So far on LAYERS we’ve covered plenty of boogie beats, vintage synth compositions, and new school hip hop instrumentals, but we haven’t yet delved into a good old fashioned New York City hip-hop beat—one that’s built on a couple of clutch samples from an obscure funk track, rearranging its parts, and nailing a hard beat to its feet. To find one to pick apart, I had to look no further than the surrounding neighborhood of our Brooklyn office.
SoulKlap is a beatmaker from Cleveland who now rests his head in Brooklyn, creating beats in the stripped down format of the Golden era, though he uses modern software and hardware. I recently heard him play “King Of NY” and immediately felt the opening sample in my gut. Making a beat like this isn’t about manipulation, rather its about selection and placement. Done correctly, it makes the perfect backdrop for some powerhouse rhymes. And that, of course was the intention with this particular beat from the start. Here’s SoulKlap.
The motivation behind this composition was a young MC by the name of Joey BadA$$. He’s the dopest new young lyricist repping NYC. I was so inspired by the track “Survival Tactics,” that I had to make a beat I felt fit Joey’s skills.
The sample I found is from a dude named Thomas Elerth titled “Beatin It.” I judge a good sample by the 15 second rule. Most of the time, I can tell from hearing a track in the first 15 seconds whether or not I wanna mess with it. Even if I don’t really like the first 15, sometimes the way the composition is arranged keeps me listening for something dope.
And something dope is what he found. Let’s get in there.
Loops 6&7 (Prelude & Breakdown)
The first loop I used I call the “prelude.” It serves as a break between the verse and hook. I found that this part, with the way the horns sounded, is basically like a sounding of the horns proclaiming “The King Is Here…” on some Roman era type thing. I used it at the beginning, and before and after the hook to set up transitions.
Loop 1&2 (First 8 Bars)
This is the main verse loop I used for the beat. It’s a simple yet effective loop that sets a commanding tone for the track. The timpani’s really bring a regal feel to it. The second half of this chop serves as a breakdown before the transition into the second 8 bars of the verse. Anyone who knows me as a producer knows that I’m big on transitions. I picked up a lot of my arrangement and composition skills from being a classically trained saxophone player back in high school. Transitions are key.
Loop 4&5 (2nd 8 Bars)
This part of the track starts off the second eight bars in each verse. This kinda serves as a nice backdrop for Joey (or any other dope MC) to really get into it lyrically. This is the part where the MC rips the track to shreds. It’s lighter in sound than the first eight-bar loop purposefully to kinda tell the track to “back off a lil bit, and let that MC rip!”
Loop 3 (Hook)
I used this loop for the main hook. To me, it brings the track together. Nice backdrop to a posse, Wu-Tang Clan-type hook with a bunch of cats.
Amen Drumbreak (Hook)
For the hook, I brought in a signature hip-hop favorite drumbreak from the famous Winstons’ “Amen Brother.” Any true hip-hop head will recognize this break immediately. I like to use these type of drum breaks a lot. Just my way of paying homage to the producing pioneers before me. I felt this drum break was the best one to use for this type of track on the hook.
Drumbreak 2 (Verse)
Can’t quite remember where I found this break. It’s a simple chop I put together to accompany the verse pattern. Switching drums is a good way to keep listeners excited.
Hi-Hats & Snare
Added these in to brighten up the drums a little bit.
Put it all together and you’ve got “King Of NY.” Press play and drop a freestyle in the comments section!