Best Beats of 2012

5. Kendrick Lamar – “Backseat Freestyle” (prod. by Hit-Boy)

Hit-Boy had a marquee year in 2011 with “Niggas in Paris” off Watch the Throne and he didn’t stop in 2012. In addition to releasing his own free album, the Cali-native produced the most blistering cut off Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city.

Kendrick’s anthemic rhyming on “Backseat Freestyle” is made even more powerful by the brooding bass and piercing chimes Hit-Boy has laid down. Though the song, in the context of the album, is another piece of Kendrick’s story (in this instance, a teenager in the car with his homies not caring about anything in the world at that moment), the record stands alone as a street banger.

Even with an album so lyric-driven, there needs to be a momentary break for the listener to let loose (and, hey, if it works in the streets to garner buzz for sales, so be it).

This marks one of the rare instances in which the chorus of the song is not the focal point that keeps listeners attentive. Hit-Boy’s beat is undeniable and one gets the feeling that should they hit pause they may just get slapped – possibly by a body part that rivals a Paris landmark.

–Kevin Ahmadi

4. Nicki Minaj – “Beez in the Trap” (prod. by Kenoe)

Nicki Minaj has been overly criticized for having gone pop, but she silenced the haters with one song: “Beez in the Trap.” Produced by Kenoe, the beat is incredibly infectious with the sound of bubbles popping throughout. The pulsating beat reminds you of heavy raindrops hitting a window or needles hitting the ground. The beat is ice cold, and gives Nicki the chance to do what she does best. Nicki is a spitter, and the pinging, popping, and snapping throughout the track is the perfect platform for her to do that. It’s hard yet effortlessly simple. The song is ratchet music at its finest, and Nicki’s confidence oozes throughout. The beat is gritty and gets you hype before Nicki utters her first “Yo.” The track is filled with energy and swagger that is only magnified with comedic verses from 2 Chainz and Nicki herself. Kenoe provides an out of space feel with the beat that Nicki took and knocked straight out of the box. Hands down, it is one of the best beats of the year.

–Nina Long

3. A$AP Rocky – “Goldie” (prod. by Hit-Boy)

When hip-hop conversations turn to the topic of production one thing remains supreme: staying power. More to the point, Hit-Boy’s production discography over the last year or so has proven that he’s going to be around for the long haul. His work with The Throne helped make a household name for himself in rap circles, but Hit-Boy’s ability to produce for artists across the board has been equally important.

Case in point: “Goldie.” It’s always good to see the East and West coasts coming together to produce hot records, but what sets “Goldie” apart is the way that Rocky’s lyrics play off the subtlety of Hit-Boy’s offering. This isn’t the high-octane beat we’ve seen on joints like Weezy’s “6 Foot 7 Foot,” but that in essence is what makes this track work so well. Simplicity is key but certainly not at the expense of quality in this case.

To put it bluntly, “Goldie” brought two of the hottest young names in the game together on one track. A$AP Rocky handled the vocals, Hit-Boy took care of the beat and hip-hop faithful reaped all the rewards. Here’s hoping that more of the same is yet to come from this tandem.

–Jack Freifelder

2. Chief Keef – “I Don’t Like” (prod. by Young Chop)

You know your beat is dope when someone else has to change it before they can rap on it. Such was the case with Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” produced by Young Chop. After it caught Kanye’s ear, it was quickly sent over and given a G.O.O.D. Music tune-up. Young Chop was not happy. Peep this excerpt from his conversation with Chicago’s DJ Moon Dawg:

I’m mad as hell, I’m mad as fuck, for the simple fact that they did not ask me to change up shit in my beat. How the fuck did they add another melody over the instrumental? These motherfuckers is playing me and I don’t give two fucks, I will sue the shit out of Kanye West…They didn’t ask me for none of that, I don’t fucking like that. I made a fucking sound, so you supposed to stay with my fucking sound. The beat is fucking hard by itself. That shit don’t sound the same, it don’t got the same feel.

Chop and Ye eventually patched things up, but he’s right when he says that the G.O.O.D. Music remix is a different beast. Luckily, the effect of the remix was positive. Since then, Chief Keef and Young Chop have been on the rise, especially Chop, who has worked with Big Sean, Pusha T, Ace Hood, Birdman and Gucci, among others.

–Stephen Kearse

1. Kanye West, Pusha T, Big Sean, 2 Chainz – “Mercy” (prod. by Lifed, w/ additional production by Mike Dean, Mike Will, Kanye West & Hudson Mohawke)

When we heard the first single from G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer, we all shook our heads in both strong agreement and confusion about what was being said on the sample. Did we care? No, we just mumbled along under our breaths forcing our bodies into our best rendition of Lil B’s cooking dance in the club and on countertops. The instrumental was actually created by G.O.O.D music’s latest signee Lifted, and also feature’s added effects from both Mike Dean, Mike Will and Hudson Mohawke. The sample, added by Ye, is actually the voice of legendary toaster Fuzzy Jones from the Super Beagles song, “Dust A Sound Boy.” With trap experts Mike Dean and Mike Mill on the added production, the drums hit much harder and better. That the song features input from many hands is indicative of Kanye’s collective approach to hip-hop music — a meeting of great minds and ideas. It also inspired 2 Chainz to drop the most fire
guest feature this year: “Horse power, horse power / All this polo on, I got horse power.”

–Ryan Lyons