No Trivia

It’s All In the Details: Comments on Specific Parts of Rap Hits


One of the byproducts of radio’s refusal to play more than say, the same eight songs all day, every day, is that you get to really think about and focus on those few they do play a whole bunch of times. It makes the bad ones suddenly interesting and the already good ones really interesting.

-The bassline of “Lemonade”
Gucci Mane, produced by Bangladesh
Like a lot of his Southern synth-rap producer peers, Bangladesh loves some bass, but until “Lemonade”, it was used more as an aggressor, a big booming thing in the background, than a sorta lovely, musical detail. “Lemonade” has got the best bassline in a rap song since the one that tears through the middle of Kanye’s “The Glory” a few years back. Is this sampled from somewhere? Is this a session dude? Was this created on a keyboard or MPC or something? Who knows. Listen to the way it wriggles all around the rest of the beat and Gucci’s flow, a series of patient, pulsing plucks at the start of the song and getting more focused and squirmy as it goes on, kinda chasing the little kid chorus, and then just doing this like focused, Peter Hook rock-out thing and then, back to patient plucking. Note: the bass is the last sound you hear as “Lemonade” ends.

-The way “Say Something” could be looped forever
Timbaland ft. Drake, produced by Timbaland
Yeah yeah yeah, Timbaland’s mostly coasting these days–though he’s improved as rapper, sorta channelling Bun B, late Bun B at least, on his verse here–but there’s a cool, like, chintzy glory to recent Timbo. He isn’t filling his beats with tempo change-ups and batshit production tweaks anymore, he’s dropping an Atari melody, one or two flanger-ed out guitars, making it passably dancey, and that’s a wrap. The byproduct of this relative half-assness though, is that the beats feel like they’re going on forever, like it’s this eternal loop of synths and computer squawks that’s been looping for hours or maybe just a few minutes. This was true of “Venus vs. Mars” on Blueprint 3 as well. This fucks with your circadian rhythms!

-The weird, flat, Go-Go drums on “Exhibit C”
Jay Electronica, produced by Just Blaze
When Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got” dropped–was that the last single to show up on the radio and mean something?–there was a Vegas sound to it that just didn’t make a lot of sense for something produced by Just Blaze. The live or live-sounding drums, almost on some Go-Go, bucket-drumming shit, just didn’t you know, knock. Weird how the same type of drums show up on “Exhibit C” and it’s one of the best things about the song. This is some of Jay Electronica’s best and most traditionalist rapping and along with the soul sample, the whole thing would be kinda “backpacker” if it weren’t for the drums. They make it way more interesting and I think it’s part of why the song’s made its way onto regular radio. It rings real for the old heads but it doesn’t thump or plod along to youngsters’ ears.

-The open space on “O Let’s Do It”
Waka Flocka Flame, produced by L-Don Beatz
A producer’s got confidence when he doesn’t fill each and every second of a beat with some kind of sound or sample or something. Plenty of beats drop-out for a moment or two, but “O Let’s Do It” starts and stops, starts and stops…it gives rappers an infinite number of places to hang their cadences. This is why someone like Wacka Flocka Flame made it a hit (his confessional asides, like “Ever since they killed my nigga Trav, start poppin pills and actin crazy” help too) and why every remix of it sounds awesome. As “dumb” as this beat probably sounds to a lot of people, it’s pretty traditionalist, Marley Marl minus the samples. If you listen close, there’s even this weird, almost simple record scratching sound that wobbles under the whole thing.

further reading/viewing:
-”Producer Series Mix #1: Shondrae “Bangladesh” Crawford” by Al Shipley
-”Dilla Donuts Month: “Time: Donut of the Heart” by Me & Thaddeus Clark
-Rare Essence “Hey Young World” 8/12/89

Written by Brandon

February 25th, 2010 at 4:48 am

14 Responses to 'It’s All In the Details: Comments on Specific Parts of Rap Hits'

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  1. I'd say "Reminder" had the same eternal quality as "Say Something"/"Venus vs. Mars"; it was just grating, though I did get to grudging acceptance of that monstrosity after a while. "Carry Out" is the same way; someone needs to liberate that beat from the Chili's foyer and rip it.

    Oh, and "The Glory" is a damn masterpiece. The second verse is just magical, both with lines (even the tuxedo/guido/ego/hero bit) and the beat deconstructing and reconstituting itself.

    Also, you're not hopping over to WordPress?

    Andy Hutchins

    25 Feb 10 at 7:01 am

  2. My hunch with the "Lemonade" bassline is that it's a keyboard or MPC, but yeah it would be interesting to know for sure.


