Wednesday, December 7, 2011

OPINION: Austin K's Top 5 Hip-Hop Instrumentalists

By Austin Kirley

W'zup internet? Austin up in this piece. Today brings you, the listener, a list of my 5 favorite instrumental hip-hop artists. Unlike normal, let's just jump right into it, shall we?

5) DJ Shadow

I know he seems like he should be a lot higher on the list, and the more I think about it the more I reconsider his place on it, but while I love love love love x infinity Endtroducing..., it's gotten to a point where I hardly even consider it hip-hop. It's in a world of it's own. Still, Shadow's a master of all trades hip-hop, and I would be unworthy of writing this if I didn't include him.

4) Madlib

Another person that a lot of people would say should be higher on the list. And I really should have prefaced this with "In No Particular Order", because I love all of these artists close to equally, Madlib being no exception. Ignoring  how madly prolific he is, and the fantastic production he does for some of the best rappers of all time, his instrumentals are still gritty, organic, and sampling-mini-miracles of the highest degree. The records this man samples are most likely owned by nobody in the country besides him; this is demonstrated by his Madlib Medicine Show series (11 discs in a year, I told you he was prolific) which showcases some of his rarest and most interesting records. Italian prog, dub b-sides, Brazilian funk, and Afrobeat: Madlib has heaps of them all, and he chops them like there's no tomorrow.

3) Gold Panda

I know he seems like an unorthodox choice among the likes of Madlib and Shadow, but the guy makes some seriously beautiful compelling music. And he's less organic in his sampling than Lib or Shadow, but not in a negative way at all. Madlib samples a bassline from an old jazz tune, let's say, and the character and heritage of that sample and the record that it's from are retained and put out front and center. Gold Panda will take a sample and reverb it, and delay it, and pitchshift it until it's almost an entirely new piece of audio, and one that's totally his own.

2) J Dilla

What's that??? Dilla's not in the #1 spot? you say, outraged. And I do feel, where you're coming from. Because when I first heard Donuts, it was literally all I listened to for three days. For reals. As mentioned in my last post, I'm a big [adult swim] fan, and I had heard a lot of the donuts individually before I picked up the album. And when I did, I was amazed at how many of them had jammed there way into my head just by one or two listens on TV. If there was ever a producer who made it look easy, it was Dilla, and I'm sure he inspired a lot of people into making their own music because of that. Every single song on Donuts is worth listening to, which isn't something that can be said about most albums. But what can be said about Dilla that hasn't already been said?

1) Flying Lotus
More than anyone else in the entirety of my history with the whole of hip-hop music, Flying Lotus was a relevation. Again, in my [as] music phase (which, if you haven't figured it out, is where a good deal of my favorite instrumental hip-hop comes from), the was a bump entitled "Baggage Room", which had a song called "Massage Situation" by a guy named Flying Lotus. And I must have listened to that song a hundred times when I first found it on the internets. It's really hard to convey how otherworldly I found of of this music at a yound age, but it really did have a profound effect on me, and it sent me on the path to writing this list. And in the same way as Shadow, I find myself loving Lotus so much because he steps so far out of bounds of what it normally referred to as "hip-hop". Flying Lotus makes Flying Lotus music, and nothing else. Which, if you think about it, is remarkable for someone who deals so heavily in sampling. There's jazz in his sound, and hip-hop, and electronica, but he blends it all in a way (especially in his third album, Cosmogramma, which has become my favorite) that expels all your preconceptions about all three genres. Dude transcends hip-hop, and most of humanity too.


  1. 5th for DJ Shadow? how dare you? WHO THE FUCK YOU THINK YOU IS NIGGA?

  2. most of these dudes have 2 or more great albums under their belt.
    DJ Shadow has one, a decent one, and two ones we don't talk about.

    I think he's being generous. >_>