Happy New Year! Let’s make 2014 a great one with more gear lust and more synth craze and more drum hogging and more of all of the things that make us love hiphop, beat making and related technology. But most of all, to the beatmakers, let’s make mo’ betta beats and continue to elevate the craft. With that said I’d like to pay homage to some of my FAVORITE 13 BEAT MAKERS OF 2013.
Here is the thing about music, its all subjective. Here is the thing about favorites, its all personal. Here is the thing about blogging, its all based on the bloggers opinion. So this should give you an idea of where I am going here. This list is MY FAVORITE 13 BEAT MAKERS OF 2013. Some of these guys you may know, some of them you may not know. I can honestly say I’ve spent a lot of time listening to their music this year, in my car, on my iPhone, at the crib, via soundcloud, downloaded beat tapes, bandcamp, official album releases, and even youtube videos. I’ve listened to these cats most of the year, just about everywhere and anyhow.
Some of these Beat Makers are pretty well known and may have had fresh new product out this year, either free or commercially available. Others may have had some product that maybe I’ve just learned of this year. Still in all, all of these cats are dope and I wish I had more slots than the available 13. There are more that I could list. At any rate, if you dig any of these cats please do support their movements. Especially the lesser known cats because they are no less dope than the others, they are just less known.
And on that note, Let’s get into it…
BBoyTechReport’s FAVORITE 13 BEAT MAKERS OF 2013
1. Karriem Riggins
Mr. Riggins, respected as a jazz drummer with the likes of Diana Krall and just as respected as a hiphop producer of the boombap persuasion, is a bit of an enigma. This is mostly due to the fact that he is one of the most slept on producers that you may have never heard of but you may have rocked to his productions at some point. One of my favorite joints that he produced is 2010’s “Next Time” by Common Featuring Queen Latifah. This cut is such a fly flip of the original sample. But as of late I’ve been so stuck on Karriem’s late 2012 release “Alone Together” on Stones Throw. This album is rather avant-garde. Mr Riggins flips unconventional samples and infuses them with lazy swing, tight grooves and soulful synth lines. If you are thinking that description sounds rather Dilla-esque, well, Karriem is from “The D” (Detroit) and was a good friend of Dilla’s. Not that this is the summation of his skill but it gives you a sense of where Karriem Riggins is on the beat making tip. Lastly, if Blue Note, with their deep and rich jazz history, ever decided to do a hiphop label infused with their jazz sensibilities I could easily see Mr Riggins as the marque artist/producer.
2. Black Milk
Black Milk is probably one of the most consistent beat makers and whats even cooler is that his lyrical skill has grown considerably. I’ve followed Black Milk for years now. I’ve not always been a fan of Black Milk the emcee but as a beatmaker is without doubt one of the illest in the game. Milk’s drums are an enigma. Everyone talks about Milks drums and try to figure out how they bang and smack so hard the way they do. Whats more is the fact that Milk is known to be a minimalist producer with an MPC, turntable and a Minimoog Voyager he turns it out. This year saw the release of Black Milk’s “No Poison No Paradise” project as well as one of my favorites where Black Milk links up with illustrator Upendo “Pen” Taylor for “the music-meets-visual instrumental/art series Fuzz, Freqs & Colors (FFC)” project “SYNTH or SOUL”. Synth or Soul finds Black Milk flexing his more synthy side and displaying it alongside his crate diggin’ soul sample boombap persona.
Illmind is one of my favorite producers right now. I love the way he never stops pushing himself to improve as a musician. Over the years he’s carved out a niche for himself as the producer’s producer in my opinion. He is not afraid to pass along great advise (but not always great news) to aspiring producers and beatmakers. If you have ever gotten caught up in one of Illmind’s beats you know, no matter the sub-genre (boom-bap, trap or otherwise) his joints have a certain bounce and an intricate simplicity that leaves you analyzing “how the f#ck did he do that?”
