So, what have we learned in 2009?
Raekwon is more trustworthy than Dr. Dre. No one believed either of ‘em when we were told that Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II and Detox would drop in our lifetimes (R.I.P. to those that didn’t make it long enough), but Rae played the role of the tortoise, creeping upon the finish line, while Dre continues to stroll, seemingly uncommitted as to whether his magnum opus will live up to the hype. In the meantime, we have a handful of average-quality sounding reference tracks (with a surprising amount of T.I.), a Dr. Pepper commercial featuring a beat that may make Detox (though, it has already been utilized by Wale and Rick Ross & Birdman), and some $300 headphones (to enhance the listening experience of music that actually sees the light of day).
Albums don’t matter anymore. At least, that’s one rationale as to why Eminem is not one of MTV’s 10 hottest MCs (despite selling 600K of Relapse, his first release in five years, in its first week), omitted in exchange for several MCs who either did not drop albums this year (Weezy, Jeezy and Yeezy) or dropped mediocre-at-best albums (Fab). (Sorry if I’m downplaying the “heat” of Katie Couric interviews and Taylor Swift speech interruptions. Also sorry if I’m implying that MTV’s list has that much credibility.)
Not even 50 Cent can sell records in today’s industry — and this is the same 50 Cent that once sold Curtis to the buying public! Maybe it’s time to redefine “flop” — not that we ever had a Webster’s definition for it — because if 50 flopped, then what do you call Wale’s first week numbers? That’s not a diss, either — I like Wale a lot, and ML’s been tracking his career since 100 Miles & Running back in ’07. In fact, the only reason I don’t have a physical copy of Attention Deficit nearby as I type (I had to resort to iTunes) is because I couldn’t find one on any Best Buy store shelves — though, for whatever it’s worth, the Best Buy employee who told me that they didn’t have any copies also told me that it was dope (I should’ve asked him where he copped his copy).
Gucci Mane is a rap star. I never would have imagined this based on his first two videos — to me, he was just another terrible rapper from the South with no charisma. Now, he’s a pretty good rapper with, well, a little charisma. Good enough, I guess.
Rappers continue to diss Jay-Z and get no response. Game put out a diss record, which was kind of sad (in a lame, pathetic sort of way). Beanie Sigel put out a diss record, which was also kind of sad (in a “doesn’t feel right” sort of way). 50′s been trying to bait Jay for a while, but to no avail — The Blueprint 3 didn’t have a “Takeover”, let alone a half-a-bar for everyone to share. The only rapper to get a response record from Jay in the last few years? Jim Jones. That may be what’s the most sad about all of this.
And, last but not least, the following beats are dope…
For our end of the year Beat Drop, we asked our friends to pick their favorite beats of 2009.
Part 1 is rappers and producers. Check back tomorrow Monday for part 2 with our picks and those of our fellow bloggers/other very important people.
Note: Due to our massive list of contributors, we had to cut A LOT. We may have a part 3 with the outtakes.
Contributing this time, we have
- Statik Selektah
- Von Pea and Donwill of Tanya Morgan
- Marco Polo
- 6th Sense
- J57 of Brown Bag AllStars
- Black ELement
- Apex and Mojo of Dujeous
- Small Professor
- Theo Martins
Download: Afta-1 – Love Suite 2 (Sit Still)
Jermiside: I could honestly put a number of Afta-1 joints in this slot. I just picked this one because I know for sure it came out this year lol. I’m a huge fan of instrumental hip-hop and this guy kinda fills a void that Fat Jon has left (where is he anyways?). With that said, the O.G. version of Love Suite was (and still is) one of my favorites from the brotha. “Love Suite 2″ is just as smooth and groovy with that nice synthy bass line and spaced out sound that I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from him.
Download: Alchemist – Smile (ft. Maxwell, Twista)
Statik Selektah: This record would have been on Top 40 in a perfect world. It’s hard to make a beat that you can relax to or feel energized to. Really soulful too. The swing to it is crazy.
Download: Muamin Collective – The Bus Stop
Download: Drake – Uptown (ft. Bun B, Lil Wayne)
Von Pea: One day while listening someone pointed out the sample that was buried in the background of this songs chorus (I won’t name it to avoid possible dry snitching) and I thought it was brilliant. It’s the illest juxtaposition to a song about stunting and…stunting some more. Also the hi hats are the shit. I love this song overall.
