A few years ago, Sweden suddenly had the most innovative music scene in Europe with groups like The Knife, Little Dragon, and Jose Gonzalez to name just a few acclaimed on the international scene. Movits! joined this tier, but with even better sales internationally, by combining hip-hop and old-time jazz in a new direction—or at least it was new when they got started about a decade ago.
After all, jazz and hip-hop have been joined at the hips since the beginning of hip-hop and in the UK with the Acid Jazz scene since the mid-90s, but hip-hoppers had never fully reached out to Swing, the golden age of jazz (the 1930s through 1950s), when swing dancing was the rage in America and Europe.
And so, it took Movits!, a trio from Lulea, in northern Sweden to finally bridge these worlds. Movits! debut album in 2008 “Appelkynckarjazz” which translates in English as “Stealing apples jazz-style” combined the high-energy acoustic swing jazz of Django Reinhardt with the power of swing orchestras (thanks to modern electronics). Actually, it was only after hearing the Benny Goodman classic “Sing Sing Sing” at a party, that the brothers Anders & Johan got the idea to merge swing and hip-hop.
Movits! is at its core a trio with brothers Johan Jivin’ Rensfeldt (vocals), Anders Rensfeldt (keyboards and DJ-producer), and tenor saxophonist Joakim ‘One-Take’ Nilsson, and for the upcoming concert at Lucerna Music Bar they’ll have a new sound too–it’s no more “hip-hop swing” for these boys.
From hip-hop, their influences are still Old School from Mos Def, Outcast, the Roots, and Gang Starr, but their new sound is a harder electronic beats meets Bollywood and Swedish rap. Their older playful and even poetic deliveries (and all still in Swedish, by the way) seems to be a sound of their past.
T-shirts and jeans have also replaced their original attire, which was a mix of swing-era suits and rappers street gear–matching suits (black or white), bow-ties, and tuxedo tails, like Swing-era jazz dancers, but with matching ankle-high sneakers. Another earlier influence of theirs, the Rat Pack, popular lounge-singers of the ’50s and ’60s, led by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. is also gone.
Back to a decade ago, Movits! unique and tongue-in-cheek rap did not go unnoticed across Europe, but also in the U.S., where their album was released on the label Comedy Central Records.
Their appearance on the satirical news-show the Colbert Report in 2009, where they conversed with the host in near-perfect English, also catapulted their sales, and in 2011, MTV tracked their cross-country tour of the US and Canada to humorous effect. Meanwhile, they have since grown up in a serious way.