The code of the beat.

What’s the Source of Energy In Your Beats?

1

Let The Rhythm Be Your Guide

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

All music has it’s own energy source. That is to say, every music form is guided by it’s own use of the three main elements of music: rhythm, melody, and harmony. Hip hop/rap music, in it’s most traditional form, is guided by and predicated upon rhythm. Thus, fundamentally speaking, the energy of hip hop/rap beats comes from rhythm (specifically, the use of the break), not melody.

When it comes to creating quality beats—in the style that you’re after—, understanding where the source of energy lies in particular beat styles is absolutely critical. For nearly all beat styles, especially “boom bap” and break-beat influenced joints, rhythm is where the energy comes from; it’s what both drives and informs those beat styles. In contrast, with these types of beats—again, we’re talking nearly all beat styles—, melody takes a backseat.

Unfortunately, however, some beatmakers either fail to embrace this fundamental fact about the role of rhythm and melody in beatmaking, or they simply ignore it outright. But here’s the deal: A collision—forced combination—of rhythm and melody always results in a mutated (less “hip hop/rap”) version of hip hop/rap music. Now please understand, I’m not saying that that there is never a place for melody in a hip hop/rap beat. On the contrary, in certain cases, I believe that melody can enhance a beat. But it must also be acknowledged that in other cases, typically beat styles that ascribe to hip hop/rap’s most fundamental structures, melody can undermine a beat. Thus, for those beats intended for traditional rhyme schemes and the like, knowing how (where and when) to apply melody is absolutely essential.

For Hip Hop Fusion, However, Melody Gains More Importance

Unlike traditional hip hop/rap songs, for contemporary pop or better yet “urban pop” tunes and “emo” beats, melody moves more toward the center stage (as it should for that music forum). To the vast majority of pop/urban pop music fans, melody is often the most identifiable aspect (element) of music. Moreover, most pop tunes do not feature the rhyme schemes, poetic density, and verbal dexterity of rapping itself, especially complex rapping styles. Therefore, although rhythm is obviously always at play in pop/urban pop instrumentals, it must be remembered that urban pop and emo beats rely more on melody.

Bottom Line

Familiarity with melody aside, what makes music most accessible for most people—perhaps I should say, what makes most people move is rhythm. More importantly, for beatmakers, it’s paramount that we acknowledge (if not embrace) this one point: That it is through the core rhythm of a beat that a beatmaker is most likely to craft the sort of beatworks that attract the most capable rappers, not singers.

*Editor’s note: In The BeatTips Manual, there is an even more extensive analysis of the roles rhythm, melody, and harmony play in beatmaking.


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

Articles, Beat Breakdown, Beatmaking, Beatmaking Education, Beatmaking Practice, Beatmaking Themes, Theories, and Concepts, BeatTips, Book on How to Make Beats, Editor's Choice, Editorials, Features, Hip Hop Production Techniques, Hip Hop/Rap Music Education, How to Make Beats, Music Themes, Music Theory, and Music Concepts, Sa'id, Sound Design, The BeatTips Manual

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

  • Yo – This is a really interesting post. I very much agree with what you’re saying. From day 1, funk is integral to hip-hop, and funk is 100% rhythm. Even the classic Rock breakbeats like Big Beat and Long Red were funky songs.
    Maybe there are exceptions. I think of 9th Wonder as cat who’s stuff is mostly driven by melody (at least his early work) and that’s definitely straight hip-hop.
    But mostly, if it’s hip-hop – it’s drums, basslines and stabs – (funk) – no matter who the producer or what region he/she comes from.
    Great blog, great post. Peace.