I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving/Thingstaken. I know I've had about as much Turkey/Mashed Potatoes/Gravy to last me until next year. Something that I regret not doing more often on the blog is posting more instrumentals (a shortcoming that I hope to rectify moving forward). While it is fair enough emcees get a lot of credit for hip hop songs, it is important to recognize that the producer is an essential half to each and every song. While it is an emcees' intricate wordplay that will keep you coming back to a song over and over again, often it is the crisp instrumental that will draw you in to begin with and, when on cue with an emcee's delivery, can transform a good track into one that is anthem-worthy.
Take for example, "Rock Co.Kane Flow," a De La Soul song featuring MF Doom and produced by Seattle's Jake One. As expected, De La and Doom provide the listener with superb verses, but is the combination with Jake One's instrumental (which samples Space's "Deliverance"), that the track becomes one of my favorites of all time. It's not just that about the booming, heavy-hitting bass or the eery background vocals. A veteran like Jake One knows to key off the emcees (just as they key off him) quickening fading the bass in and out with the pace of the rappers' lyrical delivery, adding a quick looped piano-sample towards the end of each verse as each emcee speeds up, adding a feeling of controlled chaos to the track as a whole.
The production-half of both Blue Scholars and Common Market, Sabzi Selectah is one of the more innovative producers in the genre today. From the memorizing, synthesizer-based "Loyalty" to the heavy-hitting "Black Patch War" to laid back, Hawaiian-influenced instrumentals on OOF!, Sabzi's diverse production has provided the canvases for some of The Town's greatest hip hop tracks over the past decade. A common mistake that a lot politically-minded acts make is feeling that they have to rap over beats without any commercial appeal. While this will gain them respect in small circles, what a lot of people don't realize is that you can really say whatever you want if you rap over hot instrumentals. A large part of what distinguishes Blue Scholars from their peers and has garnered them a loyal following worldwide is Sabzi's inventive beats.
Instrumentals are not typically something that I will actively listen to (the same goes for a cappella's; it just feels like something is missing when you only listen to half of a track's components). But instrumentals are something that I love to listen to while writing that term paper or studying or doing work in general. Good producers are often overlooked by the lay listener, but great producers like J Dilla and DJ Premier deserve credit where credit is due. Hit the link for the download for Sabzi's latest instrumental album, Beatballs, and be sure to check out his new site, Townfolk.
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,