10 posts categorized "DJ Premier"

October 28, 2014

BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time

A Top Beatmakers List with a Deeper Meaning and Purpose

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)


NOTE: If you've already read the disclaimer about the nature of the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time, you can jump down to the rankings and click on the corresponding name for a helpful breakdown of each beatmaker.


Whenever lists of this sort appear, they’re generally presented with little or no serious discussion about the list beforehand. Perhaps that’s fine for pure entertainment purposes. But for readers to get the best learning experience from a review list of this kind, I believe there are a number of things that readers should know up front. Thus, I’d like to offer an important disclaimer about the nature of the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time list and the criteria used to determine which beatmakers were added to it.


The Nature of this List

The BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time list is one of the first sub-projects of the BeatTips Art of Beatmaking Education Project (ABEP) that I recently started. The fundamental purpose of the BeatTips ABEP is to help preserve, promote, and expand the beatmaking tradition of hip hop/rap music through a series of specialized projects. In this way, the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time list is meant to serve as a discussion, MusicStudy, and general research portal.


Next, the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All-Time purposely omits the word “producer”, and here’s why. In the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions, the term “producer” is often synonymously used to describe a beatmaker. But as I point out in my book The BeatTips Manual, this is not always appropriate particularly because the definition of “producer” can be murky: “Hip hop production is the creation of hip hop music. And although this description broadly covers every dimension of hip hop/rap music, the term hip hop production is used most commonly to refer to the making of the hip hop/rap instrumental — the beat. So technically speaking, a beatmaker, one who makes beats, is a hip hop producer; ergo, a beatmaker is a producer.” But “producer” is a loose term that can be used to describe anyone within the process of the final sound of a recording. Simply put, a beatmaker is someone who actually makes beats. A beatmaker can indeed be a producer; in fact, most double as both. (Further, being a beatmaker is not in anyway less noble than being a producer!) However, and this is a critical point, a producer need not be a beatmaker. Hip hop/rap music is littered with people who have “producer” credits, even though they never actually made (or assisted in the making of) any beats. Thus, The BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time List only includes beatmakers. Of course, each beatmaker on this list has also rightfully earned the title of producer.


There are four other important things to know about the nature of The BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time list. First, the purpose of this list is to educate. Hopefully, new beatmakers will be introduced more appropriately to some prominent beatmakers that they’ve only heard about in passing. And beatmaking veterans will be reminded of just how far the beatmaking tradition has come. In either case, I’d like this list to prompt some serious exploration and reflection from readers. Preserving and expanding hip hop/rap’s beatmaking tradition requires historical examination, present-day review, future speculation, and, at times, constructive (helpful) debate.


Second, this isn't a list to appease anyone that I know personally. I can count a number of beatmakers as friends; and I’ve interviewed many well-known and lesser-known (but quite acclaimed) beatmakers. That aside, I’ve made no effort to show favoritism in the making of this list. My objectivity — and naturally subjectivity — in the making of this list was based on the catalog of work of each beatmaker that I seriously considered.


Third, this is not a list intended to be safe, so as to not offend anyone. Top lists of any kind tend to offend one group or another, so I'm all right with that. And certainly, a top 100 list would have given me enough coverage to include everybody’s favorite. Even a top 50 would have allowed more room for adding all of what many would consider to be the obvious names. Still, a top 30 list presents a challenge, especially when you consider beatmaking’s classic past and its mixed present. I’m not interested in gathering up an easy list of names. Instead, I want readers to seriously think, perhaps even broaden their own thoughts about how, why, and where they rank their favorite beatmakers.


Fourth, The BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time is not a "hottest in the game right now" list. I deeply respect longevity, particularly because it requires talent, drive, integrity, and hustle. I'm less interested on shining a light on just this moment in time. In fact, I believe all-time lists offer a better learning (and discovery) experience for readers. This is especially important for new beatmakers who are often less familiar with the names and critical works of earlier times.


The Criteria

When making the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All-Time list there were many different things that I considered, far too many to mention here. But there are eight main criteria that I used in making this list:


(1) Body of work. Without the work speaking for itself, there could be no serious consideration of any beatmaker who made this list. And while I did not deem it necessary that each beatmaker on the list had a massive catalog, the sheer number of beats (recognized and respected songs) of certain beatmakers could not be ignored. Therefore, a larger body of acclaimed work was appropriately given more preference. Also, special attention was paid to how many songs a beatmaker had within the cannon of hip hop/rap music, as well as whether or not a beatmaker contributed to the career of another pivotal hip hop/rap artist’s career. I should further add that the body of work that I've considered here is hip hop/rap only! Whether a beatmaker could or did produce music outside of the hip hop/rap genre had no bearing on where I ranked them with respect to hip hop/rap music. If I were ranking all-time horror film directors, it would be silly to include the comedic works of those directors as consideration in where they should be ranked. Likewise, neo-soul, drum-n-bass, dub step, etc. has no influence on a hip hop/rap ranking.


