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BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: Kanye West

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#7 – Kanye West

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

Kanye West. A sample-based vanguard in the eye of the sample-free storm.

When examining Kanye West’s beats, the reflex is to start with the Jay-Z/Dynasty years, ca. 2000, or to focus on the sped-up sample style and sound. But beginning your exploration of Kanye West’s beat at either of these two points is an incomplete examination. As early as 1996, Kanye West already had a number of professional production credits to his name. And he was more than just decent. Proficient in the styles and sounds of that era, Kanye was already demonstrating some of the characteristics that would come to define his own style and sound more than a decade later.

Right from his professional debut in 1996, Kanye West was steadfastly a sample-based beatmaker. While I do not know for certain how long he was making beats prior to 1996, what is clear is that his level of beatmaking at the time of his professional debut exceeds that of many of his peers. Present in 1996 Kanye beats was a firm command of bass filtering, hi-hat shuffling, and frequency balancing (mid-frequencies matched well with lower tones and bass filters).

By 1999, Kanye West moved into the slick, mostly sample-free, club style and sound that was being picked up by a lot of beatmakers of the time. (Incidentally, it’s my contention that Dame Grease fathered this late 1990s style and sound. However, Grease’s beats stood out from the pack at this time.) But after this brief period, he returned to his sampling roots and carved out a much more bigger sample-based sound that often highlighted stuttering bongo fills and more simplified drum frameworks.

Along with Just Blaze, Kanye West played a pivotal role in helping Jay-Z establish has own style and sound. In fact, the Dynasty and Blueprint albums served as a breeding ground for Kanye West to build his production style and sound while quietly honing his own rap style. Thus, just as with Ju Ju and Psycho Les of The Beatnuts, Havoc of Mobb Deep, Madlib, and Showbiz of Showbiz and A.G., Kanye West didn’t just rhyme as a side-job, it was a full-time gig. In fact, Kanye West now stands as one of the most iconic rappers of all time. For this, Kanye West 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.

Kanye West Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

“Encore” – Jay-Z beat by Kanye West

“This Can’t Be Life” – Jay-Z feat. Beanie Sigel and Scarface beat by Kanye West

“Get By” – Talib Kweli beat by Kanye West

“Guess Who’s Back” – Scarface feat. Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Kanye West beat by Kanye West

“Stand Up” – Ludacris beat by Kanye West

“One Puff” – Grav beat by Kanye West

“Doin’ My Job” – T.I. beat by Kanye West

“The Truth” – Beanie Sigel beat by Kanye West

“Poppa Was a Playa” – Nas beat by Kanye West

“City to City” – Grav beat by Kanye West

“Stir Crazy” – The Madd Rapper feat. Eminem beat by Kanye West

“Turn it Out” – Jermaine Dupri feat. Nas beat by Kanye West

“Nothin’ Like It” – Beanie Sigel beat by Kanye West

“Never Change” – Jay-Z beat by Kanye West

“Line for Line” – Grav feat. Kanye West beat by Kanye West

“Izzo (H.O.V.A.) – Jay-Z beat by Kanye West

“What You Do to Me” – Infamous Syndicate feat. Kanye West beat by Kanye West

“Takeover” – Jay-Z beat by Kanye West

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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

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