The code of the beat.

BeatTips Beat Breakdown: “U Don’t Know Me,” T.I., Produced by DJ Toomp


Trap Music at Its Best; the Groove and Snare-Layering Techniques Makes Beat Sore


There’s nothing like the real article. And as far as “trap” music goes, DJ Toomp is this popular Southern sound’s chief pioneer. Here on “U Don’t Know Me” (Urban Legand, 2004), DJ Toomp personifies the trap music sound: a bottom heavy core groove, mid range synth accents and embellishments, and of course, the 808 syncopated snare and hi-hat.

Unlike the most recent renditions of the trap sound, on “U Don’t Know Me,” DJ Toomp separates himself from the pack by not opting for an extreme minimalist approach. Although the core groove is solid and hypnotic, it’s the accents, embellishments, and masterful layering that Toomp works in that gives the entire track a broad, orchestral-like composite.

While the 3-note bass line and full-bounce kick are anchoring the groove, Toomp drops in a futuristic, 1-note synth stab on “the one” of every measure. Then on every fourth bar, he works in a 3-note synth-stab. And to make the ends of the fourth and eighth bars flourish and turnover (loop) more emphatically, he breaks up this 3-note synth-stab and uses each note to play a quick descending pattern, where the last note slides in, right before the first kick lands.

Finally, in a moment of sonic defiance, Toomp ignores the harmony and melody that he’s developed (perhaps going against a less-skilled beatmaker’s intuition), and layers in this eerie, iron-sustained synth-stab, right over the top of a clap, which is itself layered over the top of another snare. The result is a tri-layered snare that sounds like a crowbar striking up against an underground subway pipe. But Toomp doesn’t stop there with his layering work. He dulls the front-end attack of the “actual” snare and the iron-synth sound-stab, while he prolongs the back-end sustain of the “iron layer.” And in the mix of the song, he opts to sometimes drop the iron layer altogether, leaving the clap to fend for itself.

Taken together—the choice of the combination of sounds, the layering, and the attack and sustain effects—this snare amalgamation comes off more like it’s guarding the hardness of the beat than it is helping to keep time.

For example…

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship

T.I. – “You Don’t Know Me;” produced by DJ Toomp

Editor’s Note: For an even closer look at DJ Toomp’s methods and his vast musical understanding, check out The BeatTips Manual, which contains the most detailed, comprehensive, and candid interview that DJ Toomp has ever given.

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

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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