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BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: Havoc (of Mobb Deep)


#24 – Havoc (of Mobb Deep)


Havoc (of Mobb Deep). One of the most important figures of the Pioneers/Avant Garde Period of beatmaking (1988-1994) and of the east coast sound’s most formidable practitioners…

A good way to determine a beatmaker’s impact on and importance to the beatmaking tradition is to look at whether or not their style and sound existed before them or not. Before Havoc, there wasn’t a Mobb Deep sound. Sure, you can hear some elements and influences of Q-Tip’s (A Tribe Called Quest’s) sound in Havoc’s style and sound. The two had a close musical association; indeed Q-Tip produced and/or co-produced three tracks off of The Infamous, Mobb Deep’s best and most pivotal album. But the fact is, Havoc’s style and sound simply did not exist prior to his and Mobb Deep’s arrival.

Hard hitting and deadly serious, the style and sound that Havoc crafted for Mobb Deep was personified by samples (often piano phrases pitched way down and uniquely filtered) that were both obscure and recognizable, module bass stabs, and a unique drum signature, and an overall sonic framework that made the Mobb Deep sound feel like a haunted house. (One of the greatest demonstrations of this sound is “Shook Ones pt. 2,” one of my top favorite beats and songs of all time!) Indeed, I remember a number of women (and some guys) saying to me that Mobb’s sound was “too hardcore”. Which is a testament to the forceful sound that Havoc cultivated. Mobb Deep was (is) a street/hard core group, and their music — even Havoc’s lighter beats like “Give Up the Good’s (Just Step) — reflected this reality.

Drums are one of the most fundamental aspects of a beat, even new beatmakers understand this. Moreover, drums are often were beatmakers distinguish themselves. And within the beatmaking tradition, there are a handful of beatmakers who’s drum signatures have become benchmarks and reference points for the beatmaking tradition. Havoc’s drums fall under this prestigious rubric. Havoc’s drums are characterized by crushing and snapping snare that was colored with a signature compression and reverb sound (no doubt influenced by Q-Tip), along with a heavy and round bass kick drum. Today, Havoc’s drums stand as one of the most recognizable drum signatures in the beatmaking tradition.

Finally, just as with Ju Ju and Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, Havoc didn’t just rhyme as a side-job, it was his full-time gig as one half of Mobb Deep. A job he was equally adept at. For this, Havoc also holds the prestigious distinction of being in the canon of hip hop/rap as both beatmaker and rhymer.

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

Havoc Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

SPECIAL NOTE: If you haven’t already, listen to the entire Infamous album straight through, no interruptions. Study this album, not just because it’s one of THE most important quintessential hip hop/rap classics, but because it’s also one of the greatest lessons in beatmaking.

“Shook Ones Pt. 2” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Eye for a Eye (Your Beef is Mine)” – Mobb Deep feat. Nas and Raekwon beat by Havoc

“Front Lines (Hell on Earth)” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Up North Trip” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Killaz Theme” – Cormega feat. Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Hold Down the Fort” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“G.O.D. Pt. III” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Quiet Storm” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Still Shinin’” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Trife Life” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“Drop a Gem on ‘Em” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“It’s Mine” – Mobb Deep feat. Nas beat by Havoc

“Cradle to the Grave” – Mobb Deep beat by Havoc

“The Learning” – Mobb Deep feat. Big Noyd beat by Havoc


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