Rappers get the bulk of the credit but truthfully, the quality of a song’s production is often the difference between a hit and a flop. Mediocre lyricism gets masked if the rap beats are hot enough, while great rapping gets held back if the instrumentals around the track don’t mesh well.
Producer clout is at an all-time when it comes to creating top tier Hip Hop instrumentals and 2020 featured a plethora of memorable beats from several notable producers. Whether it was the continued excellence of The Alchemist, Harry Fraud and Hit-Boy or placements from rising stars such as Section 8, Jetsonmade and CashMoneyAP, producers gifted rappers with incredible rap beats helping their songs reach full potential.
Every year, HipHopDX staff joins in discussions, debates and sometimes heated arguments to come up with a list for our Year End Awards. Review all of our 2020 HipHopDX award categories and nominees before the winners are announced beginning December 28, 2020.
HipHopDX has narrowed down the best Hip Hop songs with the most inescapable and instantly recognizable rap beats that served as essential backdrops to equally great performances. Check out the nominees for Beat Of The Year below.
Editor’s Note: Nominations range from December 1, 2019 – December 1, 2020.
BEST HIP HOP BEAT OF 2020 NOMINEES
- “327” – Westside Gunn – (Produced by Camoflauge Monk)
- “The Box” – Roddy Ricch (Produced by 30 Roc, Dat Boi Squeeze & Zentachi)
- “The Blinding” – Jay Electronica (Produced by Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, AraabMuzik, G. Ry)
- “Laugh Now Cry Later” – Drake (Produced by Cardo, G. Ry, Yung ExclusiveChahayed)
- “We Paid” – Lil Baby & 42 Dugg (Produced by Section 8)
This year’s beat of the year is…
THE BOX – RODDY RICCH
PRODUCED BY 30 ROC, DAT BOI SQUEEZE & ZENTACHI
It seems like decades ago, but before we added the term “social distancing” to our lexicon and sported masks on our faces, Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” dominated the landscape as the irresistible and inescapable party jam. To take over the world, songs need something catchy and memorable to stick. The door squeak vocalized by Roddy served as the defining sound people couldn’t forget. 30 Roc, Zentachi and Dat Boi Squeeze layer thumping bass-filled 808s over top of a soaring orchestral Omnisphere plugin to add gravitas to the experience. Even though there’s quite a bit going on, “The Box” sounds minimal and never overtakes Ricch’s harmonies, keeping the focus on him despite mixing in additional piano keys and synth notes. Through its undeniable groove and Roddy’s versatile vocals “The Box” stayed No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks, helping launch Roddy into stardom.
OUR FAVORITE RAP INSTRUMENTALS OF 2020
327 – WESTSIDE GUNN F. JOEY BADA$$, BILLIE ESSCO & TYLER THE CREATOR
PRODUCED BY: CAMOFLAUGE MONK
Frequent Griselda collaborator Camoflauge Monk knows how to get the best out of Westside Gunn. Whereas Daringer’s production fits snug with Benny The Butcher’s cold-blooded coke raps, Monk creates complementary backdrops for Gunn’s distinct rap style to shine. “327” is another example of juxtaposing Gunn’s zaniness with a jazzy New York boom bap beat to provide a contrast to his abrasive delivery. But the beauty of this beat is its ability to blend with each performer’s delivery, not just Gunn’s. Joey Bada$$ implements a throwback 90s New York flow, while Tyler, The Creator barks his verses. Regardless of who’s on it, the xylophone-sounding synths and A.M. radio static creates this vintage feeling, as if the record is already a classic.
THE BLINDING – JAY ELECTRONICA F. TRAVIS SCOTT & JAY-Z
PRODUCED BY SWIZZ BEATZ, HIT-BOY, G. RY & AARABMUZIK
“The Blinding” puts you in a trance. The dynamic beat begins with pulsating 808s and schizophrenic chants that sound like they could induce psychosis; then switches to a mellow trip to space just in time to keep your sanity. It’s chaotic just long enough to shatter the speakers but not overwhelm and calm long enough to change the pace without becoming boring. Spearheaded by a supergroup of producers including Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, G. Ry & Aaarab MUZIK, Jay Electronica, JAY-Z and Travis Scott’s disorienting hit balances havoc and tranquility to create an experience of blissful sensory overload, serving as a technical marvel from some of the best on the boards.
WE PAID – LIL BABY & 42 DUGG
PRODUCED BY: SECTION 8
2020 belonged to Lil Baby. The Atlanta rapper dropped multiple hits throughout the year, made by a combination of producers from Twysted Genius to Section 8. But Baby found his best chemistry with Section 8, teaming up with rising Detroit rapper 42 Dugg for the Summer smash “We Paid.” It starts with the signature 42 Dugg whistle, sounding like it was plucked from an old John Wayne Western. From there, Section 8’s subtle kicks, angelic hymns and droning piano strokes blend brilliantly with Dugg’s warbling rapping and Baby’s breakneck flow. The beat allows Dugg and Baby to breathe while still creating a distinct atmosphere where the best of Detroit and Atlanta come together.
LAUGH NOW CRY LATER – DRAKE F. LIL DURK
PRODUCED BY CARDO, G. RY, YUNG EXCLUSIVE & ROGÉT CHAHAYED
“Laugh Now Cry Later” sounds like pure triumph. Even through Drake’s bitterness, the jubilant horns mixed with the dreamy synths and rhythmic 808s sound like what someone would play when the direct deposit hits the account. The track has the same celebratory feel as another Cardo-produced Drake song, “God’s Plan” and that feeling of collective joy makes “Laugh Now Cry Later,” the ultimate “we winning” anthem.
DEEP REVERENCE – BIG SEAN F. NIPSEY HUSSLE
PRODUCED BY HIT-BOY, ROGÉT CHAHAYED, G. RY, JOHAN LENOX & AUDIO ANTHEM
Hit-Boy’s prolific year wouldn’t be complete without his contribution to Big Sean & Nipsey Hussle’s “Deep Reverence,” creating a moody and reflective backdrop for Nispey to impart some street wisdom and Sean to confide about his conflicted mental state.
DND – POLO G
PRODUCED BY WAYNEONABEAT
Polo G’s somber ballad of dealing with loss from Chicago street violence is made all the more powerful by WayneOnABeat’s melancholic production fit for a funeral on a grey and rainy day.
GIANT SLIDE – BOLDY JAMES & THE ALCHEMIST
PRODUCED BY THE ALCHEMIST
The Alchemist produces a tension-filled beat that feels like someone’s maneuvering around the most dangerous parts of Detroit.
OOH LA LA – RUN THE JEWELS F. GREG NICE & DJ PREMIER
PRODUCED BY EL-P, WILDER ZOBY & LITTLE SHALIMAR
Between the saloon-style piano, thrashing drums and Premo cutting the record, El-P and his team make a traditional New York boom bap track without compromising RTJ’s signature chaotic energy.
SOMETHING TO RAP ABOUT – FREDDIE GIBBS & THE ALCHEMIST F. TYLER THE CREATOR
PRODUCED BY THE ALCHEMIST
Many of us have yet to enjoy the beach this year, but The Alchemist’s production on “Something To Rap About” can serve as a replacement, evoking a feeling of being out on the open water as the sun shines down from the sky.
Be sure to check out some of our other Year End Award Categories below: