The code of the beat.

BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: Showbiz

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#14 – Showbiz (of Showbiz & A.G./D.I.T.C. fame)

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Showbiz. One of the beatmaking tradition’s most important pioneers.

What Showbiz doesn’t have in terms of so-called “big hits” (well, according to those more new to beatmaking anyway), he more than makes up for by being one of the central figures in the development of a number of beatmaking’s key methodical, procedural, and stylistic approaches. Showbiz, a true South Bronx representer and well-respected personality in hip hop/rap, first emerged ca. 1988/1989, which means his work certainly had an impact on the then burgeoning beatmaking tradition. From phrase sampling to drum identification and break-beat matching, from chorus, reverb, and refrain techniques long before such push button functions were available on beat machines and software programs, from how to listen to source material, Showbiz was critically instrumental in helping to advance beatmaking forward, particularly the period following Marley Marl’s grand contributions.

Showbiz’s style and sound was rough but smooth and steeped deep with the illest swing. He’s the originator of what I like to call the tumbling break-beat drum sound. This sound is where the drum break is chopped into a smaller phrase, looped tighter, and arranged in a tumbling syncopated fashion. But Showbiz even took it further, often blending in subtle tone-stabs that established tension and release in his beats — a concept he hit on long before people started talking about “progression” in beats. This is not anywhere as easy to do as it might sound. Not only does it require intricate chopping skills, it also requires keen since for knowing the off-points of the drum-beak and how to reverse them to on-points. This alone was difficult, but then having the knack for blending in other changes in over the top? Indeed, Showbiz demonstrated a new complexity in how beats could be arranged. And further note about Showbiz’s early drum style compared to that of The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, et. Al): While there are some similarities between the two styles, mainly the use of break-beat drum structure and stabs, it should be note that The Bomb Squad’s approach was more of a wild-style, anything goes approach. On the other hand, Show’s approach was more thought-out, less “all in” and more controlled and specific in design.

Showbiz was/is also a student and great teacher of the art and craft of beatmaking. When you listen to DJ Premier or Buckwild or Minnesota (just to name a few beatmakers directly taught and influenced, way or another, by Showbiz) you’re hearing echoes of some of Show’s wisdom and impact. On more than one occasion, DJ Premier recalled directly to me how much Showbiz taught him, how much he learned from Showbiz. (The BeatTips Manual contains my very informative interview with DJ Premier.)

Finally, here again we have yet another beatmaker who also rhymed. (This is especially important to point out, because in today’s scene, far too many beatmakers don’t believe that they could also be rappers.) Just as with Ju Ju and Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, and Havoc of Mobb Deep, Showbiz didn’t just rhyme as a side-job, it was his full-time gig as one half of Showbiz & AG. A job he was equally adept at. For this, Showbiz 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.

Showbiz Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

SPECIAL NOTE: If you haven’t already, listen to the entire Runaway Slave 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.

“Fat Pockets” – Showbiz & A.G. beat by Showbiz

“Bounce Ta This” – Showbiz & AG feat. Dres (of Black Sheep) beat by Showbiz

“Represent” – Showbiz & A.G. feat. Big L, DeShaun, and Lord Finesse beat by Showbiz

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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