(2) Critical acclaim for a clearly distinguishable and/or signature sound. Preference was given (as I believe it should have been), to those beatmakers who either established their own well-recognized signature sound or contributed considerably to one or more of the eight distinct periods of beatmaking (In The BeatTips Manual, I examine and detail all eight periods).


(3) Minimum of at least three critically acclaimed (not just top sellers) songs, albums, collaborative works, etc. within the last 30 years. Part of being a standout in any art medium is recognition within the field. Sometimes this means big hits, other times it means well-respected songs that most skilled beatmakers know of or appreciate for what they are. And note: this particular criteria reflects the reality that some of the best in any given field are overlooked for various reasons. However, this does not diminish their work. Moreover, history is loaded with artists who didn’t get their proper appreciation until late in or well after their careers.


(4) The number of lyrically acclaimed rappers — in their prime — who rapped over their beats, and/or the subsequent “classic” songs created over the last 30 years. This is of particular importance for two reasons. First, it serves as proof as a particular beatmaker’s automatic place in the canon of hip hop/rap music. Second, it demonstrates the popularity and respect of a beatmaker among the best rhymers of their and other times.


(5) Real, not misperceived, impact and influence on other top beatmakers
of all time. Everybody has to be influenced by someone. But who influenced most of the beatmakers on the BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All-Time list? Not surprisingly, many influenced each other.


(6) Real, not misperceived, overall impact (or likely impact) on the beatmaking tradition. In other words, what was their recognizable impact on the beatmaking tradition itself? For instance, what developments, styles, techniques, ideas, etc. did they contribute to the beatmaking tradition?


(7) Longevity. How long was a beatmaker able to maintain his career. For various reasons, some beatmaker’s careers were cut short, while others have continued to blossom since they first began. Thus, longevity wasn’t measured in a sheer number of years, but in terms of body of work within the frame of time a beatmaker made his name. Think of it this way: Jimi Hendrix’s entire body of work is just four years…


(8) Projected influence and impact on future beatmakers. Of course, this is speculation at best. No one can predict the future. Still, we can recognize the lasting contributions made to the beatmaking tradition by certain beatmakers.


One final note about this list: It’s not static. That is to say, the beatmaking tradition is constantly expanding, therefore, this list will necessarily need to be adjusted to account for new production output by beatmakers, as well as new research by myself. Thus, each new year, in September, a new BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All-Time list will be generated.


(Homage to DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa — the grandfathers of modern beatmaking.)

#30 • Statik Selektah

#29 • Dame Grease

#28 • True Master

#27 • Bink

#26 • The Beatnuts

#25 • DJ Khalil

#24 • Havoc (of Mobb Deep)

#23 • Rick Rubin

#22 • 9th Wonder

#21 • Alchemist

#20 • Buckwild

#19 • Madlib

#18 • Nottz

#17 • Prince Paul

#16 • DJ Paul and Juicy J

#15 • Kev Brown

#14 • Showbiz

#13 • DJ Tomp

#12 • Just Blaze

#11 • The Neptunes

#10 • Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad (of A Tribe Called Quest)

#9 • J Dilla

#8 • The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, Keith Shocklee, Chuck D)

#7 • Kanye West

#6 • Dr. Dre

#5 • Large Professor

#4 • Pete Rock

#3 • RZA

#2 • Marley Marl

#1 • DJ Premier


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The BeatTips Manual by Amir Said (Sa'id).
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

March 24, 2012

BeatTips MusicStudy: DJ Premier and Bumpy Knuckles are "Inspired" to Be Dope

As DJ Premier and Bumpy Knuckles Prepare to Release their Heavily Anticipated Album Kolexxxion, Here's a Closer Look at One of their Recent Gems

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Feeling, more than anything else, is what draws me into a piece of music. Beats and lyrics can do many things, but if they don't have feeling, they're missing something crucial. Over the years, there's only been about a handful of beatsmiths and rhymers that consistently offer feeling in their music. Among those, DJ Premier and Bumpy Knuckles (AKA Freddie Foxxx) have always stood at the head of the class. And by all indications of their pre-album EP and pre-drops of songs from their album Kolexxxion (due for release this upcoming Monday, March 26th), Kolexxxion will not only be smoldering with feeling, it's poised to be one of the strongest releases in recent years.