4. ES-K (aka Beats By ES-K)
ES-K is known to many as a super hard-working, high quality, high quantity output beast on the beats. Many people use the term “beast” but in reference to ES-K, it should not be taken lightly. ESK bangs out a number of beats daily and an instrumental album monthly. He calls the series “Spontaneous Grooves” and when asked what his workflow is like he told us in our interview “It goes something like this… I’ll be listening to songs trying to find something to flip. The second I hear something I like I’ll bring it back and start recording bits and pieces of the entire track. Then I quickly clean up my chops and start playing around with em.. Poly usually at 1 (or mono).. and I come up with a loop. Then I go through and add layers, color, bells and whistles etc, drops, all that stuff.. and all of a sudden I’m done! That’s the “Spontaneous Grooves” method”
5. Time Traveling Toaster
Back at the start of summer (June 2013) we ran a piece on beatmaker Time Traveling Toaster. Somewhat of an eccentric beatmaking space junkie, Time Traveling Toaster, presented a massively dope instrumental project called “Color Spacesound Turbulence.” Per our reviewer The New Beatmaker, “‘Color Spacesound Turbulence’ is the offering of an artist who, in his own words, creates “plush soundscapes, ethereal imagery, booming hip hop undertones…taking the soul on an otherworldly travel” But it doesnt stop there… just a few months later TTT was at it again but this time he dropped by with a J Dilla inspired beat project “Space Toast Vol 3” it was described by our review The New Beatmaker like this “TTT further explores his hip hop side. In particular, there are some nice nods to J Dilla. The loops are hypnotic and engaging, with plenty of beautiful, thoughtful flourishes; the drums are rugged and unquantized; the delicate, spacey synths sit on top of lashes of thick, nimble bass; and there’s a sense of melancholy throughout.” If there is anything to take from the introduction to TTT’s projects here it is that you aint heard nothing yet. Wait until you hear volumes 1 & 2 of Space Toast.
Have you ever heard those stories where folks mention some guy that studied under Bruce Lee? Well you’d think Elaquent studied under Dilla when you hear his swinging sort of off and on again drum programing mixed masterfully with lush samples, synth lines and heavy bass. The kid is nothing short of amazing. We featured him earlier this year with his “Roland SP-404 with a bit of accompaniment from the iPad and Korg’s “iKaossilator” app.” So not only is he nice on the eats but the cat is a dope performing artist with his live effects and such. If you haven’t heard of him he is definitely worth checking out.
7. Tall Black Guy
Tall Black Guy is the world traveling Detroit / Chicago / London based beatmaker, or as I like to call him ” the world citizen of Beat Making” with a rising profile. With the release of his 2013 project – Miles To Moenart Tall Black Guy amassed critical acclaim. As our reviewer put it back in May of 2013 “One of the most anticipated solo debuts of 2013, 8 Miles To Moenart by Terrel Wallace aka Tall Black Guy (TBG), arrives on the back of TBG’s collaborations with artists like The Foreign Exchange, DJ Vadim and Skyzoo; winning the Robert Glasper Remix competition; and receiving heavy co-signs from luminaries including Giles Peterson.” You can always count on TBG to drop fresh product a few times per year. Be sure to peep his work with Chicago based emcee Dee Jackson as they form the duo The Eighties Babies.
8. Passion HiFi
Passion HiFi has a knack for dropping quality collabs and banging beat tapes on the internet for everyone to dive into. As mentioned in an earlier post on bboytechreport “The Passion HiFi has long been held as one of the UKs most downloaded beat makers / producers. He is no stranger to allowing emcees to use his beats for little to no cash, non-exclusively of course. This is one of the reasons Passion is so highly regarded.” On the topic of selling, downloading, licensing beats, Passion’s take is… “Selling beats for $20 is pointless, it devalues your beats and makes you look desperate. I give all mine away for free which seems crazy but after nearly 8 million downloads i now have a mailing list of nearly 24,000 fans. I made my first beat tape a short while ago and placed it on bandcamp and set it as a name your price. It went to number one in the Bandcamp Hip Hop charts and made me a more money then any beat license ever could.”
Nottz is one of those producers that just may have produced one of your favorite hiphop joints but you’d never know it. In an interview with Scratch Magazine Nottz summarized the story of his journey into production, ““My man D got that SP-1200 and I went ape shit on that,” claims the beat smith. “Then one of my homeboys had an EPS 16 Plus and I was fucking around on that for a minute and then one of my boys bought me a keyboard (ASR-10) and I’ve been doing joints ever since. When my momma said that sounds good that’s when I got that this is what I’m gonna do.”” Nottz has produced for everyone from M.O.P, Busta Rhymes and Bilal to 50 Cent & G-Unit. One of my personal all time favs is Busta Rhymes’ Nottz produced “EveryBody Rise” from E.L.E. His 2010 joint “You Need This Music” and this years “Nottz Presents DMP – God Made Durt!” is recommended listening.
