The following are what I consider to be the 10 best beats ever made. My criteria is, first, the “wtf?” factor, meaning when I hear it, does it make me turn my head and question what exactly it is I’m hearing? Second, does the beat accurately support and accentuate what the MC is spitting? Third, is the track different from everything else out there, and if so, does the fact that it’s different make it better? And the real clincher: does it give me goosebumps? It’s generally that simple. These are beats that either made me want to make beats or inspired me to continue doing so. So without further ado.
10) “Wrong Side Of The Tracks”- The Artifacts produced by T-Ray- the rolling bassline, the persistent drum hits, the sax samples…. this was a beat made strictly for the backpackers, and it worked.
9) “Come Clean”- Jeru the Damaja produced by DJ Premier- can’t front, first time I heard this I didn’t like it. We all thought Premier sampled some drops of water, low and behold it was a straight loop off a Shelly Manne record, go figure.
8) “T.R.O.Y.”- Pete Rock and CL Smooth produced by Pete Rock- Soul Brother #1 lifts a portion of Tom Scott’s “Today” (among other samples) to create the only sentimental rap record in the history of hip-hop that can literally shut a club down at 2am.
7) “Diary Of A Madman”- Gravediggaz produced by RNS- the main loop and breakdown both come from Johnny Mathis records, go figure. I remember literally tuning in to HOT97 every night for a week straight just so I could tape the song off the “Hot 5 at 9.” The beat was both eerie and spooky, but it still had that hip-hop bounce to it. It was horrorcore at its finest.
5) “Da Rockwilder”- Method Man and Redman produced by Rocwilder- this track came out at a time when Swizz Beats was literally ruling the radio with synth-infused tracks. Rocwilder took that sound, gave it more melody and a more straightforward hip-hop drum beat, and Redman came with the Cypress Hill redux (see above), and a classic was born.
4) “T.O.N.Y.”- Capone N Noreaga produced Nasheim Myrick- this could be quite possibly the hardest hip-hop beat ever made. Slow and brooding, it creeps along while that deep 808 just keeps banging down low. The way this track is arranged, how the main vocal sample keeps dropping out and coming back in, keeps it interesting for the whole song.
3) “Whoah”- Black Rob produced by Buckwild- this beat was unique because at the time a) nobody was really making hard records and b) It’s a song that still plays in the club, but if you really listen closely, there’s a lot of things going on in the beat itself- the violin melody, the breakdown at the end of every 4-8 bars or so, the bassline. It’s very musical, but still knocks.
2) “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See”- Busta Rhymes produced by Shamello- the flip of Seals and Croft’s “Sweet Green Fields” was deceptively simple, but when you really listen to the original sample and the Busta track, you can hear some different percussion elements, particularly the shaker, that make the beat swing more like a hip-hop record.
1) “Protect Ya Neck”- Wu-Tang Clan produced by The Rza- there are so many elements to this track that I don’t even know what was sampled and what was played out on a keyboard. There’s the drum loop, the bass line loop, the piano that comes in sporadically, the weird stringy sound that drops in and out, and tons of other sounds. I think that’s what makes the track incredible, the fact that it keeps changing as the the voices you hear on the track change- the arrangement is very dynamic.
So there you have it, my top 10 best beats of all time.
Think my list sucks, or I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, feel free to create your own top 10 in the comments section.
“Ante Up”- MOP produced by DR Period
“You Know My Steez”- Gangstarr produced by DJ Premier
“Shut Em Down Remix”- Public Enemy produced by Pete Rock
“Shook Ones pt 2″- Mobb Deep produced by Havoc
“Deep Cover”- Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg produced by Dr Dre
“Wild For The Night”- Rampage produced by Backspin