In search of beats.
September 30, 2009 9:45 AM   Subscribe

What has happened to the instrumental hip hop scene? The only current producer "pushing things forward" in long player format that I know of is Flying Lotus. Who are the contemporary heirs to DJ Shadow, Prefuse 73 and Madlib?

I read something today on Slate about the golden age of hip hop that made me think about this question and how a few years back there seemed to be tons of new instrumental beat albums coming out on a regular basis and new, exciting producers to get into making full albums of stuff in all different directions. It seems as though producers in this very broad style make one or two brilliant albums and disappear, or move on to more song based stuff like Bibio and RJD2. I'm already familiar with dubstep producers like Burial whom I enjoy, and of course the Ninja Tune and Warp labels, but I am looking for more up and comers to check out that you could firmly place in the instrumental (doesn't have to be entirely) hip hop genre, although I would be interested in hearing of electronic/experimental producers that incorporate hip hop breaks too. Thanks!
posted by the foreground to Media & Arts (22 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Dan the Automator? Not really an up-and-comer, though.
posted by jquinby at 9:47 AM on September 30, 2009

You probably already know this, but Shadow, Madlib and Guillermo Scott Herren are all still working.

Hmm. Sa-Ra, Joe Beats, Jake One, Alchemist, People Under the Stairs, Sixtoo, Blockhead, Boyd Pro and Georgia Anne Muldrow come to mind. Some of these folks have been around longer than others, and some are more hip-hop than others.
posted by box at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2009

What about M.F. Doom and variants? Some of his albums (e.g. Special Herbs series, not that I've heard much of them) are instrumental and he has worked with your example Madlib.
posted by galaksit at 9:57 AM on September 30, 2009

Are you familiar with Four Tet? Here's a great song by him.
posted by milarepa at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

milarepa: you might enjoy Savath & Savales.
posted by box at 10:10 AM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: Gaslamp Killer just put out an EP that will blow your mind.
posted by dobie at 10:19 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Dosh
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:21 AM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: I love instrumental hip hop, and break oriented electronic music. Some of my favorites:

Aim, DJ Cam, DJ Krush and Blockhead are more strictly in the hip hop genre, but in addition, DJ Food / Coldcut, Quantic, Amon Tobin, Mr. Scruff, Cinematic Orchestra, The Herbaliser, Bonobo, Kid Loco, Boards of Canada, Skalpel, Funki Porcini, The Avalanches, Boards of Canada, Cut Chemist has done some cool stuff in this area, Kid Loco, 9 Lazy 9, Nightmares on Wax, The Beastie Boys have released a few awesome instrumental albums, Daedalus, even Four Tet and Manitoba/Caribou do some stuff in the hip hop general arena.

A few other resources: and pandora are great for discovering similar artists... pop in any of the artists you mentioned or that I've listed here and you're guaranteed to find some stuff you like. Also liveplasma makes visual maps of related artists, great for discovering new music. Finally, AllMusic is my personal favorite musical resource, it has a similar artists section, as well as beyond extensive artist bio's, reviews, and more. You can spend hours and hours there to say the least.
posted by KilgoreTrout at 10:23 AM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: I like pretty much everyone you listed, so I have difficulty believing you haven't heard it, but pick up Tobacco's (of psychadelic group Black Moth Super Rainbow) solo debut, Fucked Up Friends. Random song. Dirty, greasy, messy, crunchy weird beats.

I just saw him play this album live. They projected E.T. porn.

I don't recommend the other solo album he's got out right now, The Allegheny White Fish Tapes; it's his solo work from BEFORE Fucked Up Friends, BEFORE he started using a vocoder, and it's totally different and not my particular cup of tea.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:32 AM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions, lots of new names to check out here. I am of course aware that the ones I listed are still working, but DJ Shadow's current work seems a long way away from Endtroducing in both quality and originality. I realized basically everything I listen to in this genre seems to have come out before 2003 or so. I do know Four Tet and really enjoy that sound too, particularly the sound on his album "Rounds."

I guess I was mostly wondering where the groundbreaking debuts have gone, so I think more suggestions like Tobacco, Gaslamp Killer and the like is what I am really looking for.

I have a account, so that should help too. Thanks and keep them coming.
posted by the foreground at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2009

nthing Blockhead. His Music by Cavelight is one of the finest instrumental hip-hop albums I've heard. Bonobo's early stuff was good too, but IMO he's another case of someone who started off in hip-hop and moved on to create more mainstream songs.

Also, Aesop Rock released an instrumental version of his first album, Music for Earthworms (it's called, unsurprisingly, Music for Earthworms - the Instrumentals), which is pretty good. That may or may not count as a groundbreaking debut.
posted by xbonesgt at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2009

Don't know what he's done lately, but if you've never heard Amon Tobin this could be a good chance to check out his back-catalog. It's entirely instrumental and wickedly awesome.

Personal faves:
Permutation (Check out the sample from Bridge)
Supermodified (Check out the sample from Four Ton Mantis)
Out From Out Where (Check out the sample from Verbal)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2009

I find this kind of music is really well represented on Boomkat, it is where I found out about Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer, et al. It is an independent record (as in vinyl, but also does digital and CDs) distributor based in the UK. You can find most of the stuff on iTunes if the idea of paying in UK pounds puts you off.
posted by dobie at 11:59 AM on September 30, 2009

About 50% of the incredibly voluminous catalog of Ninja Tune falls under this category, including new artists. Enjoy....
posted by lalochezia at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2009

oops. didnt see your more inside. sorry.
posted by lalochezia at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: There's some good stuff in this vein on Bully Records. Sixtoo, P Love, Mat Young (! Invicia and Illy Uno are both awesome), etc.
posted by juv3nal at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: Oh, on the brand-new and unknown tip, check out 1000names. I mean, they're from fucking Bulgaria. They use vocal samples on a few songs but for the most part it's messily chopped up burbling snippets that actually work.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:16 PM on September 30, 2009

You'd probably like Emancipator.
posted by spatula at 3:33 PM on September 30, 2009

Also Pretty Lights
and Little People
posted by spatula at 4:10 PM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: I recommend Blue Sky Black Death - their debut album A Heap of Broken Images is pretty phenomenal; one disc is all great instrumentals, both live and sampled, while the other is collaborations with mostly west-coast MCs.

Their second album, Late Night Cinema, is filled with plenty of orchestral instruments, many played live. There are some background vocals, and plenty of samples, but I think it is just what you are looking for.

Seconding Tobacco.
posted by Never Better at 7:00 PM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: Big Gigantic!!!!!!!!!!
posted by infinityjinx at 9:17 PM on September 30, 2009

Best answer: Dutch artists Pete Philly & Perquisite are nicely musical. Listen here.
posted by Skyanth at 12:10 AM on October 2, 2009

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