I’ve been obsessed with the field of Hip Hop production since the 1st Golden Era of Hip Hop (1986-1989) so it should come as no surprise that I’d be interested in reading the “The BeatTips Manual”. From the opening chapter it was apparent that this isn’t the average book about Hip Hop production. As opposed to approaching the subject from a purely academic standpoint removed from the culture. While still instructing the reader about how to become an effective producer, “The BeatTips Manual” is a unique reading experience because the author Amir Said makes a conscious effort to treat Hip Hop production as an artform onto itself and Hip Hop culture as a breathing, living thing. It’s clear he’s writing it from the stance of someone understands the importance of making sure the reader under/overstands the complexity of the subject.
It begins by tracing the roots of the culture itself and misspelling many misconceptions so as to give the reader insight and understanding regarding the culture. Why? Because if you’re looking to produce Hip Hop music then you’re going to become an active contributor to said culture so you need to know about the history of this field you’ve chosen to enter. It carefully walks you through the great and wondrous world of beatmaking and production (The Three Spheres Of Beatmaking) all while alluding that this craft is to be taken seriously due to the fact you’re upholding a grand tradition that goes back two full generations. How many books have you read lately that are so detailed that they contain a section dedicated to letting you know how to effectively navigate it? Not many!
I’ve never read a book about Hip Hop production that started out painting the picture of the conditions that existed in Hip Hop’s birthplace in full detail to give a proper foundation then dedicates the next chapter to the full history of Hip Hop production during the era of the seminal Hip Hop records (1979-82, the Studio Band Period). Next it delves into the close relation to the other elements of Hip Hop culture (DJ’ing, graf writing, B Boying & emceeing) even before they unified and were recognized as a culture by it’s own practitioners and/or documentarians, outsiders and observers. After the release of the documentary “Style Wars” and the first legitimate Hip Hop culture themed film “Wild Style” in 1983, Hip Hop began to spread nationally. The beats were blaring out of speakers outside of the South Bronx or the 5 boroughs of New York. It reached a young me just 220 miles away in Boston…
The spread was aided by The Kitchen Tour that took stars of both films across the nation then eventually overseas. An era that the book calls the beginning of the Electronic Drum Machine Period (1983-87). Not only does “The BeatTips Manual” do an excellent job with the timeline, but it identifies the pioneers and has their firsthand recollections on the progression of the era and the song, beats and records that were early quantum leaps in the field (such as “It’s Like That”, “Sucker MC’s” & “It’s Yours” by Larry Smith and Rick Rubin, respectively).
As the book progresses, it does an impressive job of letting you understand all of the aspects of Hip Hop production and beatmaking from the aesthetic, technical and even the philosophical sides. It even addresses things as diverse as the art of sampling and the different aesthetics involved, how to set daily goals for beatmaking practice/exercises, how to deal with the frustration involved with trying to constantly seek placements and even how to overcome beat block for God’s sake!
This book is comprehensive to say the least. Being that this is the 5th edition, it continuously updates to stay abreast of the current state of the profession. It consciously treats the field like a living entity that constantly evolves (which is even more evident if you’re a frequent reader/visitor of the BeatTips site like I am). Whether it be copyright law, the different compositional styles of beatmaking, beat structure, laying down drums and all related matters (which are many…Swizz Beats, get ta readin’, B!) like Prego sauce, it’s in there!
How to compose bass lines? The different forms of sampling? Record digging vs. e-digging? Discussing music theory and how it pertains to Hip Hop production and beatmaking? Engineering questions? Interviews with respected producers and pioneers in production? It’s all covered therein. Even questions such as when you should consider looking for or acquiring a manager and more are all addressed in this tome.
If you wanted to not only understand how to make beats, produce better sounding or more marketable material then understand how to market and present it to those who’d purchase beats (including how to compose an effective beat tape/CD) then “The Beat Tips Manual” is the book for you. It not only works on a personal level but on a business level as well as an academic level as well.
If you want to fully understand or grasp exactly how diverse and densely layered the pursuit and artform of beatmaking and Hip Hop production is, then crack this 400+ page book open and dive right in. I am an avid reader and this book has a high educational value as well as timeless interviews (from legends and pioneers such as Marley Marl, Buckwild, DJ Premier, D.R. Period, DJ Toomp, 9th Wonder and Steve Sola). After I read it the first time, I found myself re-reading parts of it over and over again. It IS a manual, after all.
The sections about the business of Hip Hop, the business of Hip Hop production, how you get paid and most importantly how to GET paid and nice and detailed. There’s even a section addressing ghost beatmaking, in-staff production, producer pools & farming out beatwork/production. That’s how in depth this manual gets. Being that this is the 5th edition, it only seems to get better and better with each successive printing. I say if you’re looking to overstand the hallowed tradition/profession/calling/game of Hip Hop production and/or beatmaking then cop “The BeatTips Manual”. Trust me on this one. After all, I know producers…