Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew”: Analysis of Covers and Samples

Ronnie Foster‘s seminal 1972 track “Mystic Brew,” released on his groundbreaking album Two-Headed Freap, cemented its place as one of the most enduring and influential grooves in the annals of jazz-funk. Its soulful Hammond B3 organ melody, infectious rhythm, and unforgettable bassline have made it a timeless classic.

Foster’s masterful keyboard work shines throughout the track, with bluesy organ lines evoking a sense of warmth and a yearning nostalgia. His playing is punctuated by occasional bursts of dissonance, hinting at a deeper adventurousness within the composition. The rhythm section lays down a hypnotic groove, locking in an irresistible forward momentum.

But “Mystic Brew” surpasses the mere limitations of a great funk jam; it’s an atmospheric journey. The track’s spacious production and psychedelic flourishes create a contemplative and mysterious mood. It’s a testament to Foster’s versatility that the piece feels both laid-back and intensely propulsive – a true testament to its staying power.

Since its release, “Mystic Brew” has become fertile ground for creative reinterpretation. Iconic hip-hop acts like A Tribe Called Quest to renowned jazz artists like the Vijay Iyer Trio, and countless others have used Foster’s masterpiece as a foundation to build upon. This article will delve into the ways “Mystic Brew” has been sampled, covered, and transformed through the years, highlighting the enduring legacy of Ronnie Foster’s influential work.

Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew”, The Two-Headed Freap (1972)

Ronnie Foster‘s 1972 track “Mystic Brew,” found on his seminal album The Two Headed Freap, established the foundation for one of the most enduring and influential grooves in jazz-funk history. This visionary composition blends a soulful Hammond B3 organ melody, a slinky, infectious rhythm, and an unforgettably catchy bassline.

Foster’s keyboard work is central to the track’s appeal. His bluesy organ lines create a sense of warmth and nostalgia, while occasional bursts of dissonance hint at the adventurous experimentation to come. The rhythm section lays down a deep pocket, its hypnotic groove locking in the song’s forward momentum.

“Mystic Brew” isn’t simply a great funk jam; it’s an atmospheric journey. The track’s spacious production and psychedelic flourishes lend it a contemplative and mysterious mood. It’s a testament to Foster’s versatility that the piece can feel simultaneously laid-back and intensely propulsive.

A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation”, Midnight Marauders (1993)

A Tribe Called Quest cemented “Mystic Brew” in cultural consciousness with their classic 1993 track “Electric Relaxation”. With Q-Tip‘s laid-back, conversational rapping and Phife Dawg‘s playful energy, the song is a masterclass in smooth, jazz-infused hip-hop.

Cleverly looping a sample of Foster’s organ and bassline, the track transforms the original’s soulful groove into something simultaneously vintage and fresh. The new rhythmic context, combined with Q-Tip’s iconic lyrics, redefines “Mystic Brew” as the epitome of cool.

What’s remarkable is how A Tribe Called Quest maintain the original’s evocative atmosphere. “Electric Relaxation” isn’t just about a catchy groove; it encapsulates a mood of relaxation and understated sensuality. In this context, Foster’s composition becomes a sonic backdrop for a timeless hip-hop anthem.

Madlib’s “Mystic Bounce”, Shades of Blue (2003)

Madlib, the enigmatic producer known for his off-kilter beats and deep crate-digging knowledge, offered a unique take on “Mystic Brew” with “Mystic Bounce” on his 2003 project Shades of Blue. Madlib’s interpretation strips the track back to its essential rhythmic pulse. He utilizes the opening drum break, stretches and distorts Foster’s bassline, and adds a chopped-up vocal sample.

The result is a deconstructed homage to the original. “Mystic Bounce” retains the groove’s inherent funk, but with a rougher, more lo-fi texture. Madlib’s production technique injects a sense of playful chaos, highlighting a less polished side of Foster’s composition. Instead of the smooth flow of A Tribe Called Quest’s version, Madlib emphasizes the raw energy of the core elements.

Madlib’s approach showcases his admiration for the source material while simultaneously asserting his own distinct sonic identity. “Mystic Bounce” demonstrates how deeply a producer can engage with a sample, transforming it into a springboard for new creative explorations.

