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Boom Bap Can’t Die; It’s in the DNA

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If You’re Planning on Abandoning Boom Bap Because You Think It’s Less Viable, You Should Reconsider

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Tripmaster, a regular BeatTips reader, left a great comment for an article that I wrote last year, “Mainstream, High-Concept Approach to Beatmaking Scuttles Hip Hop”. In his comment, he mentioned a debate that he had with a friend regarding whether or not boom bap is dead. He argued, and rightfully so, that “boom bap will never die.” Still, he also wondered if he was perhaps “out of place” for maintaining his connection to boom bap. I posted a reply comment for Tripmaster, and I thought posting it here as an article would be beneficial for other BeatTips readers. Thus, here’s Tripmaster’s original comment, followed by my extensive reply.

“this was a great piece. thank you for the much needed reassurance. sometimes i can’t help but wonder if i’m holding myself back for not wanting to conform to the current vernacular in pop music. still though, sometimes i feel like that out of place old 40 year old glam rocker who’s stuck in the 80’s. i had a debate with a friend of mine regarding whether or not boom bap is dead. i argued that boom bap will never die, but being the huge fan of dubstep/glitch hop that he is, my buddy begged to differ.” —Tripmaster


My reply:

My mantra: Make the music you want! Every music form has its own tradition and sub-traditions, and it’s up to each musician to determine what they will embrace. That being said, conformity, particularly the kind that leads one to simply abandon the core aesthetics of the tradition that they’re working in, is also a choice.

You should never question yourself for adhering to styles, sounds, and principles that helped make hip hop/rap music the great tradition that it is. In the case of boom bap, the notion of it ever dying is counter intuitive. Boom bap is a concrete style and sound of hip hop/rap; it’s not a fragile fad piggy-backing off of hip hop/rap! Boom bap, in its broader meaning, encompasses a distinct approach, similar to the ragtime (style) usually associated with jazz. But unlike the once popular ragtime, a style and form closely associated with jazz that is all but non-existent today, boom bap is so embedded into beatmaking’s lexicon and hip hop’s/rap’s lyrical dimension that it can never die.

Although there are, and will continue to be, “off-shoots” of hip hop/rap music, these derivative styles will never overtake the fundamental styles and approaches of hip hop/rap. That we still honor particular rhymers and beatmakers, that new beatmakers and rhymers admittedly echo the sounds, styles, and approaches of beatmakers and rhymers from 20 years! ago is something that speaks to the durability of hip hop/rap’s core aesthetics. By comparison, it’s worth noting that ragtime did not remain as a “go-to” style and form for 20 years; however, its chief practitioners, Jelly Roll Morton and Scott Joplin, continued to be revered by jazz musicians long after the form was displaced as a “go-to” (if you will) style. Boom bap was not displaced; there are simply other styles and forms that beatmakers can choose. Indeed, today, boom bap still exists as the chosen “go-to” style and form of hundreds of thousands of beatmakers around the globe.

With regards to dubstep, I think it’s cool, I like it. It’s not mutually exclusive to boom bap—both can be enjoyed. But the overall reach of dubstep isn’t necessarily rooted in a hip ho/rap lineage. Dubstep, though it relies mostly on the same electronic music production tools as boom bap (drum machines, samplers, turntables, etc.), is a different beast altogether; one with its own direction, popularity, and lease on life. So a consideration of the death of boom bap, based on the fondness of the life of dubstep, is misguided. Point is, boom bap—as an approach, outlook, stylized slant, etc.—is intertwined with hip hop’s/rap’s identity in a way that assures that it will be in use for as long as there is something known as “hip hop/rap”. In other words, boom bap is transcendent; no one era after the ’80s can contain it, but all can claim it.

Finally, remember this: The “mainstream” music climate says more about what the purported major media gatekeepers (on radio, broadcast television, print and online publications, etc.) and major record labels feel can safely be pushed and sold to the masses than it does about quality music, or what beatmaking styles and forms that are prioritized by beatmakers around the world. So make the music that you want, using the styles and forms that you want, in the way you want. If for you that means sticking with boom bap, go for it! You’re in good company, and there’s an audience that prefers it.


The BeatTips Manual by Sa’id.
“The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education.”

Articles, Beatmaking, Beatmaking Education, Beatmaking Themes, Theories, and Concepts, BeatTips, BeatTips Jewel Droppin', Book on How to Make Beats, Editor's Choice, Features, Hip Hop/Rap Music Education, Making Beats, Sa'id, Sample-Based Beats, Sample-Based Compositional Style, Sampling, The Art of Sampling, 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

  • ant

    Very nicely put, sir! “Return of the Boom Bap”?!? IT NEVER WENT AWAY!
    Also, I’ve really been enjoying reading your blog–whilst I haven’t a clue about beat-making I AM a card-carrying hip-hopper, grew up in the late 80’s/early 90’s and golden Age hip-hop was the soundtrack of my life until my mid-twenties.
    Hey why wasn’t Diamond d included in your best beatmaker of all time poll?!?!? One of the best to ever do it if you ask me.
    Anyway thanks for a great blog, all blessings from the U.K!

  • I’ve really been enjoying reading your blog–whilst I haven’t a clue about beat-making I AM a card-carrying hip-hopper, grew up in the late 80’s/early 90’s and golden Age hip-hop was the soundtrack of my life until my mid-twenties.

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