Producers/beatmakers are often unfairly overlooked because of artists. Truth be told, producers are artists themselves, as every instrumental requires its own unique form of craftsmanship, and a precise vision to execute the idea. Without producers, your favorite hit single would simply not sound the same, yet alone exist! Comparable to the clientele work of an artisan or sculptor, when producers craft beats for artists, they must put themselves in another’s shoes to innovate. However, the music of production pioneers Nujabes and J. Dilla demonstrates that instrumentals are entirely separate and complete bodies of work. Applied rapping or vocals are not complements to production, but instead honorary elements that create an alternative version. Therefore, to an extent, the artist serves as a guest feature over the producer’s original creation. To effectively shed greater light to the creative brilliance of producers, I’ve chosen to start a monthly series titled “Five Excellent Beat Projects,” which will highlight five instrumental works that I consider exceptional. This is the third installment of the series.
- Cookin’ Soul – Carribean Bites – Despite being a Grammy award winning group, the Valencia, Spain based production duo (Big Size & DJ Zock) still somehow seem underrated. With production credits for artists such as Joey Bada$$, Mac Miller, Curren$y, Pusha T, Wiz Khalifa, and more, the 250 + albums and mixtapes they’ve crafted + featured on solidifies their veteran status. Particularly hip-hop focused, one can often expect a layered mixture of eclectic drums, smooth jazz, raw boom bap, and funky soul when it comes to their instrumentals. Their latest release, Carribean Bites is no different, offering a calm paradise in audio form. The song “Biba Lekker” in particular makes one feel as if they are beach-side, serenely watching the ocean’s waves flow back and forth. The gorgeous artwork created by Ivan Merlin incorporates warm colors, matching the blissful experience throughout the entire project. The album is currently offering 200 limited edition orange vinyls, which can be pre-ordered here.
- Jazzinuf – The Magic Carpet– With already nine impressive albums to his catalog, Jazzinuf a Harlem, Based Korean producer has successfully delivered a tenth. The Magic Carpet offers a magical touch of silky jazz, from elegant piano keys to the appealing saxophone. The detailed cover art, created by Corby Deford, includes a couple on a magic carpet, flying across the Statue of Liberty. While listening to the album, I highly recommend reading Wax Heart’s (2019) interview with Jazzinuf via QRATES for an excellent perspective on the artist. The full project has a run time just under an hour, but you’ll likely dreamily get lost in the music.
- Leavv, Hazy Year – Sediments – Already having collaborated with JUICEB☮X for their phenomenal Midnight Butter album, Norway based producer Hazy Year delivered once more, this time collaborating with German based producer Leavv. A refreshing total of fourteen tracks, the sound of the project contains perfectly chopped hip-hop drums with a mellow ambient mixture. The simple, yet gorgeous art includes an original photograph shot by Xivi Zheng, implemented into cover form by Danial Ghods. Mastered by B-Side, the entire listen effortlessly flows until the very end. After hearing Sediments, I am convinced that the pair are one and the same, given the immense chemistry displayed on this particularly stunning release.
- Elijah Nang – Gaijin II Tale of Rai – Defined as a “Samurai beatsmith,” Elijah Nang’s beats are known to tell stories. Via The Rust, Nang’s music “depicts landscapes and narrates travels, mostly across Japan’s countryside and through its teeming cities.” Nang’s avid love for anime and Japanese culture strongly influences the Eastern qualities of his sound, with Nujabes cited as a notable influence. Elijah resides in London and has Nigerian heritage, but his creative identity fascinatingly attributes to Japan. Gaijan II Tale of Rai is the second installment of Gaijin, with the first release dating one year prior. Gaijin (noun foreigner/outsider) serves as a tale about a foreigner that woke up in a mysterious land covered in mist, eventually encountering a child named Riku. Having never met a foreigner before, Riku invites him to his samurai home, as the gaijin becomes acquainted with his new surroundings. The intricate cover art was designed by Trina Richie Hines, and the record was mastered by B-Side. If you hadn’t heard enough of Leavv, you’re in luck; the German based producer features on Nang’s song titled “Bushido.” With a run time of exactly one hour and twelve minutes, the listener’s experience enables them to narrate the gaijin’s unknown path.
- Figub Brazlevič – EXPEDITion 100 Vol. 1: Figub Hazi-Jusuf – Currently residing in the inner city of Moabit, Figub Brazlevič is a seasoned producer that grew up in the Southwest region of Germany. As a result of not fitting into the scene of German hip-hop at the time, Brazelevič left for Switzerland and Austria. In the cities of Zurich and Vienna, contacts were formed that advanced Figub Brazlevič to develop his music career, eventually forming Krekpek Records in 2015. Inspired by jazz, funk, and soul, Brazlevič’s style often incorporates a familiar 90’s sensation of concise drums and dominant percussion, along with his own personal flavor. With now twenty plus years of experience, Brazlevič’s latest album includes fifteen glorious tunes, lasting a little less than forty minutes total. It is almost as if Brazlevič threw all of his favorite genres into a music blender, resulting in a delicious audible smoothie.
I hope you enjoy these five masterful works of art. Stay tuned for the fourth installment of “Five Excellent Beat Projects,” dropping sometime in August! For suggestions or inquiries, feel free to email me at [email protected]
Words by Brandon Washington