Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top 25 Beats Of 2015

While the bangers were a dime a dozen this year there were a lot of intricate beats that focused on the technicalities and others that warped genres outside of Hip-Hop to cater their own styles. A lot of variety to see here, but before we do that take a look back at 2014's best beats of the year here. For now let's look at Dozens Of Donuts' top 25 of the year.


Phantogram | Run For Your Life
Big Grams

For the opener to the collaborative EP Phantogram tried their best to merge the two sounds present in both theirs and Big Boi's discography. What resulted was 'Run For Your Life,' an addictive bounce step joint that reached down into the South whilst maintaining the hard New York flavor. Wild synth bloops hiccup between Big Boi's bars, and the collective ensemble joins forces for the chorus that screams anthemic.


Death Grips | Runway H2
Fashion Week

There were a lot of duds scattered throughout Fashion Week. For an instrumental project, and especially for a Death Grips project, it was too narrow, constructed, and organized. The downfall of the record wasn't even the absence of Ride on vocals, but this monotone ambition. Regardless, 'H2' was a wild ride, one that blasted between two rambunctious rhythms. One a zany Rock ballad, the other a demented circus performance. In other words it was entirely Death Grips, a filthy collage of bizarro influences with results that get the muscles moving in unexpected ways.


Nick Leon | Rain Dance
Evermore: The Art Of Duality

These hollow drums parading around tribal flutes immediately lures listeners into The Underachievers latest release. A bass acts as the backbone, but other than that it's essentially bare. And compared to the rest of Underachievers work here, precisely the reason it deserves to be noticed. As an opener, you expect to leave an impression with a bang not a thought piece, but that's exactly what happened on 'Rain Dance,' both lyrically and sonically. It's also a testament to what's less is more, offering up potential for new producers in seeing their vision without a fancy facade.


Clams Casino | Surf
Summertime '06

It was always curious to see where Clams Casino would go after achieving notoriety in the Cloud Rap scene. He wasn't just talented in that aesthetic and almost everyone realized that. So when 'Surf' came decisively on, sequencing around some garbage can drums, the possibilities for his branching was clear. There were hints of his old flavor here, an overwhelming bass looming in the background for one. But for the most part this was a new direction that almost seemed genreless, hi-hats come in on cue with Staples, as do blaring sirens, but they seem as invested in the New York streets as they do in the Jamaican Plains.


Vulkan The Krusader | Excuse Me

Much of ALLA was lost amongst a sea of influences, unsure of which direction sonically Rocky wanted to take. There were a few instances though that reaped on what made him known in the Internet age, the Cloud Rap foundation. 'Excuse Me' was a great example of that, with its hazy synths masquerading around swelling drums and what sounds like Christmas choirs. Like many tracks on his debut mixtape, 'Excuse Me' landed in a soft spot between the physically and the ethereal.


Dr. Dre | Darkside
Compton: The Soundtrack

'Darkside' is in constant flux, irritated by predictability, kickstarted by revving engines that never seem to fully power on. It's a strange setting for a Gangsta Rap song, that's for sure, but it's one that lures listeners in with its off-kilter demeanor, an aspect of the genre sorely missing. Sputtering hi-hats follow rappers more concerned with their own output that than of what's going on behind them, causing a record that's organized from the top down. Industrial synths turn into drums, the voices turn into drums, hell, even the guitars turn into drums as each part of the track obsesses over this perceived unity.

Bill Cosmiq | Salvation
Blade Of The Ronin

The classic closer anthem. There's always something with the grand finale of an album that brings out the most thematically presented production styles. Bill Cosmiq almost singlehandedly produced Blade Of The Ronin, and yet 'Salvation' seems plucked from an entirely different entity. It's refreshing, reassuring, anthemic, and scoured with nostalgic memoirs to the past of Cannibal Ox. Gliding synthesizers intertwine with each other in the skies, as the drums hold down the foundation, all moving in unison to carry a progression that's unmatched on the rest of the album.


