The 10 best rap beats of all time showcase a side of the recording process that’s often overlooked. A rap song’s beat is often its most memorable aspect, and a competent producer will ensure an innovative and captivating rhythm even before the rapper enters the studio.
- “Insane in the Brain” by Cypress Hill As the hit song that introduced the world to Cypress Hill, this tune encapsulated the quirky rap group’s essence. Released on the 1993 album “Black Sunday,” it’s a bouncy, up-tempo classic. This rap song’s beat is immediately engaging, with a host of tympanic drum sounds augmented by shrill whistles.
- “Juice (Know The Ledge)” by Eric B. and Rakim As the godfathers of swagger in modern hip-hop, Eric B. and Rakim could comprise a list of the ten best rap beats of all time by themselves. This 1992 single from the “Juice” soundtrack contains perhaps their best known beat. It features a frantic, repeating bass line highlighted by intermittent record scratches.
- “In Da Club” by 50 Cent Short, intense orchestral bursts are the strength of this rap song’s beat. They provide a fitting dichotomy to 50 Cent’s slurred rapping style. First heard on the 2003 album “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’,” the beat showcases Dr. Dre’s legendary production talent, using a simplistic bass line to lay the framework for a steady crescendo of sound.
- “100 Miles And Runnin’” by N.W.A. The beat to this iconic rap song is rugged and chaotic, which is a perfect fit for the subject matter. Featured on the 1990 EP “100 Miles And Runnin’,” this rap beat is an engaging mix of subdued trumpet blasts, menacing spoken words and driving percussion. It’s a natural environment for N.W.A.’s street-level rap lyrics.
- “Deep Cover” by Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg As the most intense of the ten best rap beats of all time, this song has swagger to spare. Released on the soundtrack to the 1992 film “Deep Cover,” this song is a case study in early 1990’s rap beats. Its high-hat centered percussion section and elongated, high-pitched notes on the chorus make this beat perfect for gangsters and wannabes alike.
- “Paul Revere” by Beastie Boys Simple yet effective, this song shows that the best rap beats don’t have to be over-complex. One of the many highlights of the 1986 album “Licensed To Ill,” this rap beat is unique because it’s actually played backwards. This uncommon approach led to a strange percussion sound throughout the song, which was accented with record scratches to produce one of the best rap beats of all time.
- “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC As the originators of rap-rock musical combinations, Run DMC made history with their pioneering rap beats during the 1980’s. The 1987 album “Raising Hell” contained this song, memorable for its creative beat. It’s made up of The Knack’s “My Sharona” guitar riff, coupled with a biting snare and accompanying bass line.
- “Pump Pump” by Snoop Doggy Dogg Featured in one of Snoop’s lesser known songs, this rap beat never gets the attention it deserves. It was first seen on the breakthrough 1993 album “Doggystyle,” and fit right alongside the record’s other inspired songs. This beat includes an overwhelming bass line and rhythmic cymbals high in the mix.
- “California Love” by 2pac featuring Dr. Dre Containing a lively, up-tempo rap beat full of activity, this song was released as a single in 1995 but didn’t get the album treatment until 1998’s “Greatest Hits.” The beat is nothing short of legendary, with a towering brass section and piano carrying the melody.
- “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliott The lead single from Elliott’s star-making 1997 album “Supa Dupa Fly,” this song’s strength was its peculiar rap beat. Renowned producer Timbaland’s fingerprints are all over the beat, with its odd series of electronic blips and crisp high-hat rhythms that have become his trademarks.
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