We are just over a quarter way through the year, which means that tons of new songs, good and bad, have been released in 2019. Here’s my list of the 10 best hip hop beats from the first quarter of the year.
10. Juice WRLD – Flaws and Sins
The 9th track off of his new album, Death Race for Love, “Flaws and Sins” opens with some smooth, slightly distorted guitar chords. Juice WRLD enters with the introduction of clean rolling hi hats alongside claps and percs characteristic of the artist’s work from 2018. The most interesting part of the beat is the background synth that drones like a siren, a refreshing sound on an album that’s production gets stale as it goes on. Overall, the track has a lot of bounce, which provides an ear-grabbing contrast with Juice Wrld’s boyish vocals. The beat is clean and well-mastered, but is nothing terribly new, which is why it only sits at number 10 on this list.
Stream Juice WRLD’s new album below
9. Beast Coast – Left Hand
Beast Coast is the collaboration of the east coast’s most popular rappers, Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, The Underachievers, Kirk Knight, Nick Caution, and CJ Fly. They just released their first track, “Left Hand,” on March 11. It features a dark, gritty bell melody under an almost stressful drum track. There are 2 or 3 different snares and an unpredictable kick pattern, while different rolling and open hats are panned from left to right ear. The overwhelming production perfectly captures the dark style of New York’s hip hop scene from the past couple of years and allows the myriad of rappers to adhere to a single sound.
8. Tierra Whack – Only Child
Tierra Whack teased us back in 2018 with her album Whack World, which was made up entirely of one minute songs. Now we get to hear full-length tracks from the Philadelphia rapper as she has dropped 4 new singles in 2019, the best by far being “Only Child.” The song’s beat is by no means complex. In fact, besides the drums, the only instrument is a basic chord progression from an analog synth. The hats follow a simple, metronomic pattern and the snare lands on every 2 and 4. Simple, however, works perfectly for Whack, putting all the emphasis on her relaxing vocals. The beat matches her style to the teeth.
7. Lil Pump – Stripper Name (feat. YG and 2 Chainz)
Lil Pump’s long awaited Harverd Dropout finally dropped on February 22 and gave us a number of fun, energetic tracks. Perhaps the most ridiculous song off the album is “Stripper Name.” The title alone should be enough to get across how preposterous the track is. The beat literally sounds like gunshots over somebody drunkenly humming. That really sums it up, as there isn’t a lot of serious stuff going on in the production. For Lil Pump, though, this only reinforces how goofy his music is supposed to be. I’ve said it in other articles and I’ll say it again: Lil Pump is nothing if not fun. The same can be said for this eccentric beat.
Stream Harverd Dropout Below
6. ScHoolboy Q – Numb Numb Juice
The last studio release from ScHoolboy Q was back in 2016. I was starting to fear the rapper was done for good until he released his new single “Numb Numb Juice” just last week. The track’s beat goes in hard. Stupid hard. The 808s and kicks are distorted, creating a sense of frenzy. This is reinforced by the dissonant synths on top, turning the track into a stoner’s version of the soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. As usual, ScHoolboy Q’s darkness and grime is unparalleled in this unnerving track. No other beat could allow a rapper to make the phrase “Numb Numb Juice” sound bad ass.
5. Noname – Song 31 (feat. Phoelix)
Noname is quite possibly the smoothest rapper in the game. Her poetic vocals flow like a river of melted butter passing over a freshly waxed floor. This may be why her voice pairs so well with jazz. At the turn of the new year, Noname dropped her new track, “Song 31.” Like most of the Chicago rapper’s music, the beat is purely live, featuring a chorus of “ooo’s” over ever-changing jazz drums. Under the rambunctious instrumental is a head-bobbing electric bass that follows the back up vocals immaculately. The beat is 100% soul, making the listener feel like they are in a jazz club up in the clouds. A passionate rapper needs a passionate instrumental, and “Song 31” delivers.
4. 2 Chainz – Momma I Hit a Lick (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
My mind is still working on processing this beat. Georgia rapper 2 Chainz recently released his project Rap or Go to the League, which, for the most part, I found to be pretty hit or miss. In the past, 2 Chainz was known for his dirty lyrics and raunchy jokes. Since his 2017 album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music, however, his tone has become more serious. His new album follows that trend, as does the production on it.
The production on his track “Momma I Hit a Lick,” in particular, is nothing short of impressive. The song has an insane bass drum accompanying the kicks that makes the track hit harder than Floyd Mayweather. The bass line is volatile, changing just about every other verse. The melody is comprised of humming and bells, the bright instruments somehow making the track feel even darker through the contrast with the dirty drums. The beat is a lot to wrap your head around and the track definitely marks a high point in 2 Chainz’s musical career.
3. James Blake – Tell Them (feat. Moses Sumney and Metro Boomin)
James Blake and Metro Boomin are both incredible producers in their own right, so the quality of their collaboration on the song “Tell Them” off of Blake’s new album Assume Form is no surprise. Nothing necessarily special is even happening on this track, but everything that is happening meshes perfectly with the rest of the song. On top of that, I have never heard production so clean. Even with vibrant 808s, there is no clipping or distortion. The drums are all mastered to perfection and Blake’s use of panning gives the track a 3-dimensional presence. The beat uses a vast array of strings and synths to form multiple countermelodies and makes “Tell Them” stand out among the rest of the songs on the album.
Stream Assume Form below
2. Charlie Heat & Denzel Curry – Aloha
“Aloha” starts big with a dramatic trumpet, interrupted by the NBA Jam SNES vocals, “He’s heating up!” The vocals ring true; the rest of the track is pure heat as the trumpet sample gets flipped into Curry‘s horror show style of rap. With Denzel Curry sporting such a powerful voice, it’s near impossible for him to rap on a beat that falls short of perfection.
Heat‘s production works well with the Miami rapper’s style. The bounce of the track is a strong contrast to Curry‘s on-the-beat flow. The monotony of the 808 hypnotizes the listener and forces them to focus on the lyrics, all the while the synths constantly change so that it never gets boring. Charlie Heat‘s work on “Aloha” makes for not only one of the most impressive beats of 2019, but it is up there as one of the best in the past couple of years.
1. EARTHGANG – Proud of U (feat. Young Thug)
“Proud of U‘ is by far my favorite track of 2019, so far. Part of that is due to my undying loyalty to Young Thug, but more than anything, the track’s production is what does it for me. The hi-hats are constantly flowing and rolling, pushing the track forward. Sometimes the hats are removed altogether and are replaced by rolling snares. Hell, even the kicks roll, which makes the track that much more dynamic. The 808s bounce around, somehow both managing to always hit the right note and continually change up patterns at the same time.
The melody rests on top, only coming out in short flashes as a reminder of the chord structure, forcing the mind to focus on the rambunctiousness of the rest of the track. As hectic as the beat is, it never feels messy. Rather the chaos is turned into boisterous energy, making it hard not to dance. EARTHGANG and Young Thug‘s fun vocals act as instruments on top of the beat, making this not only the best beat, but possibly the best collaboration of 2019 (so far).