In honor of the forthcoming release of Kolexxxion, I wanted to do a MusicStudy of one of the pre-album EP (Stoodiotyme) cuts, "Inspired By Fire". After the MusicStudy, I've also included the Bumpy Knuckes f. Nas "Turn up the Mic" DJ Premier remix that was just leaked.
Here's the MusicStudy...

DJ Premier is at his best with these type of beats. Here, as he's done so well in the past, he captures the urgency that’s embedded in street-level rap music. Working from a formula of converting beauty to gritty back to beauty, he masterfully takes a beautiful string passage and converts its harmonic, sonically warm quality into a rhythmic chamber that echoes sinisterly every time it repeats. Keep in mind, no two beatmakers loop sounds the exact same way; listen closely to how the main sampled phrase lands with the start of the drum measure. That looping style and sense of timing is a staple of all of Preem's beats.

And with such a complete composite execution of the arrangement of the samples (and cut-offs), you almost miss the raw perfectness of the mellow bass EQ on the samples, and, of course, the drums. The drums feature a hi-hat in sprinkling mode, almost like it’s chiming in back and forth. And the snare sounds like a rock rain dropping on a glass surface. Please understand: You can not emulate this sound with quantizing or some other plug-in or similar effect or some one-size-fit all stock sound; this sound is customized and part of Premier’s whole style, rhythm, repertoire, and sound.

The next thing that struck me about "Inspired by Fire" was the swing of the beat. The Swing on this joint is severe, it moves along with a shuffle and pull feel. Each time the snare lands, it draws you in even more. This is especially worth pointing out because Premier doesn't rely on any special quantize effects or the like for the sense of swing that all of his beats contain. Premier's sense of timing and, subsequently, swing, comes from his training and understanding as a DJ—mixing, blending, cutting records together, etc. (In The BeatTips Manual, I extensively discuss how DJ'ing fostered the art of beatmaking.)

Incidentally, this is just one reason that I always champion the DJ and the legacy of the art of DJ'ing. A background in DJ'ing gives a beatmaker, particularly a sample-based beatmaker, a tremendous advantage in every area of the art of beatmaking. But even if you have no experience as a DJ, you can still improve your timing by closely listening to records with multiple rhythms like early funk, soul, British ska, etc. Either way, keep in mind that an over reliance on timing correction and similar effects will make your music sound quite mechanical and forced, less natural and devoid of a strong sense of swing.

As for the rhyme on "Inspired by Fire"...
Here's what you get with every Bumpy Knuckles rhyme: Straight talk and skill. Bumpy's wordplay is never obscure, he always aims to be understood. Sure, it's "stick-up-kid-smooth", but it's never hallow machismo. Every line is a sure-shot piece of who he really is. That's the refreshing thing about any verse that Bumpy spits.

Furthermore, Bumpy's rhymes are always non-pretentious; and he's not concerned with punchlines for punchlines sake. He doesn't try to represent anything he doesn't have a solid, real-life understanding of. Plus, Bumpy rolls through each verse, never looking backwards or gawking at the power of the previous line. Instead, he treats each line as a reference to his life and hard-earn career status. He’s been there before, and like any professional knows, with every solid achievement, you act like you been there before—no need for overstatements... Again, this is another refreshing quality about a Bumpy Knuckles rhyme. And this especially important now, a time where many contemporary rappers pause and stare at their own punch lines...

Finally, there's the flow. It's actually a well-skilled, clever mish-mash of mutiple flows and wordplay, tempered with a late ‘80s survivor's confidence and Bumpy’s own unique method of suspending the speed of his delivery. And we're not just talking street smart but broad intelligence:
“…pen a career like Dunbar/one bar, grown man tone/nobody does it alone/”
Trust your ability to not trust/But should never fall victim to not trustin'/...
That's a Jewel.

—Sa'id

The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles - "Inspired By Fire"


Bumpy Knuckles feat. Nas - "Turn Up the Mic" (DJ Premier Remix), from the DJ Premier & Bumpy Knuckles album Kolexxxion

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

November 29, 2011

BeatTips Readers' Poll™: Who is the Greatest Beatmaker (Hip Hop Producer) of All Time?

If We Go by the Numbers Over Three Decades, Can there Be Any Consensus?

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

In major league baseball, numbers don’t lie. Just look at the Yankee’s sure-shot first-ballot Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, who in 2011 season recorded his 603rd save, giving him the all time major league record (one that will likely stand forever...)

