A lot of hip-hop producers will tell you that they build their melodies around the drums they add to their tracks. Others will tell you that they get the melody down before adding the drums in. Regardless of the approach a producer takes, drums play a very important role in not only giving the track its flow but also guiding other instruments as the track flows.
Producers See Drums Differently but Agree They Are Important
Take East Coast hip-hop and try to imagine it without its drums. Take a track like “Empire of the Mind” and imagine it without the drums. We can all agree that drums give these two types of hip-hop life. Yes, drums might have been used differently in both cases, but their importance and prominence cannot be understated.
A lot of producers agree that every instrument in a track should work with every other instrument. The other thing they agree on is that there should be a lead instrument. Sometimes that is the guitar and oftentimes it is the drums. The drums set the time that other instruments are played at and it is common for a band to lose its flow when the drummer gets their timing wrong. Drummers should try some exercises to get their timings right; if they falter, the whole band is likely to and the track will suffer.
Drums Tell a Story
Drums can also be used to tell a story. Drums carry and define the emotions of a track. Drums can be harsh or soft. They can be prominent or withdrawn. Regardless of how they are used, drums have the ability to convey the emotions the producer or artist feels as they put down the track. This can be felt in the way drums are used in songs such as “When I am Gone” by Eminem.
Drums can also be used to measure the creativity of a producer or artist. Producers sample other producers’ beats all the time. The way they do so helps show how creative they are and their abilities to work with other peoples’ work. Depending on how creatively producers and artists use other peoples’ samples, new genres of hip-hop can be born. Most of these sub-genres are usually tied around a single instrument and this is usually the drum. Just listen to most of Lil Jon’s songs during the “crunk” era and you will understand how drums and the different sounds they produce can be used to tie together a hip-hop subgenre.
Drums Are All the Talk
Hip-hop producers talk about drums all the time. They think of their timbre, origins, creative uses, patterns and so much more. They obsess over all of these qualities and more when making beats. There is perhaps no other musical instrument that is thought about more than the drum. From there, these producers start thinking of different ways they can manipulate the sounds these drums make, case in point, the development of the gated reverb drum sound that was prominent in the 80s.
Drums Are the Exotic Breed of Musical Instruments
There are so many different types of drums, all of them sounding and being used differently. A producer can use a drum very differently from the way another producer might. It is this versatility of drums that make them so important in the hip hop world. Because there is perhaps no other instrument that can match the versatility that drums bring to the table, the importance of drums in hip-hop is unlikely to change.
Every hip-hop subgenre uses drums in one form or the other. Drums are so versatile and important to the hip-hop world that a lot of producers cannot m
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