10. Apollo Brown
Grand Rapids, Michigan native, Apollo Brown is the classic boombap beatsmith with loads and loads of dope music and collaborations under his belt. OC & Apollo Brown’s Trophies project got good spin with me in 2012 and although its said to have dropped in 2011 “Clouds” by Apollo Brown is so perfectly done that its gotten heavy rotation in my ride this year. But rest assured Apollo Brown keeps busy. Be sure to keep up to date on his latest releases via the Mello Music Group label such as his latest collaboration efforts with Ugly Heros. FYI Red Pill x Verbal Kent x Apollo Brown = Ugly Heroes. Apollo Brown is no joke.
11. Boonie Mayfield
Known for his multi-instrumentalist talents, lush Fender Rhodes chords and boom-bap beats, Boonie Mayfield dropped a really dope instrumental hiphop project entitled Black Koolaid a good while back. This year Boonie aka’d himself with his government name Solomon Vaughn and dropped his first solo project entitled “Boonie Mayfield Presents Solomon Vaughn.” During an interview on BBoytechreport.com a few months ago we asked Boonie about his diverse production on the album, his reply, “Yes, I think it was important, so that people don’t get too comfortable and stuck on one flavor I have to offer as a musician. You can’t put this album in a box… therefore, the expectations people will have for my music from here on out is to bring good quality music, rather than a specific style, direction or sound. Artistically, I’m all over the place… so the album needed to showcase that.” Be sure to drop by Boonie’s sound cloud to get a good idea of what the cat has in store for you but you’ll have to read the interview to see what else is going on with the “Boonie Mayfield Presents Solomon Vaughn.”
12. Bus Crates (16-Bit Ensemble)
Pittsburgh bred, Atlanta-based beatmaker Bus Crates (16-Bit Ensemble) refers to himself as “DJ / Producer / Musician / one-third of ELQ – East Liberty Quarters.” What brings Bus Crates to this list is his ability to totally capture the listeners undivided attention as he takes you to whatever decade that he chooses to temporarily dock his funk-n-synth laden space craft. That is to say that he is one very versatile beatmaker with a penchant for all things fresh but vintage. His use of synths with his signature Fender Rhodes chords and warm boom bap drum programming often recreates a vibe of a given era. It can be the golden era of hiphop, it can be 80’s or 90’s electronic R&B but what ever the era and style of the track Bus Crates laces with an incredible sense of song composition and bangin beats. He should call his style boom-bap-n-boogie.
Ackryte is a beatmaker that had my attention from the moment I heard his beats. As mentioned in a previous article on bboytechreport “Ackryte specialises in jazz influenced beats full of skilfully chopped samples and often energetic drum patterns. These drums provide contrast to the mellow, even melancholy, sounds he creates and manipulates. The hypnotic qualities of his loops and chops are further balanced by lovely switch-ups and melodic phrases, which come by way of synths, many reminiscent of 80’s arcade games.” I found myself picking apart his tracks trying to figure if he uses a microkorg or otherwise… Once you’ve got me trying to dissect the music, you are pretty much on my hot list. Ackryte is def on the hot list.
Courtland Urbano (formerly known as Xperiment)
As a Red Bull Big Tune Nationals Finalist in 2010, Xperiment grabbed a lot of attention for his heavy beats laced with ill synth lines (see Precipitation: The Soundcloud Collection). Fast forward a few years and Xperiment is now Courtland Urbano of the Portland hip-hop collective Beautiful Eulogy with group mates Braille and Odd Thomas. Their album “Satellite Kite” finds Courtland Urbano in his element with clever drum programming and a performer’s knack for synthesized beat composition. Although Xperiment dwelled somewhere on the synthy boom-bap side of beatmaking Courtland Urbano lives on sort of fusion planet between hiphop and electronica. Either way Courtland Urbano is well worth checking out.