Just as numbers don’t lie in baseball, I believe that they shouldn’t lie in hip hop/rap music either. Take for instance the greatest beatmaker (I prefer to use beatmaker, “producer” is too often misused and misrepresented) of all time debate. Ask someone who the greatest beatmaker of all time is, and they’re more likely to give you an answer that reflects their personal favorites than they are to give you an answer that objectively considers the available facts. For instance, Mariano Rivera is the best closer in baseball history, it's a fact. Period. Ask a knowledgeable baseball person who's the greatest closer of all time in Major League Baseball, and they'll reply: Mariano Rivera. But does that mean Rivera is the best pitcher in baseball? Some say yes; some say no because he was a closer.

In baseball, the closer usually enters the game in the 9th inning (sometimes the 8th) when the game is on the line, when a team needs to save a victory from defeat, or when a team needs the score to remain close (usually tied), preserving the opportunity for their team to win. Thus, the role of the closer is very different from that of the starting pitcher, who usually pitches roughly 6 or 7 innings (the bulk of the innings). And because of this, closers aren’t typically in the final discussion about greatest pitchers of all time. But Mariano Rivera isn’t your typical closer. For starters, 603 saves is nothing to sneeze at; but then there's his post season wins record—42 wins! Again, in the post season—when it counts the most, no? This is made even more amazing when you consider his ultra low ERA (Earned Run Average). In other words, the guy is basically un-hittable all the time but especially when it counts the most! That's why when Mariano Rivera enters the game, it’s usually lights out for the opposing team. Numbers don’t lie...

Yet when it comes to the question of Who’s the Greatest Beatmaker of All Time, I’ve found that many people either ignore the numbers, or they believe that numbers do indeed lie. For instance, if you examine hip hop/rap music from 1985 (roughly the start of the Modern Rap era) to the present, how many people can realistically lay claim to the "greatest" beatmaker title? If we go by the numbers—in this case, the sheer catalog, the number of quality songs with quality lyricists; the reach of influence on future beatmakers; the number of years and consistency; and similar metrics—can we draw a consensus? I believe so. But I'm interested to learn what others believe.

Also, after considering the many conversations that I've had with various people—across geographic, race, and age spectrum—about this question, and reading some "greatest" lists online, I'm often left asking three questions: (1) What criteria are most people using to determine who the "greatest" is? (2) Are most people loosely broadening the definition of "greatest" in favor of an interpretation that merely allows for inclusion of their favorites? and (3) How much history do most people know about hip hop/rap music?

That said, from 1989 to 2011 (and still going), has there been anyone who’s dropped—chronologically and consistently—a larger overall body of acclaimed beatwork than DJ Premier? Clearly no disrespect to Marley Marl, The RZA, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, Just Blaze, J Dilla and a few others who all certainly deserve to be in the discussion for who’s the greatest. But in terms of the numbers—quality wins and impact songs and albums; and work with key lyricists; and range of influence over other beatmakers (many acclaimed in their own right)—over the longest period of time (not just five years), is DJ Premier the greatest beatmaker of all time?

Opinions vary with questions like these. Of course everyone has their personal tastes and biases. Moreover, it’s understandable that many people will favor the beatmakers that are linked to their age and era. And as I mentioned previously, there are a handful of names that should no doubt be in the discussion—for various reasons. So frankly, I don’t know if there ever will be complete consensus on the “greatest beatmaker of all time” question. But one thing’s for certain, when you consider the inception of beatmaking (more than 35 years ago), and then scan year by year with a cold, objective eye, all the way up to the present, examining the catalogs of each beatmaking icon, patterns—and sometime indisputable anomalies—inevitably emerge.

For this BeatTips Readers' Poll™ I’m interested in seeing everyone’s honest and objective take on this question.


June 28, 2011

5th Seal Vlog #7

Brooklyn Beatsmith 5th Seal Drops His Latest Beat Vlog

For vlog #7, 5th Seal raids the infamous (and well-tread) dig spot A-1 Records in New York City (and runs into one of the greatest ever on the beats). As per his other installments, he offers a glimpse of the making of one of his beat gems. 5th Seal is a friend, so I'm happy that he's gaining a new level recognition.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship

5th Seal Vlog #7

5th Seal Vlog #7 from 5th Seal on Vimeo.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

March 24, 2011

Beatmakers and Trade Secrets

Shop-Talk Elevates the Beatmaking Art Form and Tradition

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Musicians have long shared tricks of their trade amongst each other. It's a tradition as old as popular music itself. However, for some reason, many beatmakers (producers) pride themselves upon keeping a vale of secrecy over their beatmaking methods. What gives?

