The code of the beat.

Boi-1da Makes Drake’s “Over” a Sureshot

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Beatmaker Boi-1da Delivers Stellar Beatwork; Ambitious Changes Mark Impressive Arrangement Scheme

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

By no stretch of the imagination am I a major fan or opponent of Drake. Instead, when it comes to Drake, I respect and recognize him for what he represents most: a somewhat average punchline-based rapper with broad commercial appeal. But more importantly, when it comes to music, I call it like a see it; or in the case of beats, I call it like I hear it. And Drake aside, the beatwork on “Over,” the lead single off the rap star’s new album, is quite impressive.

For “Over,” Boi-1da (pronounced “boy wonda”) constructs a beat that includes an incredible section contrast. A section contrast is the term that I use to describe an arrangement scheme in which two or more sections in a beat that are not predicated upon one another (based on most of the same elements) or moving in a similar “direction” and feel. One of the best things about a section contrast is the fact that, when done right, they appropriately add the value of variety as well as a strong sense of tension and release. This, in turn, makes both the chorus (hook) and verse sections of the song much more climatic; which ultimately keeps the interest of the listener.

In “Over,” Boi-1da builds the hook section around a sample that features a hovering strings (violin) arrangement, a wining guitar, and a chromatic brass phrase that moves left of Middle C (down in pitch). Making the hook section stand out even more, Boi-1da crafts a powerful drum framework, using a standard Southern Rap sound syncopated 1/8th hi-hat arrangement, with a precise sounding boom kick, and a smashing clap. Finally, spicing up this hook section even more, Boi-1da adds in a snare breakdown that bows, just before the verse section begins.

Next, Boi-1da builds a stripped-down verse section. (Can’t really call this section the core groove, since the hook section plays a much more dominant role in the beat and song.) Seemingly pleased with the impact of the very well built out hook section, Boi-1da grounds the verse section in a minimalist style, using something that amounts to a pumped up drum track, with various impromptu truncated bass stabs for punctuation and chime, moving in marching band synchronicity. For the drum framework of the verse section, Boi-1da uses a straightforward arrangement that relies more on the military marching band-styel syncopated snare raps and percussion, and less on the kick hits, (I struggled to hear even one kick in this section). Fact is though, it’s this marching-band steadiness and precision that gives the beat its best and most important repetitive quality. Rounding out the drum framework, Boi-1da includes an elongated 808, that hauntingly resonates throughout the balance of the verse section. Thus, in the final assessment of the beat for “over,” Boi-1da masterfully crafts a beat that is as much ambitious as it is fundamental hip hop/rap.

Finally, I should note that the fact that Drake even picked this beat makes me respect him more. And quite frankly, I’m impressed by his decision to ignore going for more of the same, but instead, something perhaps more edgier—a beat with a verse section that challenged him to do more of the work. If Drake continues along this path, he may lose some of his fans, but on the other hand, he just might become an even more engaging lyricist, which, will likely garner him new fans.

Editor’s Note.
It has been brought to my attention—by a BeatTips.com reader—that Al-Khaaliq co-produced Drake’s “Over” with Boi-1da. Furthermore, this reader mentioned—via comment to this post—that the hook section was entirely played out by Al-Khaaliq. As is the case with many beats, some things that one thinks are sampled are indeed played out in the traditional sense; likewise, some things that one thinks were played out in the traditional sense are in fact samples. On Drake’s “Over,” it is clear that certain elements of the hook section were played out; however, I’m not yet convinced that “everything” in the hook section was played out in the traditional sense.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
“The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education.”

For educational purposes

Drake – “Over;” beat by Boi-1da

Articles, Beat Breakdown, Beatmaking, BeatTips

About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

  • Mariella

    Ain’t that a shame – that people like me, who CAN NOT listen to Drake’s voice (believe me – i tried several times), ‘miss out’ on a dope beat. I know this post is about the beat itself, however I had to turn it off after 30 seconds (and i was pushing it). Maybe I can find the instrumental and give this beat a chance.