Download: Drake – Best I Ever Had
Torae: A lot of people love Drake and he gets a lot of hate as well, but I can’t see how you can front on this record. The catchy singalong hook, the infectious track — it had hit single written all over it. It’s also one of those records that transcends age, race, sex and all that. Just a dope feel good joint. Boi-1da did the damn thing and Drake came through with the heat.
Download: Kid Cudi – Hyyerr (feat Chip The Ripper)
Black Element: Sit back, get your Cheech & Chong, grab your Nia Long and hit the…
Small Pro: A quick Wikipedia search revealed the relatively unknown name behind this gem (buried near the end of Cudder’s 2009 emo-opus); a string heavy, smoothed out, g-funk-meets-808s concoction. A smokin’ joint made for smokin’ joints.
Download: Drake – Successful (ft. Trey Songz)
Yelawolf: This fuckin’ beat puts you in an Aquimini type of trance . Minimalistic and full of drama, simple and selective with his sounds. Beats like these are the hardest to make. If you’re not a Drake fan by now then you’re gonna have to at least respect his ability to hear a track like this and turn it into a dope song. Most mainstream artists wouldn’t have the balls!
Damu The Fudgemunk
Small Pro: Blow the (Pete Rock) horns (c) M.O.P. With this track, Damu takes both ears by the hands and takes them on a tour through his crates. The defining moment of a 90s disciple.
Download: The Clipse – Kinda Like a Big Deal
Marco Polo: I love Khalil because he’s making huge records for mainstream artists but still keeping it raw, funky and hip-hop to the fullest. This song is dope. Beat is catchy as hell. Sounds like some sampled shit but isn’t. The guitars sound like crazy voices after he got done mixing the shit. Great song and DJ Khalil is a monster.
Download: Fabolous – Imma Do It (ft. Kobe)
Statik Selektah: Khalil changed the game this year and created a whole new sound. He’s definitely my favorite producer as of late. The way the organs are a different pattern than the drums is bananas.
Download: Drake – Fear
6th Sense: I’ve made this confession public many times, and let me reiterate. Much love to all the dope producers out there, but DJ Khalil SCARES ME. He had a lot of fire this year, but I think this Drake track took the cake. Love the live feel of everything, even the drums. The horns are awesome, but goddammit those strings.
Small Pro: A mellow yet dramatic canvas that says one word: introspection. The usage of what HAS to be live musicians means this was most likely produced in the traditional sense of the word; ironically enough, the end result came out so potent that no instruction for Drake was needed besides “Go in.”
Download: Slaughterhouse – Cuckoo
$port: There’s something wrong with this beat. I can picture Cobra Commander putting his mask on to this in the morning. Khalil has a way of adding just enough swing to where the beat is loose enough, but not sloppy. I don’t know how he comes up with this stuff.
Download: Blaq Poet – Ain’t Nuttin Changed
Marco Polo: Premo used multiple records to make this beat which makes it so dope. It bangs with classic Preem drums. Proof that rap music NEVER needs to be overproduced. Simple, raw shit. The best kind of rap.
Download: DJ Quik & Kurupt – The Appeal
Donwill: Chances are you didn’t hear this song or the album but DJ Quik is a pillar of the production world. So hearing he was doing an album with Kurupt pretty much consumed my attention span since I knew he was gonna be taking the boards. From the walking bassline to the sparse synth lines this is a joint you *NEED* to hear on speakers with a decent range of dynamics.
Download: Rick Ross – Valley Of Death
$port: Rawse sure can pick ‘em. Part of the appeal of a Rick Ross album is that you know you’re going to get some great beats. And you wouldn’t know Toomp did it unless you read the liner notes. It’s a step away from his usual stuff, for sure. He even managed to show some dope chopping skills. While we’re at it, shoutout to the engineer on this thing. The mix is grade A. Once the first kick drops, it’s pretty much a done deal from there on out.
Download: M.O.P – Stop Pushin
Marco Polo: LOUD NOISES!!! © Brick from Anchorman. Those f*ckin horns are perfect. Hype and much needed energy from one of my favorite groups of all time. Love this sh*t.
