Song Punctuates Beatmaking’s Ability to Suspend Hip Hop/Rap Music in Time
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
Here’s a simple truth: Within the beatmaking tradition (of the broader hip hop/rap music tradition), the more beatmakers who make beats, the more fluid the notions become about what constitutes a dope beat. But hip hop/rap music, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century American popular music form, has the incredible power to reuse, retool, reconceptualize, and recontextualize the very fundamentals that gave rise to its existence. Because of beatmaking, hip hop/rap music’s chief compositional process, hip hop/rap is one of the only popular Western music form that can rotate in new generations of music makers who feature sounds that authentically span any of its pivotal styles and eras.
This means that any serious student of the beatmaking tradition can reproduce any one moment in hip hop/rap’s history (particularly its most soulful moments), in the exact style, sound, sonic template, feel, mood, and texture. Thus, for all intents and purposes, hip hop/rap music has an impenetrable force field. One in the form of a legion of beatmakers (now and in the future) whose commitment to hip hop/rap’s core musical processes, in effect, protects against its own demise.
By perpetually reusing and recalibrating beatmaking’s most unique processes and methods—in the finest, perhaps truest manner—, these beatmakers ascend towards the graces, and sometimes ranks, of beatmaking’s most important architects and pioneers. To be certain, these beatmakers that I speak of (both masters and novices) may not always get the recognition from the mainstream, or even the underground, that they deserve. However, all of these beatmakers embrace and enjoy their personal role in helping to preserve the hip hop/rap music and beatmaking traditions. This is why I’ve always appreciated Nottz and the music that he makes.
Nottz Makes Timeless Hip Hop/Rap Music
It is from the basis of this context that I was compelled to breakdown Nottz’ song, “Shine So Brite.” Nottz, who’s music is by and large both a fine example of, and homage to, the soulful “boom bap” sound of the hip hop/rap music tradition, is acutely tuned in to the essence of using recorded music in his creative process. And his mastery of the art of sampling—as well as the art of arrangement—is on full display in the song, “Shine So Brite.”
From the first note, “Shine So Brite” aims to intimidate. The “1” drops, and over the aggressive, mid-pitched guitar sample is a fist-full-of kick that makes the “twang” of guitar strum spring forward like a countdown to a nefarious missile launch. In fact, this is why the “Shine So Brite” bounces so hard: the “punch” of the primary sample phrase lands on the “1,” “2,” “3,”, and “4.” Over the top of the kick is a truncated crash-cymbal that stalks the full measure, stabbing, in lock step with the chromatic pattern of the primary sample phrase, at the quarter points of each bar.
As for changes, the organ parts that Nottz works in are absolutely stone cold! Eerie and deadly serious, the organ phrases skip over the core rhythm, sounding like Jimmy Smith in a 1960s Harlem rib shack. Then there’s the sampled vocal harmonizing, a spiritual musing that directly reinforces the soulful casing and arrangement of the beat. Finally, the “scratch-hook,” a mainstay of hip hop/rap music made most famous by DJ Premier’s precise rendition, is used here in conjunction with Nottz’ rapping of a refrain, which is itself doubled-up with a high-pitched vocal rendering of the same refrain. And to round out the hook section, Nottz goes with a very light (barely audible) melody synth line that glides and fades in and out, almost without notice.
With “Shine So Brite,” Nottz is not taking hip hop/rap “back” to a glory time, any less or more than he is helping to take it forward. This is the beauty and real genius of what Nottz is doing with “Shine So Bright.” He’s tapping directly into the energy and essence of one of beatmaking’s (hip hop’/rap’s) most notable schools of sounds, staying within its fundamental parameters, and giving it a fresh and entirely respectful interpolation. The result: a timeless sound that engages on its own merits and terms—a sound that both old and new beatmakers can enjoy, study, and appreciate alike.
The music and video below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
Nottz – “Shine So Bright”
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