I could speculate about the cultural undertones of this, but that's not what this piece is about. On the contrary, this article is about why the notion of secrecy (specifically among some well-known beatmakers {*producers*}) in beatmaking is ridiculous. As I told a fellow beatmaker the other day, "there are NO secrets between real musicians!" What I was saying (and he understood immediately) was that dedicated musicians share a common fundamental goal: to develop their skills and elevate their craft. Indeed, this is why we constantly seek out people and resources that we believe will help us reach that goal. In this regard, beatmakers should not view themselves any different. We are musicians, and as such, we stand to benefit a great deal from an exchange of information.

No Two Beatmakers Are One in the Same

Regardless of the method or technique used, no two beatmakers are the same. Given the same tools and the same understanding, each of us will inevitably develop our own approach. And I've found that it is within this approach that you find the most interesting "secrets." But instead of having an attitude that promotes the talking of shop (beat talk, if you will), when pressed for specific ideas, secrets, and the like, some beatmakers clam up, or offer the proverbial: "don't wanna' give the secrets away." Huh? What's that all about.

Listen, at face value, there are NO magic secrets that can instantly transform a beatmaker's skills. Secrets (or better yet, pointers, tips, hints, insights) are only as good as the beatmaker who understands them and can, in turn, incorporate them into what they're already doing. For example, DJ Premier is known for his drums, chops, and his ability to finesse the bass out of the breaks that he chooses to use. However, there is no doubt (and he has said as much), that he would not have been able to develop those skills, had it not been for Large Professor. As Premier told me (rather matter-factly), it was Large Professor—another beatmaking pioneer in his own right—who showed him how to filter bass sounds in samples, and also how to make the Akai S950 really work for him. In turn, Premier introduced Large Professor to a new way of diggin' in the crates and surveying music. And before that, another beatmaking pioneer, Showbiz, schooled Premier on diggin' in the crates and surveying music. Thus, these examples of sharing trade "secrets" demonstrates how, for each of the aforementioned beatmaking pioneers, the common goal was to get better and elevate the art form.

Needless to say, I've always been against the notion of not not sharing knowledge ("secrets"). In fact, those who know me, know very well that I consistently share as much as I can, whenever I'm asked by a fellow beatmaker. Likewise, some of the most well-known beatmakers have shared as much as they could with me. Also, consider this, even if one beatmaker breaks down their entire beatmaking process to another beatmaker, chances are, the latter beatmaker isn't going to utilize everything that he (or she) learns from the former. Not at all. The latter beatmaker is only going take what he needs and/or can use from the other beatmaker's process. It's this sort of exchange that each beatmaker can use to further develop their skills.

Final note, keep this in mind: the entire beatmaking (hip hop/rap production) tradition is only as good as its weakest beatmaker. Hence, there's merit in all of us trying to help each other step up our skills.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

February 09, 2011

Boom Bap Is Universal, No Matter The Language

SoulKast's Album Trailer, Featuring DJ Premier, Reinforces Boom Bap's Status Around The World

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Hip hop/rap music is one of the world's most inclusive cultures. And I've long maintained that the beatmaking tradition—within the broader hip hop/rap tradition—is the most inclusive music culture in the world today. And there is perhaps no other beatmaking style and sound more recognizable and more powerful than what is affectionately known by beatmakers and rappers alike as "boom bap."

As the premium for boom bap has waned stateside, in recent years, the status of boom bap has skyrocketed around the globe. From the UK to Japan; from Australia to Germany; boom bap still stands out as the most popular beatmaking sound and hip hop/rap music aesthetic. And in France, the reverence for boom bap is only rivaled by those pockets in the United State that still hold the style and sound in high esteem.

Earlier this year, I wrote about a show in France that featured DJ Premier, Just Blaze, and The Alchemist (DJ Premier, Just Blaze, and the Alchemist Rock Paris). In the video, the sheer love and respect for boom bap is on full display (a sight that still conjures up the feeling of being ashamed, when you consider the press and *love* some other hip hop/rap music styles now enjoy in the U.S.). And with French rapper SoulKast's trailer for his new music project, which drops October 29 (www.soulkast.fr), I'm again reminded of how heavy the French rep authentic boom bap, and just how universal boom bap really is, no matter the language.

For educational purposes...

