A random click today landed me at the hip-hop tinged blog Metal Lungies. Much to my delight they have a reoccurring feature entitled Beat Drop. The site gathers writers to do a round table discussion examining the production skills of a particular hip-hop producer.
The most recent focuses on the great polarizer Kanye West. This discussion has of course garnered more comments than any of the other Beat Drops. Love him or hate him, Mr. West has a fantastic sense and feel for giving life to samples, at a level which belies his campy ego-driven persona. If I’d ever have to pick a bone with the man, it’d be that he chose to be the only man in hip-hop to sample Can and use it for the crappiest track on Graduation. I’ll forgive him…his almost equally strange choice of sampling Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne was an charming flip-cum-ploy for the ears of nerdy, white scenester kids. (See also, A-Trak). Weather you like his persona or not, his skill is undeniable. Listen to ‘Spaceship’ off Late Registration and try to say otherwise.
(On a related note, check out this Portfolio article on Steely Dan’s arrival into the world of samples)
For an even better dissection of a great career, their Beat Drop for the late master J Dilla is a wonderful exploration into catalog cut short. I became a fan quite late, well after his passing. One night a friend showed me the beautiful, Mixtape Club directed video for ‘Nothing Like This’.
The track is a kind of musical Schrödinger’s cat; something that is simultaneously hip-hop and not. The song, in combination with the beautiful video, blew my mind open and I began to probe the back catalog. There’s something startling about many of his production choices; combining elements both slinky and gruff to make unique compositions.
All of the Beat Drops are insightful & engaging bits of writing, something rare in this age of the McDonalds-esq music blogging. Where else are you going to find a statement like this:
I believe that people don’t truly change your life until your life has gone on for some time without them — only then do you realize the difference that they made on you.
It’s hard to find writing with such introspection in most corners of the internet, it’s even nicer to see such words written about hip-hop. Both posts alerted me to tracks loved but had no clue either had a hand in producing. (Kanye produced Goodie Mob…really?) Give them a read and I guarantee you’ll learn something…