It’s the mid 90’s. You’re cruising along in a car as Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise blast out of the cars speakers. The melody is intimidating, the beat is laid back. It almost reminds you of a Mortal Kombat soundtrack or Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, with it’s creepy choir background. Then the next track comes up, it’s “U Can’t C Me” by 2 pac. This is an in your face G Funk beat produced by Dr Dre, with a spoken word chorus performed by the one and only George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic. 2 Pac starts spitting ill fire, murdering the high energy hip hop funk beat. Those were the days…and they can return. I imagine a high percentage of bedroom producers are here looking to learn how to make beats. Not every producer in the world is vying to make electronic dance music (EDM), dubstep, dirty dutch, or trap music. For those looking to craft some dark hip hop styles, those bouncing, energy laden G Funk hip hop beats, those cinematic Jedi Mind Tricks orchestral beats, or those club bangers to bob your head to, read on!
How to Make Beats – In Different Styles
G-Funk is an energetic and melodically infectious form of hip hop. Chances are you are a fan of old school hip hop if this is the style of beats you want to learn how to make. G-Funk’s origins stem from gangsta rap, funk, rhythm and blues, and west coast hip hop. Parliament Funkadelic are a huge influence on this sub genre. One of the pioneers of the G-Funk genre is the infamous Dr Dre, who would oftentimes hire session musicians to perform covers of the intended songs as opposed to outright sampling them. This gave the songs a more original sound and timber. Dr Dre was a big fan of the sine wave lead.
The G-Funk genre makes use of melodic synthesizers, chilled out and hypnotic grooves, soulful and sensual female backing vocals, and a deep, throbbing bass. The genre is well known for it’s extensive sampling of P-Funk songs. The synthesizer leads are synonymous with the genre, and can be achieved with a high pitched saw tooth portamento. (Portamento refers to the instrument sliding from one note to the next.)If you’re looking to produce this style of beat, think funky. Go back to the funk bands of the 70’s and 80’s and pay close attention to the bass lines, the grooving synchronicity, and the general swagger and bounce of the music.
Gangsta rap is primarily trunk heavy music, and with good reason – the lyrical content is oftentimes about the violent underbellies of society. Music by the denizens of the ghetto, either glorifying or reminiscing bitterly on the trials and tribulations of the streets and the mental impact it has on the ghetto’s inhabitants and the state of society overall. While the beats started darker and grittier, eventually a new style of gangsta rap emerged, with crisply produced, almost melodically sarcastic beats with a pop edge proving as an interesting contrast to the intense lyrical subject matter. Club bangers may be lyrically crass and offensive, but oftentimes the beats themselves aren’t all that far removed from the most vanilla of R & B and pop songs.
If you’re looking to make trip hop beats, it’s likely you lean more towards the electronic side of the spectrum than hip hop. Either that, or as a lyricist and MC looking to create beats to back your words, you likely have a more unique vision of how you want your beats to sound to compliment the lyrics instead of ripping watermarked rap beats off websites like DatPiff.
Trip Hop can be glitched out chaos, or chilled out, ambient, and psychedelic. Trip Hop oftentimes cuts into interesting drum based breakdowns, much like other sub genres of hip hop. You can also hear whispers of dub, house, and R & B in Trip Hop. It is an experimental and elusive genre – like a chameleon, changing colors and blending to certain moods and emotions as opposed to swinging through the motion of generic, poppy formulas designed to be club bangers. Trip Hop takes risks, and rewards it’s listeners by doing so.
Certain artists like Jedi Mind Tricks, Bone Thugs and Harmony, and Immortal Technique (among many others) have a more orchestral element to their music. In fact, this can be heard in quite a few artists from varying sub genres of hip hop. While you likely won’t hear cinematic crunk, cinematic hip hop, cinematic gangsta rap and cinematic G Funk are all quite possible. The big difference between the production of these beats with your standard rap and hip hop is a theatrical element. This cinematic edge gives the beats a more epic feel. Orchestral elements rack up the tension and provide even more depth to your standard hip hop and rap beats. String instruments such as violins, violas, and cellos layer up into something melodically pleasing, while giant brass tones ramp up the power and pomposity of the track.
Personally I enjoy the orchestral touch these beats have upon them. While it isn’t particularly it’s own sub genre, I feel many of you bedroom producers reading this know exactly what type of beat I’m talking about.
The Trap I am referencing is a relatively new music fad. In the ashes of dubstep (which is still struggling along with moderate success), the masses of trend following bedroom producers found their new sub genre to milk and attempt to cash in on – trap. (I, for one, was hoping dubstep would be replaced with complextro.) But much like how dubstep was an EDM infused revival of an earlier music genre (Dub), so too is the new Trap fad a sort of revitalizing of a much older genre.
The Trap music of the early 90’s originated in the Southern United States of America. Listeners can expect aggressive lyrical content and a hard hitting sound. Instrumentals are composed of heavy 808 kick drum sounds and deep, booming sub basses with drawn out bass lines. The hi-hats generally play faster, usually in double time, triple time, or even faster hits. The sound was rounded out with theatrical strings and a healthy layering of synthesizers.
In 2012, however, Trap was revitalized (or tarnished, many would say) when a trend started to boil among electronic music producers and DJs. These producers and DJs started to implement elements of Trap music into their sound. This new take on Trap is a bit more Electronic Dance Music influenced than hip hop influenced, generally with very EDM based compositions interlocked with sampled verses from rap and hip hop MCs.
Well I’ve given you a bit of a break down on the origins and sounds of a variety of hip hop sub genres. But how do you get started creating these beats? Well there are several ways to go about it. For those of you who are looking to perform the music on MIDI controllers and live instruments, it’s as easy as studying the sub genre you wish to create and mentally understanding what went into the production process of crafting that sound. For those who aren’t yet musically inclined and prefer to sample loops and acapellas, I’ve listed a number of resources below that will no doubt help you get started.
Looper Man is a great resource for all kinds of stuff – free audio loops of all variety are available on this very helpful website, and did I mention it was all for free?! At the time of writing this Looperman currently boasts 62,720 royalty free loops, samples and sounds for producers to choose from. These instruments range from drum loops to bass lines to synthesizer passages to guitar riffs and more! Still not impressed? How about a collection of 5,846 acapellas of vocals, rap, and singing? Pretty damn good at the price of nothing, right? Join over 1,000,000 other users and check out Looperman!
Hip Hop Makers
Hip Hop Makers focus on music productions. They update their site with news, software, free resources for music production, videos on how to make beats, and even tips on how to sell beats. They offer free drum samples, free VST plugins, thousands of music samples, and video tutorials to help you get started. This is another great resource with the benefit of being hip hop based thematically. Definitely add this to your list of bookmarks!
Dee Jay Portal
Dee Jay Portal may be more geared towards Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and DJs, make no mistake – this site will definitely be an aid to you in your quest for crafting the perfect funky hip hop beat. This site offers VSTs, acapellas and more.
Bearing in mind the genre descriptions I gave and the resources I’ve listed, the only thing you’ve got to do now is open your Digital Audio Workspace (DAW) of choice and start producing – but be sure you have the essentials to get started! Happy producing fellow composers, artists, and MCs. That next club banger is just waiting to be made!