Download: Co$$ – Khakis & Taylors
Co$$: Surprisingly its not because its my song, lol, I really think this beat innovates what I consider the “West Coast” sound…It brings that mid 90s gfunk into the 21st century, its like “what’s my name” on acid….
Download: Fashawn – The Score
Von Pea: Chaos!!!!!! This shit sounds like exile taped the record to his mpc with duct tape and threw it off the roof. During an earthquake. This is a compliment by the way. I love chaotic, offbeat, sloppy, perfect beats like this. When I got my hands…um, ears on this song the only thing that stopped me from zoning out with the mean face was all the old white folks on the 4 train that day.
Statik Selektah: This beat is crazy… It shows that dirty South music can have substance and soul, even with T-Pain and Officer Ricky.
6th Sense: I can recall being on the BQE late night with a FULL BODY head nod to this joint, I was literally catching air in my seat. To me the highlight is the beat and T-Pain’s hook. And all the sax and strings on the intro and outro. It’s a beginning/middle/end composition and I gotta tip my hat to those guys. The track is so banging.
Small Pro: The J.L. were the main culprits behind “Deeper Than Rap”‘s lush, larger-than-life sound, and this track sums up that aesthetic perfectly. Lifting generously from Dexter Wansel’s “Time Is The Teacher”, the beauty here is found in their arrangement. “Maybach Music 2″ in one word: epic.
Download: DOOM – Gazillion Ear
Dujeous: “Gazillion Ear” has so much going on in it—organ, chopped vocal samples, plucked bass, Dilla’s trademark air raid sirens, and more. J then transcends the madness by completely switching up the beat 32 bars in, dropping his twisted take on the “Theme from Midnight Express” sample, used by Outkast and others. It’s the kind of laced-with-dust street shit that used to only come out of the Wu catalog. Dope.
Download: DOOM – Ballskin
Jermiside: This is that straight hardcore kinda hip-hop that gets me amped up. You can always count on Jake One for a good banger. I like the little tinge of swing in the drum pattern that lets the instruments just kinda sit off in the pocket real tight.
Jay Electronica – Exhibit C
Lyriciss: At the end of the year, Just Blaze decides to drop a soulful banger to say “fuck your club track and its trademark dance”. And it still hits hard enough to blast in the whip and compete with any Gucci Mane that the guy in the Crown Vic next to you with the dingy doo-rag on may be pumpin’ in his car. The only thing better than this beat are the rhymes Jay Electronica laid down on it, but that’s a whole different discussion. I just hope it doesn’t turn into “A Milli” with everyone rhyming on it.
Small Pro: The silence of an overall quiet year from The Megatron Don was disrupted in a major way when he dropped this on Tony Touch’s Shade 45 show at the end of October. The instrumental is deceptively repetitive; it’s the little things that take this beat over the top: the addition of live piano (something we saw on “Exhibit A (Transformations)”, also) and synth, the way that after the beat loops for 8 cycles, a 9th sequence (“Oh my God…keep GOING!”) resets everything, reminiscent of “Brooklyn’s Finest”. Hotter than the muthafuckin sun, check the thermometer.
Donwill: Just when you think you don’t really care about not ever getting to hear Saigon’s album you get an audio post-it note like this that comes in the form of a swift kick in the teeth. Even though Just borrows a quote from Puff at the top of the song its the chops and overall mood of this track that makes the initial listen sorta feel like the first time you heard ‘Who Shot Ya?’. When you couple those elements with the keys and synth line this is just a masterful flip. Hearing that he linked up with Eminem for a handful of tracks on his new LP is as much reason for celebration as the approaching new year.
Dujeous: Every single thing Just dropped this year was insane, so he had to make our list, but we could only choose one. We were partial to Skyzoo’s “Return of the Real” after we played that live for his release party—the dynamics and switch-ups of that beat really take it to another plane. But then there was the triumphant production behind “Exhibit C,” the perfect backdrop for Jay Electronica’s mind-bending lyrics. The drum breakdowns make the deceptively simple loop one of the hardest yet most emotional beats of the year.
$port: I think I’m so partial to this joint because, for one, I stayed up til about 7AM to watch this whole song come together via UStream. The thing about the whole Exhibit trilogy is that it kind of serves as a reminder to those people who, for whatever foolish reason, forgot that Just could make something so berserk. I mean, Live Your Life is a great record (and it definitely paid the bills), but sometimes you have to smack folks upside the dome.
