As far as hip-hop instrumentals go, my tastes tend to be split between simplistic boom-bap and vibrant, natural instrumentation. A beat needs to either cut through the track, or fill it up completely, but for me, it’s gotta do one or the other. I also tend to love piano samples. These are my ten favorite instrumentals in hip-hop.
Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” is well-regarded for the sheer might of its lyricism and wordplay, but the beat by Just Blaze is every bit as regal and confident as Jay Electronica’s delivery.
“Murder Was the Case” by Snoop Dogg is one of the most important tracks in the G-funk subgenre of hip-hop. Producer Dr. Dre—through Snoop’s Doggystyle and his own The Chronic—brought synthetic funk into hip-hop and changed the game forever.
“Rapp Snitch Knishes” by MF DOOM (who also produced the track) has one of the catchiest and funniest choruses of any hip-hop song ever. The beat is incredibly simple, repeating a low-key drum beat and a high-pitched guitar sample, but it’s nothing if not infectious.
“Respiration” by Black Star is bleak and moody like few other hip-hop tracks, with a downtrodden beat by Hi-Tek that perfectly matches the tone of Talib Kweli’s, Mos Def’s, and Common’s verses.
“Shakey Dog” by Ghostface Killah had to have a massive beat to match one of hip-hop’s most assertive emcee. Lewis Parker employs horns, not unlike something that might be heard in a Blaxploitation flick, and they’re bombastic enough to keep up with GK’s forceful delivery.