Kanye West | Piss On Your Grave

This song might be the pinnacle of love/hate for Hip-Hop lovers in 2015. In some sense, it's a butchering of anything sensibly once regarded as good, on the other it's a wretched beast undeniably its own ravishing display of mockery. You can thank Kanye West for both, as 'Piss On Your Grave' is almost assuredly a Yeezus outtake, with Industrial sounds mechanically moving around the two, along with high-end Trap-tinged drums forming semblance. Lovers of this antithesis West formed find beauty in the ugly, find rhythms in the rhythm-less, find a beat amongst the rubble.


Earl Sweatshirt | Grief
I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside

The slow, painful split of Odd Future was a time bomb waiting to happen. Even so, traces of their unity still arise. And for how different Earl and Tyler's releases were this year, they found comfort in their brand of poorly crafted tuning and mastering of what could once be clear. For the aesthetic bearers, there's times when playing a Youtube video in 240p actually boosts its quality rather than hinders it. 'Grief' already does that for you. The chains rattling, the underexposure breathing throughout, the drums muffled beyond belief, 'Grief' has a fascination with the malnourished, and Earl acts as the purveyor to the madness.


Black Metaphor | Necessary

In terms of composition to allowing one to concretely rap over, 'Necessary' was a chaotic mess. Drums became the least important part with fugazi synths and sporadic percussions leading a charge that somehow reaped in what it sowed. For how complicating its structure was, there was no better track to open up 90059 and allow Jay Rock to boast his talents than 'Necessary.' For how cartoonish the whole onslaught is, nothing seemed more ghetto, with wires hanging from buildings, garbage cans constantly being knocked over, and cars letting out sounds best left for maintenance inspection.


The Social Experiment | Windows

It's tough to focus on just one production piece from The Social Experiment, but if there's one that stood out it was 'Windows' and its ability to master the connection between the vibrant and melancholy. Leaders of a new brand of positivity, the group is hardly seen creating anything less than jubilant, but here they relish in downtempo, gliding their horns, strings, and drums around silence rather than crass fulfillment. It was also one of their best showings of a piece of work that relied on composition, practice, and an underlying principle, rather than uptaking a surge in high school musical glory.


DJ Premier | Paper Trail$

There's almost nothing about Joey Bada$$' B4.DA.$$ that screams, or even murmurs, 2015. From the style, to the lyrical approach, to the sonic backbone, everything sounds straight out of the gloomy 90's streets where Hip-Hop was finding its footing amongst the rocky concrete. That's why Bada$$, a rookie well beyond his years, enlists DJ Premier to replicate his constructions from two decades ago in a piece that reeks of hidden nostalgia. On 'Paper Trail$,' Premier stretched vocals parlaying the foundation, along with packed drums focused on precision. With street smarts, it's best to focus on less being more.


Gordon Voidwell | Sometimes
Eat Pray Thug

Sonically Heems wasted no time returning to the graffiti-strewn streets of Queens for his debut Eat Pray Thug. The opener, 'Sometimes,' immediately shows all, hides none, thanks to Gordon Voidwell and his bouncy, hand clap followed two step. Horns signal a coming storm, with Heems in the eye as synths swirl around his head. The beat never relaxes, or even regressions, just continually flips on its axis, following a simple pattern through numerous avenues. Hyphy motives control its airwaves, with sampled vocals calling for abrasion through Heems' nonstop verses, like a rioting club where shotcallers get noticed the most.


Sounwave | King Kunta
To Pimp A Butterfly

A Funkadelic romp through the Compton streets, 'King Kunta' was every bit as concerned with black culture as it was its musical heritage. Whilst not conceptually sound, the track perfectly encapsulated Kendrick and his team's attempt at rectifying an old school sound with a new school flavor. With a bevy of instruments to back the rapper, what's most heralded isn't any singular ingredient, but the collective whole and how it works in bringing a sound to the forefront. What's most impressive though is its scale, starting small and unimposing, 'King Kunta' turns into a circus parading throughout the city.


