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WYDU’s Year in Review: Trav’s Top Ten(ish) Instrumental Projects of 2011

by Travis on January 9, 2012

The instrumental project is something else that really gets me going. Sometimes when I’m at home, or just laying in bed, I just want music, not some weak 16 bar emcee spittin’ some nonsense. That’s when a well done instrumental project comes in handy.

But the instrumental project was one that suffered as my curiosity took me into other musical genres (still on my Brazilian Tropicalia and psych rock kick). That coupled with the fact that I wasn’t involved with The Scrunchface Show this year, which introduced me to a lot of instrumental projects (almost too many) and that my correspondence with Eric and former BH contributor, Dart Adams, was a lot less this year as well. I’m sure Dart will have plenty to enlighten me on when he sees this list.

This year, my list is kind of split into two different types of instrumental projects. We have some that work just as well, and in some cases even better, on their own standing, as purely instrumental project. Then we some very well could be classified as “beat tapes” but damn dope ones at that. An instrumental project has to have something to catch my attention, otherwise it just ends up being background music. Nothing wrong with that, but I can also use the cars driving by outside my place if I just wanted background music. I do have a few projects I meant to get around to that I have sitting on my computer (I’m listening to the Jansport J project right now as I type this, which is pretty damn good), but for the most part this year, I stuck to artists I already had an idea what I was going to get.

10. Falside – Snare Conditioning
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The young Providence, Rhode Island producer, Falside has grown in leap and bounds over the past several years and Snare Conditioning is a shining example of that. The instrumental opus is a nice blend of hard edged beats that show an attitude, some jazzy on the down low type of playings, mixed with some more experimental joints thrown in to keep it interesting. It’ll be interesting to see where the young beatsmith goes to next.


9. DJ Premier – Beats That Collected Dust Vol. 2
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Sure it’s DJ Premier, and sure maybe it was the fact that I got these on vinyl, which I played a lot is why this made the year end list. I found Volume 2 better than his first volume of these “forgotten beats.” Word is that a couple of these tracks were meant for some Gang Starr tracks back in the day, which may be why they sound dated, but fuck it, it’s DJ Premier and I’d rather listen to dated Primo joints that a majority of the “new soundin’” shit from cats. A couple of these beats I’m sure would make some classic tracks. Nas or Jay, are listening to these, dammit…


8. Paten Locke – Knock ‘Em Out the Box
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Not only is Paten Locke an emcee (as witnessed as part of Asamov aka The ABs, The Smile Rays and his solo project from 2009), but P Locke can hang with the best behind the boards as well. He’s a known DJ and crate digger, so it would only be natural. Knock ‘Em Out the Box plays more of a collection of beats, but again, when the shits bang, I’ll play it no matter what. I’m biased as Paten is one of my favorite artists, but he doesn’t disappoint with a collection of great beats. Plus the tagline will get stuck in your head something ferocious.


7. Blue Sky Black Death - NOIR
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It’s hard to keep calling Blue Sky Black Death’s music “hip hop.” More and more it’s sounding like some indie rock or “downtempo” stuff, which isn’t bad by any means. Listening to NOIR, I felt like I was listening to Explosions in the Sky or something (which hip hop heads probably won’t know what I’m talking about), with some deep melodies, slow downs, speed ups, sounds that aren’t usually found on an instrumental hip hop album. Still, there is some great music on it, as BSBD slowly drifts away from hip hop, but it’s a journey I’ll keep up with.


6. Dave Redi - Insomniac Music
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For those of you that have dealt with my skiddish appearances and disappearances on Bloggerhouse the past couple years, you might remember the name Front Porch Poets on last years list of my favorite albums. Well, Dave Redi is the producer for that group and comes at it lovely with some tracks that would stand on their own, or sound just as dope with someone rhyming over them. Using lots of horns and melodies, Dave is set to let suckas know the time.


5. The Doppelgangaz – Beats for Brothels Vol.1
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A slick instrumental project from the Doppelgangaz. “Beats for Brothels, Vol. 1″ is a rare beat project that works good as an instrumental project on it’s own merits, but it also works as a beat tape as in a way that you could see artists rhyming over these beats. The NYC duo proves that New York hip hop isn’t dead. The Doppelgangaz fall into that boom-bap, dusty loops school, but they do it so well that a 30 something hip hop lover raised on golden age hip hop is more than okay with it. Some great beats and head noddin’ to be found on this. The tracks “Brothel” and “Spanish Shark” are two of my favorite instrumental jams of the year.


4. ST/MiC – Solar March
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ST/MiC might have very well dropped the best piece of work in his long and illustrious career in the form of Solar March. In what is basically a tribute album the late Japanese producer, Nujabes, MiC brings some of the greatest beats/songs that I’ve heard in awhile from him, or hell, any producer in sometime. “To The Heart” is a track that really needs to be on a movie soundtrack, the Dilla like (and I mean that in a good way) “Combinations” is fly like a 747 and “The Break” has MiC tweaking more pianos (showing the Nujabes influence) in a light ditty that makes this project have the same replay value and desires in the same way a great jazz album does. This is truly music you can pop in the CD player, the iPod, or whatever your poison and just vibe and chill out to.


3. Apollo Brown – Clouds
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I’ll admit I’ve been on the Apollo Brown bandwagon for the past couple of years or so, but for good reason as I think he is one of the best up and coming producers doing it currently. We find Apollo switching up his Detroit flavored sound a bit on “Clouds” and following a more somber and melodic approach and it works quite well. “Clouds” is an instrumental album that can hold it’s own as a complete project and not just a simple beat tape as Apollo develops themes, moods, and strings together songs very well.


2. Clams Casino – Instrumental
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I’m not sure where the hell this guy, Clams Casino, came from, but daaaayum. It took me until November to get around to listening to his “Instrumentals” release, simply because he was tied to names like Lil’ B and other artists I have no desire to listen to. That was my mistake. These “beats”, for the lack of a better word, are pretty damn amazing. Deep and dark musical pieces make this work like a beautiful piece of work than a collection of beats that he’s used for other people in the past that. These tracks stand on their own, I can’t imagine some no talent ass clown rapping over these.


1. Sinitus Tempo – All of them (Peaceland, Abstrakt Mindz Thinc Ulike, Lovely Dreams EP and Soul Eater EP)

For the sake of not flooding the top 10 with four Sinitus Tempo projects, because yes all four would have been in there, I am just lumping all together. That said, they are each different and stand on their own merit. Sinitus was en fuego in 2011 and I still think it’s a matter of time before this dude really takes off. The best of the batch is Abstrakt Mindz Thinc Ulike, and would have been the top instrumental album on it’s own merit. He blends jazzy riffs with snappin’ snares and great melodies. He could fall into the jazz hop producer or a soul producer very easily, but he is deeper than either one of those labels on their own. All four projects are well the listen, and I expect more to come from him.

Abstrakt Mindz Thinc Ulike
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Lovely Dreams EP
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Soul Eater EP
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{ 1 comment }

Praverb January 9, 2012 at 8:23 am

Awesome list, love the Apollo Brown record. What about “Rock Creek” from Oddisee or Astronote’s instrumental project. Sheesh too many dope instrumental projects.


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