The innovative My Definition was written by Louie Robinson (King Lou) and Richard Rodwell and recorded in 1991 by hip-hop duo Dream Warriors, consisting of Frank Allert (Capital Q) and King Lou. Both Allert and Robinson were born in the Caribbean, and Rodwell was born to Jamaican immigrant parents; the three brought the sensibilities of Jamaican and Trinidadian music to the Canadian hip-hop movement.
In My Definition, the three wittingly combined the flavours of hip-hop and American jazz – featuring samples from Quincy Jones’s 1962 instrumental flute-and-horn hit Soul Bossa Nova – to create a cool, magical jazz-rap fusion. The recording cleverly juxtaposes the old and the new, setting a modern rap against 1960s jazz-pop instrumentation and the twist dance fad. Yet it’s clearly a true rap, with its repetition, sample spinning, wordplay, and chanted rhyming lyrics.
Jazz sampling had long been part of the hip-hop scene in New York City, but My Definition was a first in Canada. The nascent Toronto rap scene, geographically and socially separated from their American counterparts, had struggled for recognition until the emergence of the Dream Warriors.
As Rodwell told a Toronto radio station, “The Dream Warriors were really the first ones to go international…. It was definitely the first of its kind. Everything was hardcore rap back then, and we were coming from a different perspective.” They forged a new kind of rap, eschewing violence, swearing and misogyny, and listeners loved the new sounds.
It proved to be a natural pairing. The sampled Brazilian bossa nova was exotically new and popular in North America in 1962, as was rap in the early 1990s. The Dream Warriors, upon first hearing the Quincy Jones number, asked themselves, Why not combine the two? The result, as the lyric tells us: “Once again with a new blend.”
And the term “boombastic” is itself a fairly new word, originating in Jamaican rap and meaning fantastic, extremely attractive, and reflecting light-heartedness and excitement. It’s perfectly suited to sampling of Jones’s Soul Bossa Nova; it’s boombastic.
My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style was included on the 1991 Dream Warriors’ debut album “And Now The Legacy Begins.” The single went gold in Canada, reached No. 13 in the U.K., and was also popular in Europe, Japan and the United States. Although it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100, it did become popular with local and university radio stations, reaching No. 15 in Vancouver. The album charted to No. 34 in Canada and No. 18 in the U.K. The single proved so popular in the U.K. that Dream Warriors performed it live on Britain’s “Top of the Pops” TV show.
At home in Canada, My Definition won the 1992 JUNO Award for rap recording of the year -- only the second year this award was offered.
As to the “Definition” in the title, there is a further Canadiana element: The Quincy Jones instrumental had gained cult status in Canada as the theme to the TV game show “Definition,” which aired in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s. King Lou makes reference to the show in the title and lyrics, telling us “Define if you will but I know so / There is no definition.”
Robinson says he is proud that Dream Warriors contributed to Canadian hip-hop by following their own unique path. As he told the “Toronto Star”, “I get people all the time that… give feedback back to me and say, “Listen man, I’m just so glad that you did your thing your way.”
The Dream Warriors performed My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style at the JUNO Awards 2023 edition, showcasing 50 years of hip-hop in Canada.
Toronto composer and producer Richard Rodwell was born in England of Jamaican parents, and raised in Pickering, Ontario. A successful composer of music for television, he is best known for the theme music for television’s “Cash Cab”.
The Canadian rap/hip-hop artist Louie Robinson (King Lou) of Dream Warriors was born in Jamaica. Now a writer and publisher, his charity work includes performances in prisons.
The celebrated American songwriter, composer and music producer Quincy Jones has won multiple Grammy awards and is an inductee to the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.