Do type-beats have a place in modern music?
“All rap music sounds the same.” is an argument against liking rap and hip-hop music that I hear all the time. While this argument infuriates me as a lover of hip-hop, I think the biggest reason I am bothered by it is that it is absolutely correct from a certain point of view. When looking at what is at the top of the charts, one could easily come to the conclusion that yes, all rap music does sound the same.
Today, we will explore some reasons why.
The rise of the internet, the fall of the beat-tape.
When the internet made it into the music world, the culture of beat-making was forever changed. When the craft of beat-making started, a beat-makers’ only hope for recognition was to pass out tapes, demos of their skills and abilities, and hope that someone would vibe with it and further complete the project with them. In these days, anyone lucky enough to have the equipment to produce beats would have to work hard to hone their skill. In those days, the culture was still underground so if an artist wanted to be found, they would have to find a way to get their tape into the hands of a DJ or MC who would be able to play their work.
As the internet began to take hold in the 2000’s, beats began to take hold of the mainstream spotlight as well. With this sudden ability to share and copy music came the now iconic “producer tags” we now have come to love or hate. These producer tags were started when producers would find their instrumental beat being sold under someone else’s name and were created as a means to ‘watermark’ their work.
Today, the beat-tape is all but extinct, as producers choose instead to focus their efforts on marketing singles, as the need to collect compilations of instrumentals no longer makes sense to the average producer.
It has been said that people dont know what they like, they like what they know. The music industry is no different. Since Pachelbel’s Canon, pop music has been using the same four chords for almost every song. Humans are attracted to things that sound like what they know, as it gives any type of music a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Rap music is no different. When one art style becomes famous, every artist follows suit, hoping to cash in on the success of the previous. This might be intentional or not, but because of it, we end up hearing a lot of really similar sounding beats.
To gain a following faster, many beat-makers got their start by making type-beats to capitalize on this phenomenon. You are an up and coming rapper? You can either search through hours of un-exclusive beats hoping to find one you like, or you can search (your favorite artist) – Type beat, and then find something you know you will like. It has been proven time and time again, that this is a steady way for new producers to potentially make money, but it does create a problem.
Everyone begins to sound the same.
When a new beat-maker makes a song trying to sound like an artist, and takes off, then the next beat-maker will try to piggy-back the fame of the last. As time goes on, you create an oversaturation of similar sounding beats, and everyone suffers for it.
When everyone is copying everyone, the medium grows stale, and people lose interest. Its why country music is on the decline, and its why funk music, rock music, and countless other genres fall in popularity.
In this over-saturated market, its no wonder that fusion bands like 21 Pilots or Gorillaz have seen such a rise in popularity. The fact is, people want unique sounding music, but nobody knows how to find it.
In a podcast by Sam Harris and Zeynep Tufekci, they talk about how the internet feeds us things we like, and how it will constantly shift our attention to the next thing so that we remain on any given site.
Because of this, we are constantly drawn to things that are similar to what we have previously found, and we are constantly fed what we already like. This is why so many youtube channels make their focus on helping people to make type-beats. This formula is tried and proven, and it evidently works.
I think that whether or not taking advantage of the system is helping or hurting the industry, it is definitely not going away anytime soon.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