Tarentino | Packages
Shadow Of A Doubt

Packaged with a bass that slaps the system out of any car you'd come across, 'Packages' dominates the center of Shadow Of A Doubt. Sirens and Trap snares run across the gamut like a bat outta hell, carrying Gibbs and his tenacious flow with a baring heaviness that never lets up. Subtle Southern influences wage war against gritty street anthems, coming together in a wild banger that goes full throttle. 808's dominated, breathless moments in the bridge, haunting keyboards transitioning between them makes 'Packages' a clear standout.


Madlib | The Stroll | Bad Neighbor

It's strange, but the exact reason Bad Neighbor didn't excel when it could have was due to Madlib's production being too good. They overshadowed Blu and MED, who moved through the LP with a clear lack of ambition, when the three could have worked together in underground Boom Bap clarity. Rather, with Madlib's curated taste of overproduction only matched by artists like DOOM, standouts like 'The Stroll' took notice purely off the beat which smeared over it. Finger snaps cower underneath saturated synths busting at every crevice in their ordination, with pristine effects layered on top of them for best effect. It was a blurry of a beat, only made better by Madlib's classic Soul samples infusing directly with the drums fidgeting behind them.

No I.D. | Dopeman | Summertime '06

In just under two minutes No I.D. took over Summertime '06. With hardly a verse coming from Staples, the track was left for Kilo Kish's lustful vocals and the Chi town legend to peruse through the Long Beach rapper's vision. In it, each musician becomes obsessed with the drug trade, as a bustling bass disrupts the exterior of every other sound in its rightful place. And yet, likely the most intriguing part of 'Dopeman,' is the muffled vocals dancing around behind all the musicality, boisterous enough to outperform the bass in terms of attracting the ear. Thumping drums weave in and out of the orchestrated mess, percolating the chimes and vocals to bring out the best in both.

Hudson Mohawke | Ryderz | Lantern

Like a crass new age artist overwriting history, 'Ryderz' arrogantly barraged a classic 70's Soul sample with HudMo's neon synths. And in our day and age of seeing something beautiful or introspective in all forms of music this piece, with its untouched sampling gracing the first minute, provided an alluring look into how two decades and cultures collide into a great beat. Mohawke turns the Funky anthem into a famished assortment of chipmunk vocals, a la College Dropout Kanye. His near trademarked synths, clean, crisp, and stylish giddily prance throughout the mockery, as drums, flutes, and all sorts of bells and whistles attach itself to the broken masterpiece. 

Kenny Segal | Re: Animist | So The Flies Don't Come

Now where did this come from? The man whose dominated the boards of the past few Hellfrye Club releases, and therefore a large portion of current day underground Abstract Hip-Hop, all the sudden releases a banger with strong influences from, you didn't guess it, Boards Of Canada. Now give that to the most unlikely candidate, virtual spoken word introspective lyricist Milo, and you are primed for either a dud or a soaring success. It's called 'Re: Animist' and somehow everything works. It hinges on snares and a looming bass, with evocative synths gallivanting the foreground, allowing Milo to boast like he's never done before. In many ways, it's hollow, bare, and skeletal, but the visions of a banger are ever present. 

Tyler, The Creator | Okaga, CA | Cherry Bomb

I could likely write a thesis on the confusion surrounding Cherry Bomb. It would likely be filled with dead ends, unfulfilled refrains, and a synopsis that states "I can't answer why Cherry Bomb is Cherry Bomb." Cohesively, it's a disaster. Mashing noise against beauty sometimes works, but in Tyler's case it comes off as a crudely drawn piece of artwork meant to offend snobs. However, there were moments devised strictly for the naysayers who say Tyler, The Creator can't produce, the closer, 'Okaga, CA,' being one of them. A stifling drum procession sees ordnance following the wreckage, as uplifting chants and melancholy hums glide throughout the eloquent build.

