Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Rare Groove"

The cover to Roy Ayers' 1971 LP "Ubiquity". pricegrabber.com

Definition: Unlike most genres, the phenomenon known as the "rare groove" movement is still defining itself; in fact, rare groove aficionados can't seem to agree on whether it's a genre unto itself or just an underground cult obsessed with obscure funk. Everyone agrees, however, that the music under this umbrella term is very funky, relatively unknown, and roughly from the period 1973 to 1983; most of the tracks come from jazz and funk music hotspots like New Orleans, New York, and Memphis.

Those who consider it a style of music insist that it's different from other genres in that it incorporates elements of jazz, Latin, and proto-disco. Others maintain that it's merely an American adjunct to the "Northern Soul" phenomenon, and that records in this category are notable only for their obscurity. Rare groove DJs sometimes muddy the issue still further by mixing in "deep funk" (hard and relatively obscure funk grooves), "deep soul" (what is often called "Southern Soul"), "soul-jazz" instrumentals, and "jazz fusion" (or jazz which fuses itself with other, disparate elements).

This discrepancy is largely due to the genre's origins, namely, the crates of thousands of DJs across America and Europe. The rise of hip-hop, at first just an outgrowth of disco and electro-funk, sent pioneering DJs back to rare records stores to find grooves that others hadn't sampled yet. As a result, a vast number of jazz, funk, and disco crossover albums released in the Seventies became the object of cult fandom.

Today, rare groove exists more as a revered retro style than a force in modern music, but its popularity has helped boost the neo-soul and dap-funk trends that have come into play over the past few years. It also has proven to be an equally large influence on electronica, particularly drum and bass, breakbeat, and jungle tracks.

Also Known As: Deep Funk, Deep Soul


  1. Roy Ayers, "Everybody Loves The Sunshine"
  2. Kool and the Gang, "Music Is The Message"
  3. Chocolate Milk, "Time Machine"
  4. Crown Heights Affair, "The Rock Is Hot"
  5. Jimmy McGriff, "The Worm"
  6. Trouble Funk, "Pump Me Up"
  7. Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, "Bustin' Loose"
  8. The Fatback Band, "Put Your Love (In My Tender Care)"
  9. Mandrill, "Children Of The Sun"
  10. Rare Essence, "Holy Ghost"
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Your Citation
Fontenot, Robert. "Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Rare Groove"." ThoughtCo, Apr. 19, 2016, thoughtco.com/oldies-music-encyclopedia-rare-groove-2522014. Fontenot, Robert. (2016, April 19). Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Rare Groove". Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/oldies-music-encyclopedia-rare-groove-2522014 Fontenot, Robert. "Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Rare Groove"." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/oldies-music-encyclopedia-rare-groove-2522014 (accessed November 19, 2017).