  • i agree that this beat is nice, but i disagree with your assessment of the verse section – i think there’s a lot more going on than you say. The high bell and violin pizzacato or quick bowing are there [referenced at the very start of the track], and a descending brass riff comes in, as in the hook. And your description of the beat in the verse as ‘straightforward’ is misleading. Has 3+ drums going in a not-straight arrangement; i find the beat that kicks in with the hook much more ‘straightforward’. {speaking of kicks, i think there are some [maybe bass drum hits] hitting with the lower snare. hard to say.}
    On the other hand i really like this post, it makes a lot of good points in very little space. I feel like it, along with so many posts on this site, could have been really amazing if it had been a little longer, dug a little deeper, had some more depth. Keep it up!

  • Ocho, thank you for your comment.
    Im glad that we both agree that this beat is nice!  As for your comment about my assessment of the verse section of the beat, I think you misinterpreted what I wrote.  Directly from my article: Boi-1da grounds the verse section in a minimalist style,
    using nothing more than a drum track and various impromptu truncated
    bass stabs for punctuation throughout the verse measure. For the drum framework of the verse section, Boi-1da uses
    a straightforward arrangement that relies more on the snare hits and
    percussion and less on the kick hits…  Indeed, the verse section is in minimalist style, and it does rely more on snare hits and percussion less than kick hits!  The percussive elements that you point out were not lost on me at all; I mentioned the role percussion plays in this otherwise stripped-down section.  I should point out that, at times, I refrain from identifying specific sounds, because, to be honest, some sounds arent always identifiable. 
    Also, as for my use of the phrase straightforward arrangement, I was commenting on two things: (1) the easy-to-grasp nature of the drum framework; and (2) the drum frameworks deference to a concise repetitive pattern.  Moreover, I *did* mention the appearance of the bass in this section:  …various impromptu
    truncated
    bass stabs for punctuation throughout the verse measure.  Furthermore, as compared to the hook section, which contains at least three different movements, the verse section is minimalist and rather straightforward.  Thus, my assessment of the verse section as stripped-down and straightforward isnt misleading at all.  (Im compelled to note that I like each section; both work well.  Moreover, I did not/do not disregard the individual sounds used in the verse section.  But nonetheless, the verse section is stripped-down.) 
    Finally, Im glad that you really liked this post.  (Thanks for reading it and sharing your thoughts!)  On BeatTips.com, I publish posts that vary in topic, degree, scope, and purpose.  So one of my fundamental goals is to try and do a lot in very little space; it is a blog!  And although I do indeed strive to engage the readers of BeatTips.com, Im also conscious of keeping my longer posts deep, but very accessible.  (Believe me, in my book, The BeatTips Manual, I go much deeper across various areas of beatmaking.)  One of my goals with every post that I publish on BeatTips.com is to offer unique information, to provoke thought and engaging discussion, and to encourage each BeatTips.com reader to explore further.  Considering your very thoughtful comment on one of my latest posts, Im confident that I am achieving this goal.  Thanks, Ocho!  Your input was very helpful.
    —Said

  • Said,
    yes, i was being kind of harsh to see if you’d step up; you did! awesome. I def respect all points in your response, realize i definitely misread “truncated bass stabs” as “brass”, whoops. I also was taking advantage of how hard it is to decribe a lot of musical feel, and how hard it is to fit so much into such a small format – these made it easy to find things to attack in my comment.
    but yes, let me say i was very excited to discover this site only about a month ago, and i look forward to continuing to read your insights and ideas!
    ~ocho

  • Ocho,
    Thanks for your explanation.  And hey, Im glad that you wanted to see me step it up.  I think we all have information and ideas to contribute; and only good things can come from regular thoughtful discussion.  Finally, I feel fortunate that you found BeatTips.com.  I look forward to trading more ideas with you in the future.  Thank you.
    Said

  • DrakeOver

    you got it wrong bro. First of all Al-Khaaliq played the whole hook, Boi 1da had nothing to do with it besides arranging it. Al Khaaliq (co producer on the song) played a longer composition that sounds like a sample and boi 1da just took those 4 – 8 bars or w/e and looped it for the hook, he doesn’t play instruments. The drums were all him though and I’m sure all the secondary sounds in the verse section was done by him like all the stabs or w/e…but the main sounds in the verse or prolly just chopped from w/e Al-Khaaliq played as well.

