Thoughts on The Beat Scene and a Ridiculous New Playlist: Micro-Chopping 104 Jammin’ Ass Instrumentals
Instrumental music is having a moment right now. It’s hard to give useful classifications and definitions to all the different scenes and sub-genres that fall under the “instrumental” umbrella, but beat/instrumental/sample-based music/whatever you want to call it is experiencing an unprecedented level of popularity that seems like it’s only going to increase in the coming years.
Though some fans and producers complain of new stuff sounding derivative and a sometimes crippling level of over-saturation, it’s hard to deny the power of seeing producers building careers independent of rappers and vocalists. Not to dismiss either, but historically producers rarely get their due, so it’s nice to finally see them in the limelight. Labels like Mello Music Group, Street Corner Music, and Redef Records continue to demonstrate that producers can establish themselves as name recognition artists without a full-time creative counterpart by their side.
It took many years of evolution from humble beginnings to get to the current state of the game. From rap instrumentals on vinyl singles, to beat tapes traded among friends, to sharing tracks on MySpace, all the way to the current proliferation of music on Bandcamp, SoundCloud, Spotify, and other streaming platforms, it has been quite a journey.
So if we’re experiencing an unprecedented demand for beats, just how significant is the uptick popularity? Here’s some random Spotify data to help demonstrate the growth of the movement. Though I’m going to mostly focus on Spotify, it should be noted that other important sites like Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and YouTube, are also seeing big surges in instrumental sales and streams.
For starters, Oddisee’s “After Thoughts” — which is included on this playlist — is closing in on 11.5 million streams on Spotify. That puts it right behind “Nas Is Like”. The fact that an instrumental song with zero mainstream radio play is rivaling a well-know Nas song on Spotify is remarkable.
Micro-Chop interviewee Elaquent has two songs with over one million streams — his song “Bucket List” is closing in on 2.5 million. “Nollieflip” from his most recent album Worst Case Scenario is included here. Recent Micro-Chop discovery eevee already has 1 million plus streams on three different songs. “mist”, which is closing in on half a million streams, is included in this playlist.
And it doesn’t stop there. After uploading the majority of his catalog to Spotify in mid-2017, Micro-Chop interviewee STLNDRMS just surpassed 1 million total plays on Spotify. You’ll find “Kava” among the other amazing instrumentals above.
Want more evidence? Micro-Chop interviewee Seneca B, who first found considerable success on Bandcamp and SoundCloud, saw her “Flowers” track surpass 300,000 spins on Spotify recently. “May”, which she discussed in her Micro-Chop interview, is highlighted here. And Micro-Chop interviewee Jay Alpha is nearing 300,000 Spotify spins for his beautifully mellow “Pickle Juice”.
I could go on and on and on — and these are just a few brief examples from a much larger trend. Producers who vary dramatically in age, style, geographic location, visibility, social media activity, etc. are seeing individual songs get hundreds of thousands and millions of plays on Spotify. Who knows how we’ll listen to music 10 years from now, but if streaming is here to stay for the foreseeable future, it will be interesting to see how a song like Oddisee’s “After Thoughts” is performing a decade from now.
As a publication with a heavy focus on instrumental music, compiling playlists provides the opportunity to put lesser known gems alongside massive successes like “After Thoughts” and introduce listeners to some new music they might want to explore. Dr. Dre can sit alongside Jake One who can sit alongside Jay Alpha and Seneca B. And if done right, it can all make sense musically and provide the listener with an enjoyable experience.
Here’s my 104-song, five hour celebration of instrumental music. You’ll find instrumentals from classic late 90s and early 2000s rap albums playing next to Mello Music Group, Street Corner Music, and Redef Records producers. You’ll also find experimental sample collages, gear-specific producers, bedroom producers with no current label, and everything in between. I hand picked each song and lovingly sequenced it by tempo and feeling. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it. If you dig it, please follow it and share.