Thursday, January 07, 2010

Behind the Boards Pt. 1: The Trackmasters

As an aspiring A&R/producer, I closely follow who is responsible for creating the backdrops in the world of Hip Hop. There are loads of talented producers in Hip Hop, but in the coming weeks I'm going to highlight my favorites. One of my favorite production duos, that despite their numerous hits goes under the radar, is The Trackmasters.

Very few people can deliver those mainstream, yet still Hip Hop bangers like Poke and Tone. One of the reasons I love these guys is they have cross-over appeal, but they never sell themselves out. They always stay true to Hip Hop, but with their signature flavor, it adds an entirely different dimension to the music.

1) The Notorious B.I.G.- Juicy

Everyone knows "Juicy," and if you don't, you should just quit life. I shouldn't even have to go into detail about this masterpiece, as it is one of the greatest songs of all time- regardless of the genre... simply timeless. Most people aren't aware of the controversy behind the making of this song. Apparently, Puffy came over to Pete Rock's place one day, and Pete (who is one of the greatest Hip Hop producers of all time) was playing an unfinished beat that Puff thought was pretty hot. According to Mr. Rock, the next thing he knew, he heard that beat all over the radio, and that ended up becoming the classic cut that we know today, 'Juicy.' On Biggie's album, the song is credited to Puff Daddy and Tone, which most likely means Tone constructed the beat, and Puffy added in his various intricacies.

2) Destiny's Child- Independent Woman, Pt. 1

Without a doubt one of Destiny's Child's biggest songs, it jumped onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts in November of 2000, and held onto the #1 spot for eleven weeks. You may remember it as the lead single for the Charlie's Angels soundtrack. I don't even like Destiny's Child, but I have to admit this was a dope song.

3) Jennifer Lopez- Jenny From the Block (feat. Jadakiss & Styles P) (Trackmasters Remix)

I'm not gonna say this song made me a Jennifer Lopez fan, but the co-sign from Jadakiss and Styles definitely helped her establish a little bit of 'street cred.' The Trackmasters hooked her up with one of my favorite pop music beats of the 2000's. You may not necessarily be a J. Lo fan, but it's difficult to hate on this song.

(fast-forward to the :37 sec mark to get past the BS)

4) Will Smith- Miami

Miami... Easily one of my favorite songs of all time. Yeah I said it, OF ALL TIME. Every time I hear it, I smile and imagine myself on South Beach with some Latin honeys. The first half of the video is real hot, but it segues into a salsa-type scene that has grown on me over the years, but still doesn't compare to the first couple minutes. Even Eva Mendes makes an appearance in the video, during the 'beinvenido a Miami' part. This is probably my favorite Trackmasters beat.

5) Jay-Z & Mya- Best of Me, Pt. 2

Essentially a remix of Mya's song, "Best of Me," Poke & Tone once again hooked up a pop music artist with a hot Hip Hop-flavored beat. Jay-Z lends his hand to "Part. 2" and makes this into a banger. The beat is a standard late '90s style beat- dope drums, a thick bassline, and some piano notes layered over. It's very simple, yet often times simplicity and sparsity can be an artist's best ally.

6) R. Kelly- Fiesta (Remix)

"Fiesta (Remix)" is my second-favorite R. Kelly song, behind "Ignition (Remix)." Once again, Poke & Tone prove their remixing prowess with this now-classic cut. It was #1 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart for five weeks, and ended up becoming one of the biggest songs of 2001, and arguably the 2000's. This song is the reason Jay-Z and R. Kelly decided to work together to create their collaboration album, Best of Both Worlds. It's also the reason Best of Both Worlds was produced almost entirely by The Trackmasters.

7) 50 Cent- How to Rob

Off of his unreleased album Power of the Dollar, this is the song that put 50 on the map. One of the most infamous songs in Hip Hop, he described how he would rob some of the most famous names in the industry. A lot of people thought this was career suicide, but it turned out to be a brilliant move. 50 called out everyone from Puffy, to Jay-Z, to Timbaland, to the Wu-Tang Clan, and even the people that produced this song- The Trackmasters. Once it began to make waves, other MC's knew that 50 was no joke and needed to be 'dealt with.' Once Jay-Z dropped his comeback diss at the Summer Jam concert that year, it was on... and 50 began his run as one of the biggest acts in Hip Hop.

8) Jay-Z & R. Kelly- It Ain't Personal

My favorite song off of Best of Both Worlds, "It Ain't Personal" is a heartfelt song that is the definition of real. I'm not entirely sure if the lyrics are simply a metaphor, but I have a hunch Jay-Z is talking about his former mentor, Jaz-O. All I know is the song is real hot, and for whatever reason, I always find myself coming back to it.

9) NaS- If I Ruled the World

On the long list of classic NaS cuts, "If I Ruled the World" is brilliant. With Lauryn Hill on the hook, you can never go wrong. In 1997, it was nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Rap Solo Performance.' The video is dope, as it's directed by Hype Williams, who is one of the greatest 'big budget' music video directors of all time. The Trackmasters provided NaS with a glossier, more mainstream sound, as opposed to the rawness of Illmatic (which is my favorite album of all time).

10) LL Cool J- Paradise

Say what you will about LL Cool J, but if you really know his body of work, he easily stacks up as one of the greatest and most influential MCs of all time. His albums Radio and Mama Said Knock You Out are classics. However, most people (especially in my generation) know him for his R&B-type songs. I'd say "Paradise" is his best song of the aforementioned type. Amerie laces the hook, and the beat is the perfect compliment to the lyrics.

Honorable Mention: LL Cool J- Make It Hot, NaS- Rule

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