From beat-boxing to Grand Wizzard Theodore developing scratching, it became clear early on that Hip-Hop music was being created by unconventional means. With Hip-Hop continually reinventing sounds from samples and various DJ techniques, it was inevitable that production would evolve to the point where beats could be made by incorporating entirely non-musical elements.
Rap is a form of poetry and so the beat is there to accentuate the words. But, in some cases, a dope instrumental can hold its own even underneath the most spectacular sixteen. This is a list that AllHipHop.com put together in order to give props to some soundscapes that not only are fantastic, but also were created using things that wouldn’t immediately be found in a band room or on a drum machine.
These are 10 of the best beats to use non-musical elements. Now, in the words of Grand Wizzard Theodore, “Say turn it up.”
10). “Knock Yourself Out”
Producers: The Neptunes
Artists: Jadakiss feat. Pharrell
The “oohs” and “aahs” of females are often reserved for sex skits in rap. However, The Neptunes challenged the status quo by incorporating those right into a beat. And while some Hip-Hop songs are over the top with sexual content and others are trying too hard to show off. This one combines those two things successfully. “You can get real freaky start poppin’ yourself / And my watch got so many rocks, when you look at the time / It’s sorta like you watchin yourself, uhh / Front if you want, I puff a few blunts / And take a cruise in a Porsche wit the trunk in the front.”
9). “Nas is Like”
Producer: DJ Premier
Sampling is interesting, and not just as a way to see how something is reinvented. It’s fascinating just to see what is sampled sometimes too. While certain R&B and funk breaks and loops have been sampled over and over, Premo did a complete 180 for that here. He not only sampled a country and rock songwriter (Don Robertson), but just used chirping bird noises from one of his recordings to loop into another instrumental. The end result was a classic Nas and DJ Premier collaboration.
Producer: Dr. Dre
Artist: 50 Cent
50’s hustling past and story about being shot have been told time and time again, and while “Many Men (Wish Death)” off Get Rich or Die Tryin’ discusses the issue thematically, musically, it is addressed very creatively with “Heat.” Using gun shots as snares, the track is straight up hardcore Hip-Hop. Combine all that with the song’s tough lyrics and ad-libs, it is proof that 50 Cent is the real deal. What up gangsta?
Producer: The 45 King
Artists: Eminem feat. Dido
Not only is this record about a deranged fan a brilliant piece of work from a songwriting standpoint, it is extraordinary in terms of production as well. In addition to the Dido sample, the way that instrumental incorporates the sound of writing as Stan and Em pen letters is amazing. But such genius shouldn’t be too surprising from The 45 King since he was the one who also came out of left field and sampled Annie for Jay’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” two years earlier.
6). “Come Clean”
Producer: DJ Premier
Artist: Jeru the Damaja
Not unlike “Nas is Like” above, this classic East Coast cut also finds DJ Premier, one of rap’s best producers ever, sampling obscurity and turning it into something outstanding. With a bass line that sounds like dripping water (via a Shelley Mane sample), “Come Clean” is an instrumental that is both simple and sophisticated. It is one of Premo’s most memorable tracks, but Jeru holds his own too with raw delivery.
5). “Front 2 Back”
While it was Xzibit’s follow-up single “X” that received the majority of attention in the promotion of Restless, the beat alone from this first one still makes it one of the highlights from X’s third album. Atop a Rockwilder instrumental, Mr. X to the Z kicks stellar rhymes as usual. But considering the beat is constructed around the sound of hydraulics, it displays X’s creativity with cars even before he was helping people pimp their rides.
4). “Thug Luv”
Producer: DJ U-Neek
Artists: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony feat. 2Pac
This song is amazing for so many reasons in addition to it just being dope. It was an olive branch between Ruthless Records and Death Row Records after years of beef, Pac wrote his verse in less than two minutes, Afeni Shakur gave permission for Pac’s verse to be used over the track after his passing, and the record helped push the Art of War album to quadruple platinum status. In a nutshell, the gun cock and blast in the beat are very fitting for the track’s intensity and relevance.
Artists: Tech N9ne feat. Angel Davenport and Game
The only negative thing about this song is that it’s too short. It makes sense that it is, but the fact that they are rapping to footsteps is really cool and it leaves the listener wanting more. And not just wanting more in terms of rapping over that type of beat either, but also great Hip-Hop with substance in the lyrics too.
2). “Legend of the Fall Offs”
Producer: Dr. Dre
Artist: Busta Rhymes
As has been demonstrated many times over the years, rappers don’t retire. They just die or fall off. Keeping that in mind, Busta Rhymes wrote a song about the latter for the closer to his Aftermath release. The song is especially potent because the music loops the sound of a hole being dug and the record ends with someone being buried alive. It’s a metaphor for so many in Hip-Hop. But, more importantly though, it’s a true testament to the few that haven’t- Busta Rhymes included.
1). “Are You That Somebody?”
The Budweiser-frog sound in Ginuwine’s “Pony” was already nuts, but when Tim Mosley put that baby on the beat to Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” for the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, it took the game to a whole new level. It solidified Timbaland’s position as one of music’s top-tier producers and increased the rising star power of Aaliyah. The soundtrack made more of an impact than the film that it was inspired by which is saying a lot since Dr. Dolittle starred Eddie Murphy and grossed over 140 million dollars in the United States alone.
What do you think of these beats? Share your thoughts in the comments section!