What I am undertaking here is, at best, quixotic, and at worst, impossible. I want to make a list of the top 10 best Hip Hop beats ever. Once I started upon this task I realized how foolhardy it was. I mean, it would be hard enough to make a list of top 10 Bad Boy beats, or top 10 Violator beats (including Missy, Timbaland, and Busta Rhymes songs). It would be damn near impossible to make a top 10 list of Dre beats, or Snoop songs, or Eminem songs, but that is exactly what I am attempting to do here. If you disagree with my list, (and you are almost destined to) I encourage you to make a list of your own. I am a beat connoisseur, a beat junkie, a beat-nut, if you will, and I would love to hear other people's opinions on this matter. To be honest, I probably won't even completely agree with my list, but I figure this is a good place to start. Oh, and PLEASE keep in mind that though there may be better SONGS that capture some of the moods I'm talking about, I am making an attempt to separate the beats out from the flows, featured artists, etc. So without further ado, here we go...
10. Is a Three-way tie by Dipset because they are all TV related samples. Of course I mean .357, Let Me Know, and the Horse and Carriage remix. They are (in order; Magnum P.I. Theme, the MNFootball theme, and the Night Court theme) some of the best TV music around. I am slightly disappointed that they never got around to sampling the “AirWolf” theme, but it could still happen, right?
9.“What Up Gangsta”, 50 Cent - If you have some nefarious actions planned for the night, there are few songs that will put you in the proper frame of mind faster than this song. Runner-up – Quiet Storm, Mobb Deep, Ante-Up Remix, M.O.P.
8.“Fire”, Joe Buddens – This may be the Jersey in my showing, but the hardcore House pedigree of this songs makes me put this song on repeat consistently. If it comes on while I'm driving I instantly speed up 10-15 mph. It's that kind of song. If you can sit still during that song, check your pulse.
7.“Never Let Me Down”, Kanye West – It's fairly well known if you know me that I drink the Kanye Kool-Aid. I say that I am to Kanye as “Stan” was to Eminem, without, you know, the homoerotic letters and suicidal tendencies... But I digress. The problem with me and Kanye's songs is that I find it impossible to separate the flows from the beat, so I can't really be impartial. “Never Let Me Down”, I believe to be an amazing song, with or without words, which is why I included it here. Still, I feel like I'm violation my own rules here...
6.“Bitch Please Pt 1 and 2” - Want to talk about epitomizing the West Coast sound? I don't think it gets much closer than these two songs. They fairly beg to be blasted at high volume in a low rider, sans top, in a low income neighborhood. You can throw Xzibit's “X” in here as well; what, that was an enjoyable song...
5. “Clint Eastwood”, Gorillaz – This is the first Gorillaz song I ever heard and still is by far my favorite. I don't know what it is about this lazy meandering baseline that gets me, but like a good point guard this beat makes whoever is working with it look better. I think maybe it is the harmonica that lends the song a sort of otherworldly feel. Either way, this one deserves to stand among the best.
4.“I Can't Stand the Rain”, Missy Elliot – If anyone ever coins the term “Beat Minimalist” (which I should) Missy will be the primary example of such an artist, and this song will be the primary example. A song that's as great for what isn't there as for what is, Missy definitely explored the space with this one. This beat is the musical version of a Sundress; you had better be talented, because this beat will not hide any of your flaws. Beautiful bare bones music.
3. “You're All I Need”, Method Man, ft. Mary J. Blige – The most gangsta love song of all time, there is really no way to get around how hard this beat is considering the subject matter. If you separate the two and listen to them separately, you are put in the mood to do entirely different things. By “different” I mean, do a home invasion or write a poem for your beloved different. It's a good thing this song is about love, because this beat is about grimy, illegal things.
2.“Who Shot Ya”, Notorious B.I.G. - Speaking of bad intentions, this song has nothing but bad intentions. Again, I maybe unduly prejudiced towards this song because of all the yelling of “J.M. MUTHAFUCKA” (my initials) but this beat influenced a lot of hip-hop that came after it. An original product of the Minimalist School, this beats' scarcity of decoration allowed B.I.G. To fully display the breadth and range of his lyrical ability. I can imagine the shock to the status quo when they first heard this song. So, what's better than this?
1.“Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See”, Busta Rhymes – What is it about this song that was/is so special? What is it that, when it comes on in clubs or bars, produces some kind of positive reaction in every patron, male, female, old, young? This song, I think, was something of a musical breakthrough for hip-hop. Definitely Minimalist by nature, I think this song made producers change what they thought a hip-hop beat could be. “Put Your Eyes” was off-beat; slower than usual, and had odd pacing, but it worked, oh boy did it work. The song showed off Busta Rhyme's ability to rap over pretty much everything, but, I believe, it showed the hip-hop world that there was a lot more room for creativity when it came to producing tracks.
So that's my list. Feel free to tell me how wrong I am.... now.