Download: Jay Electronica – Exhibit A
Torae: This shit gives me chills. As do Exhibits B & C. This was just the out of the blue madness though. Just murdered this. It’s the perfect backdrop for Jay Elec’s voice and pennage. This record has gotten constant burn this year. I must have drove my friends, family and neighbors crazy bumping this.
Kanye West, No I.D.
Download: Jay-Z – Thank You
Von Pea: We are really high, really high tonight. They had to be when they made this. This beat made me want to call my boy aeon up and stick to just rapping. I’m a sucker for mad snare decay, groovy ass basslines, random vocal samples, and horns…and guess what? This song has it all.
Theo: Marcos Valle’s ‘Ele El Ela’ is a feel good song, jazzy even. Kanye West – who has impressed me with his chopping skills – turned this record upside down. When I first heard this record I thought to myself Dre was on the drums as they sounded nothing like Kanye drums. They hit hard. It was obvious by listening to the original sample that the song was down pitched, but it sounded like the actual drums and horns that were replayed had also been down pitched as well. Kanye West makes things work and this beat is a perfect example. I feel like I should be smoking a cigarette with shades on at night when I hear this beat. I don’t practice either by the way.
Download: Marco Polo & Torae – Danger
J57: This beat is the definition of a “banger.” Every aspect of it; from the anthemic melody to Marco’s flawless bass and drums – this beat is a monster. I was privileged enough to hear the Double Barrel album shortly after it was mixed and when ”Danger” came on, I immediately started to throw chairs around in Marco’s studio. Alright, the last part wasn’t true, but I knew this beat/song would be one of the obvious stand out cuts on the album…how could it not be? The funny thing is, when I was when I told Marco that ”Danger” was my favorite song on from Double Barrel, he informed me that it might not make the album. I’m extremely glad it did. As millions of you know by now, this song is actually on the new ”Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.”
Download: Raekwon – Pyrex Vision
$port: Marley and Raekwon knew exactly what they were doing by making this only 52 seconds long. The replay value is ridiculous. This is the prime example of the idea that sometimes all you need is a fire loop and nothing else. It’s crazy because I remember when this sample appeared on OC’s Jewelz album way back when. It was okay then, but there’s an extra touch of grit here that gives it that edge and places it in the pocket with the rest of the album as a whole. If I had to bag up some..uhh…..’stuff’, this is what I’d have on repeat.
Download: Jay-Z – D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)
Statik Selektah: This set a new tone for east coast hip-hop — that people can still have big records making grimy shit. Clap for ‘em!
6th Sense: This track is just disgusting. Every time I would be in the club hearing the same old BS, this song would come in and I would actually feel alive. The sample flip is incredible and I don’t enjoy people’s under appreciation on that front. This beat actually heavily influenced a particular track I produced, I’ll let ya’ll figure that out.
Yelawolf: NO I.D killed this break beat and sample . . the way he used the horns as a breather, the guitar chops are ridiculous . . this beat is classic Jeep Shit!! . . makes you want to move to NY throw on some Tim’s and and beat up auto tune recording artist!!!
Download: Snoop Dogg – Protocol
J57: This is one of those beats that make me want to run immediately to the studio and try to make a beat. Nottz has always been good for doing that to producers from past tracks like: Scarface & Trey Songz’s “Girl You Know” as well as Snoop Dogg featuring & R.Kelly’s “That’s That Shit” and Kanye & Lil Wayne’s “Barry Bonds.” The intro to this beat was a pretty dope idea, it gives the beat real emphasis when it officially drops in. The organs were done to perfection and the random synth crescendo that pops in every couple of bars keeps the listeners attention until the vey end of the track. Oh, and the drums knock hard, even on really bad computer speakers.
Download: Royce Da 5’9 – Street Hop 2010
Marco Polo: This beat/song gives me the ultimate shit/scrunch face. Nottz creates a bounce that deserves it’s own planet. The bollywood sample gives it a dark vibe that makes this one of my favorites of 2009. Royce also murders it as usual.
