known for his 1969 Montreaux Jazz Festival performance of the protest song “Compared to What.”

Hip-Hop Songs That Sampled McCann’s Work

For those who don’t fancy the credits for their favorite albums, McCann’s song “Go On and Cry” was sampled in the original version of “The Next Episode,” which was supposed to be featured on Snoop Dogg’s classic album Doggystyle before it landed on Dr. Dre’s 2001.

Biggie’s “Ten Crack Commandments” off his double-disc Life After Death is heavily sampled from McCann’s “Vallarta.”

Mobb Deep went into the McCann duffy when they used his song “Benjamin” to craft their track “Right Back At You” off their a1995 album The Infamous.

Other artists who sampled McCann include stoner hip-hop pioneer Massive Attack, Cypress Hill, Slick Rick, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, and Naughty By Nature.

McCann was born in 1935 in Lexington, Kentucky, and was a self-taught pianist before picking up the sousaphone in high school and serving in the U.S. Navy at 17.

In a 2017 interview with the Oxford American, McCann said he wanted to “go to the Navy School of Music,” only to learn they did not have the sousaphone to play.

He would go on to win a talent contest in the Navy that landed him an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. After being discharged, he formed a band in Los Angeles, landing his first contract with Pacific Jazz in 1960 after Miles Davis heard him play in a nightclub.

McCann also signed with Atlantic Records after Roberta Flack discovered him.

After suffering a stroke in the 90s while on stage in Germany, he used a wheelchair, but that didn’t keep him from performing.

McCann’s life is the true definition of a life well lived.

May he rest in paradise.

Photo: Paul Natkin / Getty

Jazz Legend Les McCann Sampled By Mobb Deep, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G. & More Passes Away At 88  was originally published on