  • Jason, thank you for your comment, much appreciated.
    I did not know that Al-Khaaliq co-produced Drake’s “Over” with Boi-1-da.  However, that being said, I do not believe that I got it all wrong.  As for your claim that Al Khaaliq played the whole hook, and that Boi-1da had nothing to do with it besides arranging it, well, the fact that you concede that Boi-1-da arranged it clearly supports the argument that he did indeed have something to do with it!
    Next, your concession that Boi-1da took those 4-8 bars or w/e and looped it for the hook not only supports the argument that he did indeed have something to do with it, it also indicates that Boi-1da SAMPLED the phrase and built the hook around it.  Thus, my point that the hook was built around a sample…this does not discredit Al-Khaaliqs (or any other musicians live playing). 
    Next, I never made any claim that Boi-1da did or didnt play any traditional instruments.  Moreover, I never made any claims that anyone else did NOT play instruments on this beat.
    Next, your concession that the drums were all him [Boi-1da] though and that the secondary sounds in the verse section were done by him further supports Boi-1das intricate involvement in the making of this beat.  (Please note how I also break do the verse section.)
    Next, Im not clear as to why you claim that the main sounds in the verse are prolly just chopped from w/e Al-Khaaliq played as well.  I STRONGLY doubt that is the case, but, of course, I do not know for certain.
    Finally, I should point out that Im an advocate for people getting their proper credit; therefore, if Al-Khaaliq played a big role in the creation of this track, then all respect due to him.  But please understand: without knowing the exact circumstances, for instance, did Al-Khaaliq play his parts for the creation of this song, or did he play is parts randomly, and Boi-1da record them and later sample?  Also, I would be very helpful to know if Al-Khaaliq works frequently with Boi-1da and in what capacity.  Such details as these would certainly shed even more light on this discussion.
    —Sa’id

  • barooboodoo

    Great read man, I share your skepticism about whether this beat sampled something or not in the traditional sense. The beat really came out of nowhere haven’t heard anything like it since d.o.a which made sense since it (overly) used a sample. Actually though I secretly hope it was all played out so I can dream that they’re trying to bring musicianship back to the rap game, and more specifically the radio rap game.

  • D

    It is possible that the composition was done on MIDI, then applied to VST’s (East West’s Symphonic Platinum being likely), mixed down, then “sampled”, i.e. overlaid with drums and sequenced. It’s not impossible that he played each MIDI instrument in real time in the original composition, but it probably was a combination of playing, note-placing and editing, which is the type of process MIDI encourages.

  • Vic aka Minus

    I think the song was sampled, I came across a sample that sounds similar to over, I just dont know the artist of the sample check it out,
    http://www.divshare.com/download/11857168-2b6

  • DrizzyFanNumber1

    Hello, can anyone tell me what instrument or sound that was played in the background at 1:08-1:32 of the “Over” beat above? It sounds alot like a blow horn, but I don’t quite know for sure. Can anyone confirm what that is in the background? Anybody, PLEASE Respond.

  • A mean can be destroyed but not defeated.

  • MG

    Im CERTAIN Over is a Replayed Composition. Not A Sample. I have A folder of loops that Al Khaaliq composed with soundfonts and fruity loops that you think would be from Alchemist crates. Back in the Myspace days, Al Khaaliq contributed alot of “samples” which are just original well mixed piano rolled melodies.