Earl Sweatshirt | DNA | I Don't Like Shit

If Earl refines the sound he presented on I Don't Like Shit he could very well land in a select group of producers crafting delicate works characteristically their own. His former second half, Tyler, The Creator, is already on that level, as is other artists like Hudson Mohawke, Madlib, and BADBADNOTGOOD, who all can attest to being instantly recognizable given a nameless beat. His recession into the depths of his room meant a sonic palate as dry and barren as it is vicious and determent. 'DNA' shared qualities of each side, with distressing pianos sobbing away under juxtaposing drums that drilled into the walls, pounding them relentlessly. With his crafted use of instrumentation, only gathering what's needed and trimming the fat for the sake of empty space, 'DNA' had a perfect mix of instilled sadness and disruptive violence.

Mike Will Made It | Paradise | Dark Sky Paradise

Ever since TNGHT's Wonky masterpiece top tier Hip-Hop producers have been waging a battle of the horns. 'Blood On The Leaves' off Yeezus officially set things into motion, and ever since then others have been turning the now-declared Trap horns into an entity amongst their own, capable of driving an ordinary beat into banger heaven. In comes 'Paradise,' Mike Will Made It's beat that stretched the limits to which we can rely on the horns. Take them away and the track, a known banger by Big Sean himself in regards to how he raps on it, and you're left with a weak template that's little more than a handful of starter pieces. But with the selective horns power playing around his most swaggering moments, 'Paradise' quickly stormed ahead of the horns race for now.

Lee Bannon | Alchemy | Wave[s]

Much of Wave[s] was disappointing, a side project of a side project that gave off a handful of B-sides and throwaways for fan consumption. The intro, 'Alchemy,' though clearly lambasted the release as something greater, a moment, sonically at least, with drastic ambition the likes of which we've never seen. Lee Bannon took Jenkins' water-themed palate, with its nauseating levels of synths and hi-hats, to another level, drowning the listener by force. Even worse, during Jenkins' verses Bannon would raise you up for some quick breaths, airing out the tension of a looming flood with the calming sounds of what comes before it. This is before the drums and the wailing of a lost man come rushing in with the force of a thousand waves, the synths are little more than a pacemaker at this point with the years hardest drums pasteurizing any chance of survival.

Yung Gud | Hoover

I don't know how this kid does it but Yung Gud continues to be the provisional spark to Yung Lean's madness. I guess the latter lead has a flow to match, and lambasts his ego with easily-grabbable memes, but Yung Gud actually has perennial talent. He's got range, but when he focuses on manifesting a banger (like 'Kyoto'), things turn into ultra-psychotic territory the likes of which Hip-Hop has never seen. His latest, 'Hoover,' sounds like the early days of Hit-Boy without a self-defense measure in case of uncertain mockery. Tornado sirens alert to a coming force, and the second the bass erupts into a bountiful blaze the walls come tearing apart, stricken by Trap drums reckless in their origins. It's a wild, wild beat.

Jamie xx | Gosh | In Colour

It's been half a year and I'm still raving over In Colour and its colossus opener. 'Gosh' starts unimpressed, despite being a bit intriguing. Simple hi-hats and segmented drums bounce around a sputtering vocal sample. The second "oh my gosh" comes on though, presumably accompanied by a smirk from the listener, things escalate into oblivion. Chimes soar around ravaging bass, as the dance floor begins to light up. It relived the early 90's Rave scene by tributing every facade of its enigma to the lost genre. And yet, the most glorious facet, one I bring up every time I mention the track, is a little synth that squeaks in midway through. Initially it's unnoticeable amongst the glaring bass, but as soon as it finds positioning, it launches into the forefront. From that point on, the voices fade, and the bass has no option but to move along to the wild swaying of a synth on the loose. That synth, and 'Gosh' as a whole, is 2015's greatest orchestrator.

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