Rare groove is defined as very hard to source or relatively obscure soul or jazz music. Rare groove is primarily associated with funk, jazz and pop, but is also connected to sub-genres including jazz fusion, Latin jazz, soul, R&B, northern soul, and disco. Vinyl records that fall into this category generally have high re-sale prices. Rare groove records have been sought after by not only collectors and lovers of this type of music, but also by hip hop artists and producers. Online music retailers sell a wide selection of rare groove at more affordable prices, offering fast downloads in digital format. This availability and ease of access has brought about a resurgence of the genre in recent years
The term was coined by British DJ Norman Jay after his "The Original Rare Groove Show" on pirate radio station Kiss 94 FM (the progenitor of Kiss 100 London). The show was a collaboration with DJ Judge Jules and featured a mainly urban soundtrack from the 70s and 80s mixed with early house music.
The rare groove scene began when DJs presented an eclectic mix of music that placed a particular emphasis on politically articulate dance-funk recordings connected to the Black Power movement. Pirate radio stations and DJs participated in a "recovery, repackaging and retrieval" of obscure music that reflected, related to or translated inequalities of race and gender and the struggles of the civil rights movement. Music that had failed to have gained acceptance in a previous time was given a "new lease of life" by DJs on pirate radio stations. Rare groove also provided a musical space where the 'symbolic capital' of the music became very important.
The longest-running rare groove radio show in the United States is "Soul Power" on WWOZ 90.7 FM (New Orleans) and wwoz.org, and is hosted by DJ Soul Sister who is cited as the "queen of rare groove." The show began in 1996.
Rare groove was written about by former LWR pirate DJ and NME writer Paul Wellings in his book 'I'm A Journalist...Get Me Out Of Here' (Progressive Press)