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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Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal

Edit­or / PR Con­sult­ant at No Bounds
Rishma Dhali­w­al has extens­ive exper­i­ence study­ing and work­ing in the music and media industry. Hav­ing writ­ten a thes­is on how Hip Hop acts as a social move­ment, she has spent years research­ing and con­nect­ing with artists who use the art form as a tool for bring­ing a voice to the voice­less. Cur­rently work­ing in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media know­ledge to I am Hip Hop and oth­er pro­jects by No Bounds.

About Rishma Dhaliwal

Rishma Dhaliwal
Rishma Dhaliwal has extensive experience studying and working in the music and media industry. Having written a thesis on how Hip Hop acts as a social movement, she has spent years researching and connecting with artists who use the art form as a tool for bringing a voice to the voiceless. Currently working in TV, Rishma brings her PR and media knowledge to I am Hip Hop and other projects by No Bounds.