Teaser SOULKAST Feat. DJ PREMIER

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

December 30, 2010

DJ Premier and Pete Rock "Reminisce" Over "Memory Lane" and Other Classics

Two of the Most Important Beatmaking Pioneers Trade Stories About Some of their Most Acclaimed Production

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

In this gem of an interview (1-hr long), Pete Rock and DJ Premier drop a number of jewels. Using a format whereby each pioneer is handed a physical copy of a single or album that they produced and/or worked on, the interview (reportedly taped in Japan), makes for a very open, impromptu-like conversation, in which little-known and unknown details inevitably spill out from both beat icons.

For instance, Premier discusses the last minute magic that resulted in Biggie’s “Unbelievable,” revealing a small detail about is beatmaking process. He also stresses how limited sampling time forces the mind to be more creative. A point which I strongly agree. Having used the E-Mu SP 1200 and the Akai S950 (still a major piece in my current setup), I can attest that limited sampling time does indeed compel you to think more about the different ways in which you can rework a sample as well as how to sketch out unique drum patterns.

Of course, Pete Rock also chimes in with a number of great stories and details of his own. He's especially animated when discussing his days as a beatmaker in his parents' basement, offering a window into how he managed his production output. Along with Premier, PR makes a strong plea for Nas to do a an Illmatic sequel. He even goes so far as to warn Nas to “do it before it’s too late.” A warning I agree with.

Finally, both Premier and Pete Rock indirectly raise up a very important factor that's often overlooked these days: the proximity connection (chemistry). As both share stories of rappers routinely coming over to their homes in the prime of their careers, it becomes clear that the proximity connection—the chemistry that can only develop when beatmakers and rappers are in the same studio environment together—was a major contributing factor to their success.

Although some beatmakers still maintain that “come-over-to-the-crib/studio” tradition today (here, Marco Polo and Statik Selektah immediately come to mind), for the most part, that in-studio, proximity connection created chemistry is mostly gone. Considering this fact, one would have to say that the resulting disconnection caused by a decline of beatmakers and rappers working more closely together has, at least in some ways, contributed to a "different"—not entirely lower—grade of hip hop/rap music. Still, I see a revival of this factor. And hopefully, this Premier and Pete Rock sitdown will go a long way in helping to speed up this revival.

The video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Sitdown With DJ Premier & Pete Rock

Sitdown With DJ Premier & Pete Rock from DJPremierBlog on Vimeo.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

November 26, 2010

MusicStudy: Gang Starr - "Moment of Truth"

For the Most Part, It All Comes Back to How You Flip the Break

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Before I even knew what beatmaking was, the very first hip hop/rap song that got me interested in the ways in which beats where "put together" was Gang Starr's "Words I Manifest." I didn't know how DJ Premier did what he did on that song, but when I heard it, I knew (in hindsight) that he, and the art form that he was helping to pioneer, would be big (to say the least) one day.

Fast forward about a decade later, and what I felt (what I knew) came to fruition. And of the many heatrock beats that Premier has made over the years, the new Gang Starr stand out for me is the incredibly moving and honest "Moment of Truth."

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gang Starr - "Moment of Truth"

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

October 28, 2010

BeatTips Editorial: Top 10 Things I Want To See From The 'Pete Rock Vs. DJ Premier' Album

Beat Giants' Album Could Have Far Reaching Effects

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

10. Increased Awareness of Pete Rock and DJ Premier as Well as Other Important Pioneers of Eras Gone Past
One of the most disheartening developments of the past decade is the increasing disconnect between the “now” and the “then”. Although it might be easy to assume that no one making beats hasn’t heard of Pete Rock or DJ Premier, the truth of the matter is something altogether different. Unfortunately, there is a growing wave of new beatmakers who (in most cases due to no fault of their own), are not as familiar with the role that Pete Rock and DJ Premier and similar pioneers have played in the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions. Therefore, a Pete Rock/Premier album could serve as a powerful catalyst for new beatmakers interested in digging deeper into the beatmaking tradition. (This is a good thing, because in the end, hip hop/rap music wins with more knowledgeable beatmakers.)

9. No “R&B” Features.
When you say “Pete Rock” or “DJ Premier” you think: gutter, street, hardcore, boom bap. There is absolutely no logical reason that I support for changing that! Serious supporters of Pete Rock and Premier revere them for what they do best, regardless of what any era’s market forces may seem to dictate. And now, with a wide open lane for anybody to make the music that they truly want to make—especially for veterans with loads of unspent good will—it’s never been more easy to drop the dopest shit you can muster up. And I don’t care how nice the idea of an “R&B” joint might sound, a battle record—albeit friendly—between two kings of beatmaking has no room for an “R&B” feature; that shit will only get in the way.

