The code of the beat.

BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: True Master

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#28 – True Master

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

True Master is most well-known for his contributions to the Wu-Tang Clan collective. But he’s more than just a Wu affiliate. A closer examination of True’s work demonstrates just why he’s been a big influence on many beatmakers and rappers. His chopping and loop technique, which he discussed in detail with me in a 2007 interview, relies on a meticulous chopping scheme that often disrupts (by pitch shifting and warping) the beginnings and ends of the sampled phrases that he uses. Another mainstay of True Master’s sound was his use of real sounding drums. True Master’s core of drum sounds were tight and non-exhaustive (his beats were not a demonstration of various new drum sounds on every new beat). He concentrated on making drum frameworks that paid homage to groove structures of classic Stax Records tracks, while also maintaining a distinctly raw hip hop/rap feel.

True Master also deserves recognition for helping to keep the art sampling alive in the face of a mass exodus to sample-free beats. Between 1995 and 1999, beatmaking (and hip hop/rap music in general) was in transition. A number of beatmakers were distancing themselves from sample-based beats and moving to a so-called sample-free sound. By 1998, the keyboard beats sound had become a permanent fixture, and sampling was seemingly left on the side. To be sure, sampling had always been going on, and in a few short years it would see a resurgence. Still, at this particular juncture, the stigma against sampling was growing, and for the first time, many of the critics included beatmakers themselves.

But it was during this five year period between 1995 and 1999 that True Master made his biggest impact on the beatmaking tradition. While many beatmakers around him were ditching sampling in favor of the sample-free approach (something that lots of beamakers at the time thought of as the commercially lucrative way to go), True Master remained deeply committed to the sample-based compositional style. In 1996, he produced “Fish” off of Ghostface Killah’s classic debut album Iron Man. The “Fish” beat is quite popular among many beat enthusiasts; indeed it remains firmly in my own top 5 favorite beats of all time. In 1997, he made the beat for the Gravediggaz song “Hidden Emotions.” Long before Jay Z and Kanye West used a sample of the Otis Redding hit “Try a Little Tenderness,” True Master flipped it on “Hidden Emotions.” Then, in 1998, True Master made a major contribution to Cappadona’s critically acclaimed album The Pillage. “Slang Editorial” and “Milk the Cow” (off The Pillage) remain excellent lessons in the True Master style and sound. (You can hear True Master’s style, sound, and influence in many of today’s rising beatmakers, most notably Apollo Brown.)

True Master is an example of making your output count. He doesn’t have the sheer number of beats released as some of the beatmakers on this list, but with True Master it was always about quality, never quantity. A quick glance of the songs that feature beats by True Master prove how consistent his beats were. Some of the most prolific beatmakers can’t make such a claim.

True Master Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

“Fish” – Ghostface Killah feat. Raekwon and Cappadona beat by True Master

“Milk the Cow” – Cappadona feat. Method Man beat by True Master

“Brooklyn Zoo” – Ol’ Dirty Bastard beat by True Master

”Sweet Love” – Method Man feat. Cappadona and Streetlife beat by True Master

“R.E.C. Room” – Inspectah Deck beat by True Master”

“Y’all Been Warned” – Wu-Tang Clan beat by True Master

“Biscuits” – Ghostface Killah feat. Trife beat by True Master

“Lovin’ You” – Inspectah Deck feat. La the Darkman beat by True Master

“Slang Editorial” – Cappadona beat by True Master

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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

  • Two of his best work is Heaterz and M.G.M. from the Forever album.