Vijay Iyer Trio’s “Mystic Brew”, Historicity (2009)

The Vijay Iyer Trio reimagines “Mystic Brew” with adventurous creativity on their 2009 album Historicity. Iyer, pianist extraordinaire, pushes the composition into the realm of contemporary jazz with intricate reharmonizations and driving rhythmic interplay.

The trio maintains the original’s core groove as a point of reference, but immediately subverts expectations. Iyer’s piano refracts the familiar melody through dissonant harmonies and complex phrasing. Bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore provide an ever-shifting rhythmic framework, at times mirroring the original’s funk pulse, at others exploding into free-form explorations.

The Vijay Iyer Trio’s performance is an act of simultaneous homage and deconstruction. They honor the soul of “Mystic Brew” while dismantling and rearranging its elements with a daring and intellectualized approach. The result is a version that feels both familiar and startlingly fresh, showcasing the trio’s commitment to innovation and the enduring malleability of Ronnie Foster’s foundation.

BADBADNOTGOOD’s “Electric Relaxation”, YouTube Video (2011)

BADBADNOTGOOD brought a youthful energy and instrumental virtuosity to their 2011 YouTube cover of A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Electric Relaxation”. With a DIY aesthetic, their video showcased their raw talent and reverence for hip-hop-infused jazz.

While other artists had explored “Mystic Brew”, BADBADNOTGOOD put their own spin on the sample. They stay faithful to the iconic bassline but add a modern sensibility with their drum patterns and improvisatory flourishes. Their arrangement strikes a balance between honoring the original’s vibe and injecting their unique personality.

The success of their YouTube video catapulted BADBADNOTGOOD into wider recognition. It bridged the gap between internet culture and established jazz traditions, attracting fans of hip-hop, jazz, and beyond. Their youthful, unpolished take on a classic helped redefine perceptions of contemporary jazz for a new generation of listeners.

Mark de Clive​-​Lowe’s “Mystic Brew”, CHURCH Sessions (2019)

Colectivo Arte & Manha brought a collaborative energy to their rendition of Ronnie Foster‘s “Mystic Brew” in their performance featuring Mark de Clive-Lowe, Ricardo Pino, Antonio Bruheim, Eduardo Lála, and Joao Leandro during the CHURCH Sessions in 2019. This ensemble fused their diverse musical backgrounds to create a version of “Mystic Brew” that blends traditional jazz elements with the distinctive influences of each musician, emphasizing a rich, integrative sound palette.

Mark de Clive-Lowe’s signature electronic and jazz fusion prowess serves as the backbone, while Ricardo Pino on guitar, Antonio Bruheim on bass, Eduardo Lála on trombone, and Joao Leandro on drums contribute layers of rhythmic and melodic complexity. Together, they maintain the core groove of the original piece but infuse it with unique improvisational segments and a contemporary edge that redefines the classic.

This performance captures the essence of live jazz fusion, showcasing how each musician’s contribution can dynamically shift and elevate a well-known composition. The collective’s adept use of live looping, real-time sampling, and spontaneous interaction not only pays tribute to Foster’s original composition but also showcases their collective ability to innovate and adapt jazz for a modern audience.


The enduring appeal of Ronnie Foster‘s “Mystic Brew” lies in its remarkable adaptability. From the smooth swagger of A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Electric Relaxation” to the intellectual deconstruction of the Vijay Iyer Trio‘s take, the track serves as a testament to the power of a strong musical foundation. Whether it’s Madlib‘s lo-fi reimagining, BADBADNOTGOOD‘s youthful reinvention, or the collaborative energy of the CHURCH sessions, each artist finds a unique way to engage with the core elements of Foster’s composition.

What becomes clear through these diverse interpretations is that “Mystic Brew” isn’t simply a piece of music – it’s a catalyst. It sparks creativity, invites experimentation, and bridges genres with effortless grace. The track’s legacy isn’t merely about its catchy groove or soulful atmosphere; it’s about the infinite possibilities that emerge when a brilliant composition meets the imagination of talented musicians.

As long as artists continue to find inspiration in its rhythms, melodies, and evocative mood, Ronnie Foster’s “Mystic Brew” will remain a timeless source of musical exploration, keeping its groove alive for generations to come.

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