Download: Diamond District – Who I Be
Von Pea: Now I heard of a beat making you want to fight, but this shit makes you want to chop a body up in the middle of the woods. Okay maybe not, but the eerie Michael Meyer-esque sample against what sounds like (effectively) over-compressed drums make this a song to play over and over again. And again.
Marco Polo: I could actually pick a few more beats from this album but this one is definitely the stand out. 100% raw, pure hip-hop music. Shout to Oddisee. I did a remix for this album that should drop soon.
Donwill: The open break full of compressed air and hissing at the top of this song is just perfection. By the time it opens up to the bassline and obscure go-go sample for the hook you are literally reeled in and accepting of whatever the MC’s have to say. This is a pretty dense piece of work production-wise but it meshes so well you can barely even notice the layers.
Download: Diamond District – Get In Line
Dujeous: Oddisee is just an all-around amazing talent, and this beat really shows his strengths: dusty chops and crazy, live-sounding drum programming. This starts out simple enough, with xylophone stabs interrupted by snippets of guitars and strings. But then the hook comes in, and Odd drops this insane, cinematic horn sample while drum fills start hitting you in the head. Pure sickness.
Download: Nike Nando – Super Nike Nando
Lyrciss: Another track that you might not be hip to if you’re outside of the DMV. Azizi Gibson and Whitey (preHISTORIC) took maybe the most awkward Japanese anime sample you could find, looped it, and threw in some effective drums. Simple formula, crazy outcome. I dare you to hear this beat and not start rocking.
Sa-Ra Creative Partners
Download: Sa-Ra Creative Partners – Love Czars
Download: Sa-Ra Creative Partners – Soul’s Brother
Download: Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Rock
Yelawolf: Scoop de Ville might be an Ice Cream shop chain on the West Coast, but make no mistake about it, SCOOP DE VILLE the producer ain’t servin’ no fuckin’ ice cream! Selecting sounds that are timeless in nature are key to making classics. Synth lines that resemble Kraftwerk, drum programing somewhere in between Dilla, Timbaland, Pharell/Chad, and of course a nostalgic vocal sample from ROB BASE “IT TAKES TWO” perfectly chopped and placed correctly! This record cant be remade, although I know people will try. Don’t bother unless Snoop invites you himself. This to me is the best beat of ‘09!
Download: Raekwon – Kiss the Ring
Dujeous: There had to be at least one beat from OB4CL2 on this list, and in this case our old homie Scram Jones’ triumphant album closer takes the cake. The sped-up choral/string sample and pounding open hi-hats perfectly capture the mood of the song: Old dons kicking their feet up, looking back and celebrating both their achievements in the game and the completion of an amazing album. It’s simple, but it works.
Download: Tanya Morgan – So Damn Down
Von Pea: There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your own work right? My bassline got some of the funk knocked out of it in the mixdown but this is still some ol’ ghetto disney hip hop shit. Yep, ghetto disney. It just makes you want to hop around and shit like a fool. Not shit like a fool but…forget it. Anyway, its one of my favorite tracks I’ve ever done, I had to include it here.
Download: Tanya Morgan – On Our Way
Donwill: Cry favoritism if you want but the fact of the matter is that if you follow Von Pea’s production this song really showed his growth. From his stuttery but smooth dusted breakbeat production that peppered Moonlighting this song let you know that not only was be back but he broughtalot of experience with him. The synth line combined with the lazy guitar licks just creates some kinda futuristic jamboree effect.
Download: Outasight – Brand New Day
6th: Yes, that’s me. Thanks to Metal Lungies for letting me put at least one of my tracks in my top 5 (I had to do it!). I made a lotta dope joints this year, but it always comes back to this one. I had the melody/arrangement the whole thing in my head for months. When it came time to do it, I just went at it. I don’t wanna talk too much about it, I’ll just let ya’ll be the listeners.
Download: Skyzoo – Beautiful Decay
Donwill: I have a soft spot for anything ‘Sylvers’ related. I think it dates back to discovering Dr. Dre replayed Misdemeanor for D.O.C.’s “Funky Enough” and going on to discover how dope a lot of their catalog is. So when you couple that with a very skillful chop done by Ninth, it’s a no brainer. Ninth definitely has a ‘sound’ and this track is exemplary of his aesthetic. The bell layered on top of the snare just ices the cake.