8. One DJ Premier Joint Featuring H. Stax
Preem, "Same Team, No Games," which H. Stax was featured on, was certainly dope; but “Proper Dosage,” is the illest joint you and Stax ever made together thus far. However, "Proper Dosage" never really got the look it deserved. Plus, Stax is home team, and it’s only right somebody from East New York bless the mic! But still, I understand that the stakes involved with this album warrant high profile names. So a collector's edition bonus cut featuring Stax is something that I think would be dope.

7. An Album Release Party At Brooklyn Bowl
As many shows that I've been to over the years, a little known secret of mine (well, not such a secret to those close to me), is that I don't even dig shows all that much. My problem has never been with the music. I enjoy a good set just as much as any other fan. But what I have the biggest issues with are (1) venue space; and (2) the "hip hop/rap show shit" that goes along with a typical hip hop/rap show.

By and large, the venues that I've been to have been either too small or just plain ill-suited for a hip hop/rap marquee. And worse than that is the "atmosphere" that prevails at most shows, specifically, I'm referring to the standard ultra-ego and delusional talk that gets exchanged back and forth between artists, managers, hanger-ons, weed carriers, and groupies. Well, in Brooklyn Bowl it would appear that, for the first time since I saw KRS-One perform at The Fever in the South Bronx, I've actually found a spot I can chill in.

I've been to Brooklyn Bowl two times this year, once for the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival DJ Night, and once for a Pete Rock set. Both times I was impressed with the sheer size and space of the venue. It had a perfect dance floor/show area, and the main seating area that bordered the bowling lanes—yes, people actually bowl throughout the performance (dope, I know)—had deep couches and lighting blocks. One of the best kept secrets in Brooklyn, if not greater New York City, Brooklyn Bowl is a well thought out spot. One that I don't want to see shut down anytime sooner than it needs to. And a high-profile event like a Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier album would certainly help secure Brooklyn Bowl's spot on NYC's new "dope spots" list.

Oh, and did I mention that the ladies are real friendly at Brooklyn Bowl? I'm telling you, it's something about that space that make the ladies more relaxed and aggressive. But I digress...

6. One Joint Featuring Nas From Both Pete Rock and DJ Premier
If the purported format holds true—six songs a piece from Pete Rock and Premier with the rappers of their choosing—I gotta hear two of the ultimate dozen with Nas. In the last several years or so, there’s been a lot of, let’s say, flat-out sketchy talk about best rappers, MCs, and such. And seemingly lost in these “debates” is the notion of superb lyricism in all of it’s glory: style, context, content (subject matter), complexity, voice, delivery, and flow. And although there are great discussions about where Jay-Z, Pac, or Biggie should (or deserve) to be placed, the debate over where Nas fits in (or should, or deserves to be placed) has lost a lot of the attention that it once had.

There are a number of factors that may have contributed to why Nas has edged out of "the debate" in some circles (certainly far too many to weave through in this present editorial), but I would be interested in seeing if this Pete Rock/Premier album could help Nas regain the place he once had in the “best rapper, MC, lyricist” discussion.

5. Real, Prolonged Coverage From All Major and Minor Hip Hop/Rap Media Outlets
Projects of this nature deserve extensive coverage, not just a lost moment in a weekly news cycle. When Illmatic came out, an album that was at the time groundbreaking for the number of beatmakers (producers) in their prime that it featured, the coverage was rather robust and fitting for the moment. I’m not necessarily saying that this Pete Rock/Premier album should be held in the same regard; and I’m not saying that it shouldn’t either! Instead, what I am saying is that for all of the hype that many musically disconnected, uninteresting, and uninspiring projects have received in recent years, a Pete Rock/Premier caliber project should be afforded more than just a cursory mention on the top hip hop/rap news sites and music blogs.

4. At least 3 SP 1200-made beats by Pete Rock.
Over the past two decades, a number of veteran beatmakers made the switch from the infamous E-Mu SP-1200 to the MPC family. Some of the most notable ones include: Large Professor, Buckwild, and of course, DJ Premier. And although the argument can certainly be made that the “switch” greatly favored Preem and Buckwild, I’m not sure if the same could be said for Pete Rock.