    25 Feb 10 at 4:17 pm

  3. Yeah, I listened to the instrumental for about an hour straight last night and you can kinda hear the distinct pauses, or like moments where some kind of bass sound is being "pressed", but it sounds so natural! Really well-done.


    25 Feb 10 at 4:19 pm

  4. "Bass Guitar: Bernard Harvey" do you guys read credits or just skim through them?

    And I don't hear go-go in exhibit c.


    25 Feb 10 at 8:16 pm

  5. Noz-
    I looked for some credits online, assuming you're quoting from the–gasp–physical copy of the CD, which I didn't buy. Thanks though.


    25 Feb 10 at 8:38 pm

  6. I'm also not sure I hear the go-go on exhibit C. the live drum thing yeah, but i don't know i'd called them go-go. however, i love the live sounding drums him. Oh My God is another song where he goes crazy with that.

    At first I was questioning how much open space OLetsDoIt has then I listened and I was fucking astounded by how damn near empty it is at times. And the low pitch scratching? Cool shit.


    26 Feb 10 at 4:21 am

  7. I don't know any of these songs, of course, being totally out of the loop (I'm sorry I always say that when I comment here anymore; I guess I don't want to seem impertinent), but I love this kind of analysis, or noticing, of moments…. I've been listening to songs on repeat for an hour or two at a time lately, and shit bubbles up when you're not paying full attention…. then, also, when the song re-begins, the beginning often has a strangeness unnoticed otherwise, say when it comes on individually or randomly and you have that moment of recognition; in these cases I almost, momentarily, don't recognize the song as the song it is, even though it by definition could be no other song; a distance is weirdly introduced…

    also, this somehow reminds me that like 25 years ago or whatever there was the (I think?) 12" remix version of Duran Duran's "Wild Boys"–a song I didn't like much in its original release–anyway, there was this like 12 second sequence in the extended instrumental passage that was fucking awesome to the my mid-teenaged self, which transformed the whole rest of the song for me…


    26 Feb 10 at 2:26 pm

  8. If we're piling on here, add me to the "I don't hear Go-Go drums" column.


    26 Feb 10 at 6:31 pm

  9. On the Go Go drums:
    So, if you listen to the drums from the Billy Stewart track, the main drums used are slow and if altered on Exhibit C, it's not by much.

    Okay, but the dependence on that natural drum beat in Exhibit C in a non-rock, jazzy or even hip hop way, is very go-go. Sure, there's no "iconic" conga, drum machine extras, or even stutter of the beat in there but definitely a natural drum beat is there being depended on in a less than standard hip hop way. The daze-y slow drum coupled with the tonal energy of jay's lyrics and Just Blaze yelling over the track– is the go-go-esque detail that tops it off. Not saying this is an immediate detail one would think but if you are thinking about it, the concept is understandable.

    Now, if you want to contest that because you don't want anything else to be go-go besides go-go, then, that's a different discussion.

    gogo reference for n00bs: /watch?v=KVWVKgA3T3k

    Monique R.

    26 Feb 10 at 10:07 pm

  10. Good call on "chintzy glory."


    26 Feb 10 at 10:26 pm

  11. Yeah, what Monique said. It's mainly that they're really loose, and if it's sampled, then it just means Just Blaze didn't chop them as finely or cut them up in a precise, for lack of a better explanation, Primo/Pete Rock way–he kept the whole part of the drum or drums. He's also programming them in a very "live" sounding way. They're less precise, they "swing". It sounds Go-Go to me, SORRY GUYZ

    Always glad to see you commenting! Could it have been the like, "video version" or whatever? I have it on record somewhere and indeed, it is awesome.


    27 Feb 10 at 4:54 am

  12. I said "if it's sampled" which sounds like I'm saying I won't even concede to that–wrong word choice. And since it is a sample, not a live drummer or something, that just means Just Blaze didn't chop them as finely or cut them up in a precise, for lack of a better explanation, Primo/Pete Rock way–he kept the whole part of the drum or drums.


    27 Feb 10 at 5:57 am

  13. In regards to the drums, it's actually a fairly standard hip hop drum beat. in fact the kick and snare have the exact same note placement as Exhibit A. i should qualify that by saying that if the drums for both songs were done without quantization they may have a different feel. also brandon i think what you're hearing is that if you listen closely on most of the snare hits there is a subtle open high hat which "swings" (for lack of a better word) the rythm of the drums into the next kick on the 1. this open hat might even be part of the drum sample and just blaze just used two snare hits from the same record.


    27 Feb 10 at 9:01 am

  14. Ashley September 19, 2012 – 5:59 am | That is so beautiful. Will look grand along with the other covres. I can’t wait. I had room mates read your first trilogy and got them hooked as well, so we’re now all anxious for January.


    2 Jun 15 at 1:55 pm

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