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Go with Your Style, Your Sound


Since When Did Biting Become “Cool?”
In the Long Run, Just Copying the Trends of the Day is Not Enough

By Amir Said (Sa’id)

No matter what gear you use; no matter style of beatmaking you hold the greatest allegiance to, be honest and clear about your aim. If your aim is to simply duplicate the current trend and/or sound of the day, in an effort to gain big money—which I completely understand, but do not recommend—then be advised: As long as you do the bare minimum; as long as you copy and bite rather than originate and create, it is not likely that your beatmaking skills will ever generate something truly unique. Furthermore, when the bottom drops out of the current style and sound trends of today, you will not possess the ability or the skills that are necessary to foster any new creative sound or trend.

There is a large number of beatmakers, both well-known and unknown, who are perfectly comfortable with the idea of simply “biting” the dominant trend of the times. To be clear, I believe that beatmakers should be able to deliver a sound that is in some ways perhaps sensitive—in tune with—the times. However, that being said, I also believe that those beatmakers who can develop and balance their style and own unique sound, while at the same time satisfy current music trends, are in a better position to receive both critical acclaim and reasonable monetary compensation.

Here, I must point out that I don’t knock any beatmaker for the beats that they make, or how they make them, for that matter. I understand and respect the relevance of current musical themes and sound trends. Moreover, I can appreciate the distinction that not everything deemed popular (commercial) is whack; just like not everything deemed “underground” is dope. So whether we’re talking “urban pop,” “underground alternative,” “club thug,” or “gangsta pop,” the fact remains: The current hip hop/rap music trends, (whack, unoriginal, or otherwise), appeal to a great number of beatmakers for various reasons. And for those beatmakers who merely strive to emulate the current trends, there is no bigger reason to do so than the acquisition of quick money and acclaim.

The lone prospect of simply gettin’ paid doesn’t necessarily appeal to me; but because I’m a realist—if not anything else—it doesn’t irritate me either. I mean, this is hip hop/rap music—something started in and still very much nourished in the streets. And in the streets, “gettin’ paid” is certainly no foreign mantra—it’s a celebrated anthem! So I respect that part of the music business for what it is. Moreover, like it or not, the generic, mass appeal, “just add water,” cookie-cutter approach to beatmaking is actually a cash cow for various beatmakers. Even still, I can’t overlook the fact that this very approach is also one of the main reasons that the overall quality and creativity in hip hop/rap production has taken a substantial hit over the last 10 years.

Some time, not too long ago, I can’t pin point exactly when, it became acceptable to bite and aggressively copy the sound of other beatmakers (and rappers). Around the same time, it also became O.K. for beatmakers to just do the bare minimum. Whether or not any of the well-known beatmakers and pioneers spoke up against this trend isn’t important to themes raised in this article; neither is a discussion about the influence of the major record labels and the various media outlets that “control” the commercial circulation of hip hop/rap music. What is important is the fact that beatmakers, for better or worse, are the ones who always have the power to actually dictate the current sound of the times. As Minnesota says, “We are the frequency providers. Without us, these motherf*ckers wouldn’t have no music.” Therefore, in the long run, it is those beatmakers who shun settling for the “trend of the day,” in favor of going with the style that best suits their real interests, who will ultimately be able to carve out their own beatmaking sound.

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

Articles, Beatmaking, BeatTips, BeatTips Jewel Droppin', Editor's Choice, Editorials, Music Education, The BeatTips Community (TBC), Themes, Theories, and Concepts

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

  • thanks for the info Amir

  • i the t

    i totally appreciate the sentiment Sa’id, and it is something i try to impress upon my students dailyly…
    but i think it’s very difficult for anyone to be original nowadays, especially with the amount of music out there that you’ll never hear…
    i mean, you’re not going to necessarily be able to know if your music’s original if you haven’t heard everything else that’s been released.
    I do however, actually believe my music to be literally original inasmuch as that feel I pretty much know what drum beats and melodies have been used before on released material of western music. And on that basis I won’t consciously use an drum pattern that I am aware has been used before.
    Similarly, with melodies I try to use successive angles and intervals (in conjunction with rhythms) that I have not heard before but at the same time are still reasonably within the parameters of a given style (or group of styles).
    conversely though, and I know he wasn’t speaking about hip-hop (although he was influenced by Jazz); Stravinsky said “talent imitates, genius steals” !

  • i the t

    edit :
    when I said – “I feel I pretty much know what drum beats and melodies have been used before on released material of western music” – I was referring to music upto around the year 1995.
    Since this time, there has been so much music created by amateurs without deals on the internet and such, that I could not possibly know what has been done out there to know how original my stuff is; so all I can do is rely on my spider-senses.
    prior to the 90’s though, I kind of feel as though there was a finite amount of recorded material out there, so you could gauge your music against it in terms of setting your style and material apart from others.

  • On point man, I feel you yo. Some just do what they have to for that money, but realize, that doesn’t mean they aren’t working on original stuff too! It could just be that the cookie cutter is what the labels want, but the are still progressing and trying to push their own sounds as well…just a thought.