Make no mistake, Pete Rock has made bangers on both beat machines. But I'm inclined to believe that his touch on the SP-1200 gets the edge. (Then again, that "Be Easy" joint he did for Ghostface is sick...) I can’t say for certain when exactly Pete Rock made the switch, or why, or even how often over the past decade or so that he’s placed SP-1200-made beats vs. MPC-made ones. Only Pete Rock knows the answer to that. I'm left only to speculate from what I've heard in his canon of dope production, and from what I know about the "sound" that the SP-1200 and MPC makes respectively. But if there’s anything damn near for certain, the “T.R.O.Y.” beat is Pete Rock’s greatest creation. In fact, “T.R.O.Y. (They Reminencse Over You) is arguably the greatest hip hop/rap song ever made. (I consider it to be.)

Therefore, if Pete Rock still has some SP-1200 disks—which I’m sure he does—we perhaps stand more than a fighting chance of hearing that level of greatness again. I mean, 15 years after the fact—time to reflect on his position in the beatmaking’s tree of pioneers; time to see styles come and go; time to use the power of hindsight; time to have acquired thousands more vinyl records—, I’m sure Pete Rock can get his SP-1200 (or even a rented one) to bubble and rumble like it once did.

3. The Actual Release of a Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier Album
Fans have been let down before by announced “dream” albums that never panned out. Many, including myself, are still waiting for the Nas and DJ Premier joint that was announced (rumored) years ago. But just as the present climate is aligning to finally bring forth a Nas/Premier LP, I think there’s even more likelihood that the Pete Rock/Premier album is going to actually happen; and perhaps much sooner than most people expect.

Pete Rock and Premier seem genuinely motivated about this project. Recently, both have publicly confirmed that the album is indeed officially in the works. I want to, no, I HAVE to believe that they know that it’s paramount that they see this album through. Hip hop/rap music isn’t as in dire straits as some would argue (there's some dope music out here), but a timely triumph from a pair of hip hop/rap’s highest ranking royalty could reset the balance of the present day scene. Moreover, I’m sure Pete Rock and Premier are hip to the fact that a new album—especially a groundbreaking one—will grant them new and more lucrative tour opportunities.

2. A Global Tour Orchestrated and Sponsored by BeatTips Featuring DJ Premier and Pete Rock (Trust me, it can happen).
Pete Rock and Premier are (rightfully so) HIGHLY regarded around the world. So there’s no shortage of interest in seeing the two tour. In fact, in the last year or so, they have already done so at least once, if I recall correctly. But the sort of tour that I have in mind has never been done before. And the time is right for it. I’ve already begun laying the groundwork…

1. More Unification of the Beatmaking Community.
Right now, although most beatmakers are somewhat unified, the reality is that the beatmaking community is more like a patchwork community of overlapping identities, where there are far too many of us who on one hand willingly ignore (often reject) the roots and fundamentals of the beatmaking tradition, or on the other hand, frown upon anything new. For the record, I’m somewhat culpable here, because I can dig just about any beatmaking style, except for ultra-melody “emo” joints... But seriously, when two giants of a tradition—two giants, I should add, that you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t respect them or dig their music—join forces for a project of this nature, there’s a huge opportunity to help re-establish a more solid interpretation of what “quality hip hop/rap music” is.

And that’s not to say that boom bap has a monopoly on quality. On the contrary, quality hip hop/rap music—as I’d hope to see it unanimously defined—is merely hip hop/rap music that prioritizes the essence and nuance of the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions, first and foremost. I think a project of this magnitude, given the natural buzz and curiosity it would generate, could draw beatmakers into a extensive conversation about our wonderful tradition. Such a conversation could only lead to more extensive conversations, which could only lead to things like, well, a beatmakers union, something I've long called for. In my book, The BeatTips Manual, I lay out a solid framework for what a beatmakers union could (should) look like. And beatmaking events such as the Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier album, could go a long way in helping the beatmakers union conversation move forward.

—Sa'id

October 05, 2010

BeatTips Approved: Joell Ortiz - "Sing Like Bilal," Beat By DJ Premier

Bass Chops Underscore Premier's Boom Bap Send-Up; Joell Ortiz Delivers Solid Rhyme"

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

This beat is "workmen" status for Preme; one more reminder of how even his most simple joints are MusicStudy worthy. The staggering bass chops, just one of Premier's recent signatures, goes well with Joell's deliberate flow and lyrical punch. I'm increasingly becoming more impressed with Joell Ortiz, which is why I'm glad to see he's hooked up DJ Premier. As far as dope rhymes and beats go, this is a logical match-up.
"Sing Like Bilal," off of Joell’s recently released “Farewell Summer EP,” is BeatTips Approved

Now only if a new Marco Polo and Joell Ortiz joint could pop off... (Ay, Marco, make that happen.)

For educational purposes...

JOELL ORTIZ "SING LIKE BILAL" (via BLOWHIPHOPTV.COM)


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