RZA’s 15 Best Beats

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  • rza movie
    Any conceivable shortlist of the most legendary producers in hip-hop history has to include The RZA. One of the most prolific and creative beatmakers to ever turn his mind to music, he's been the architect of a number of classic albums since helming the Wu-Tang Clan's iconic debut LP <em>Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers </em>in 1993. From Method Man's <em>Tical</em> to Earl Sweatshirt's <em>Doris</em>, The Abbot has kept his finger on the pulse of hip-hop for more than two decades, providing only the freshest beats and dopest samples to some of the most high-profile lyricists of all time.<br /><br />But that's not the only thing RZA has up his sleeve—he's also become an accomplished actor over the years, having bit parts or starring roles in big-budget films such as <em>American Gangster</em>, <em>Funny People</em>, <em>The Man With The Iron Fist</em>, and a recurring role in Showtime's <em>Californication</em>. Later this month, he'll be starring in a new film, <em>Brick Mansions</em>, co-starring the late Paul Walker, an action flick that pits Walker as an undercover detective against RZA's kidnap-crazy drug kingpin archetype. The film hits theaters April 25.<br /><br />Ahead of the movie's release, <em>XXL</em> dove into RZA's massive discography to pull 15 of his best beats of all time, spreading the love around so as to not overload the list with his extensive and dominant work with Wu-Tang. Ya best protect ya neck.<br /><br /><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WwkUQrIBLCY" height="380" width="670" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0"></iframe>
  • Wu-Tang
    <h2>Wu-Tang Clan, “Protect Ya Neck”</h2>The sonic elements in this classic Wu track are incredible. There’s the drum loop, the bass line loop, the sporadic piano and more that pleases the ear. More than 20 years later, it's still widely considered as RZA’s best work yet.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/R0IUR4gkPIE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • earl-sweatshirt
    <h2>Earl Sweatshirt, "Molasses"</h2>Despite the vulgar hook, Earl Sweatshirt displays his wordplay skills on a crackle-like sample loop that sounds elegant. Leave it to RZA to make a beat similar to one found on <em>Liquid Swords</em>.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/va1d_XKIeiI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • wu-tang-clan2
    <h2>Wu-Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.”</h2>The nine-headed rap crew spoke many truths on “C.R.E.A.M.” With RZA handling the soft, melodic instrumental, the single has grown into a memorable hip-hop classic, and the sentiment—Cash Rules Everything Around Me—has found its way into countless rhymes ever since.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/PBwAxmrE194" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • kanye-jay-throne
    <h2>Watch The Throne, "New Day"</h2>The driving bass drum sets the tone, with the Nina Simone sample floating over everything and lending an almost haunted aspect to the entire production. Thick keys underneath it all help things along, while the extra production behind the hook gets instantly stuck in the head. The track gains all the more relevance three years after its release, as both rappers' verses deal with protecting their future children, and now that has become a reality for Jay and 'Ye.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/DStkm9wo2qE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • GZA
    <h2>GZA, "Shadowboxin'"</h2>Laid back groove with a bass line that steals the show. The vocal sample is a quick, repetitive "oh man" that adds just enough to keep listeners on their toes, and RZA's scratches on the intro and the hook keep people guessing. It's the perfect platform for Meth's too-cool flow and GZA's old-school knowledge.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/9oKUu1fO9KM" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • Kanye-West
    <h2>Kanye West, “White Dress”</h2>While this track didn’t make any of his albums, “White Dress” was a highlight off the soundtrack to <em>The Man With The Iron Fists</em>. Featuring a looping sample of “Just me and you,” piano arrangements and light drums, ‘Ye speaks on a lover that many rap fans paralleled to Kim Kardashian.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/tRZBAvstyxA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • lox_jada
    <h2>The LOX, Ghostface Killah And Raekwon, "Wu Block"</h2>It’s the clash of the titans. "Wu Block" comes correct with hard-hitting lyricism that sounds pitch-perfect over RZA’s methodic instrumental.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/aOIbnqx_kGQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • method-man
    <h2>Method Man, "Bring The Pain"</h2>Maybe the smoothest vocal sample in his catalog anchors the verses over a straightforward drum line. But it's the single piano key that comes in around the hook that sets it apart; it's so simple and so singular that it makes a bigger impact than an entire orchestra would.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3R2Fa2BRFZo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • nas az
    <h2>AZ, "Doe Or Die" (RZA Remix)</h2>The powerful twin attack of AZ and Raekwon is propelled by the thumping bass drum over a quick three and four-note horn line which marks the measures. The decision to drop the horn line for the second half of each 16 breaks things up even further, giving each MC two separate beats to flow over while they trade back and forth.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/GsEeE5VWqdA" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • Raekwon
    <h2>Raekwon, “Criminology”</h2>Over booming bass and a horn-laden production, RZA serves up the right amount of grittiness for Ghost and Rae to go off.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Lk1POuNuCnI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • gravediggaz
    <h2>Gravediggaz, "1-800-Suicide" (Poisonous Remix)</h2>The introduction is creepy as hell, but once the drums kick in you get a real taste of that classic RZA sound; dusty loops, weird keys in the background, and a beat that flat out knocks. The song's second part subscribes to another RZA staple; the descending, intimidating and commanding sample best known from Wu-Tang's "7th Chamber."<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/IPFitDdZm5s" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • ODB
    <h2>ODB, "Give It To Ya Raw"</h2>R.I.P. to a legend. Ol’ Dirty Bastard delivers that old school flavor with dense verses over some dramatic production. While every Wu member held their own behind the mic, ODB just had a unique style that couldn’t be beaten.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/X-Pvzykl4ew" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • rza actor
    <h2>Wu-Tang Clan, “Triumph”</h2>RZArector loops in a prominent soul sample for the Wu’s no-hook, all bars approach. An epic posse cut that gets constant plays.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/cPRKsKwEdUQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • kanye_west_1
    <h2>Kanye West, “Dark Fantasy”</h2>After a collective of voices start off the intro with “Can we get much higher,” the motion begins with RZA’s sharpest beat of his career. ‘Ye talks about everything he’s accomplished. You better have Yeezy in your Serato.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/N29WWcLmgzQ" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
  • rza brick mansions
    <h2>The Black Keys, "Baddest Man Alive"</h2>It's classic Black Keys on first listen, but hear it again and you hear RZA's Kung-Fu flavor all over it. Plus, RZA's full-force verse sounds like it runs through the Keys' distortion pedal, adding that extra twisted element to a track that already oozes badass-ness.<br /><br /><iframe width="670" height="380" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/RQgX3S4LSAY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Previously: RZA And Paul Walker Co-Star In Brick Mansions
RZA Is Defending His Title As Chess Master On Valentine’s Day
20 Of The Best One-Producer Albums In Hip-Hop History