In the last two decades, the music industry has dealt with its fair share of celebrity producers. All having left a distinct mark in their respective genres, it is hard to imagine particular scenes without their special touches. From Pharrell’s 4-count intro that plagued every important party anthem in the 00s, to Metro Boomin’s tag that could easily transport you back to the summer of 2016, every era has its chosen producer – and by the looks of it, Kenny Beats has been anointed.
Speaking of celebrity producers, collaborations happen to be an important part of that business, and Kenny Beats has it down to a science… well, at least a principle. As the desire to create for passions sake and collaborate organically with other artists pushed him back into hip hop production, Beats made it a point to build long standing relationships with various artists. This practice has birthed many not only successful, but also amazing tracks, within and outside of rap. So here’s a list of projects that showcase his signature production style.
Across his discography it becomes pretty clear that his beats are either 808 or bass-heavy. Although he is popular among rappers, Kenny has many collaborations with alternative pop artists. A common thread throughout these projects is the use of kick drums, snares and hi-hats; more specifically the patterns he tends to utilize. Take “Stone Cold” for example. The track immediately starts with a kick-drum, snare, and hi-hat. The kick-drum and snares kind of act as a foundation as the hi-hats start out tight and slowly open up, giving a sloppier, yet refreshing sound. By the time you get to the end of the song, the pattern becomes more bass and hi-hat dominant. These details give, what I like to call, a metallic quality to his production. Although the bass is strong, there’s another element present to alleviate that lower pressure, giving room for the singer to fill in any remaining gaps. Another song that uses a similar technique is Remi Wolf’s “Front Tooth,” only this time the roles are slightly reversed as it alternates between snares and hi-hats.
Another notable feature in his alternative repertoire is the scratchy acoustic guitar samples found in his intros. This detail can be heard on a track like “Handyman.” Simple and easy-going, the scratchy chords open up the song until the drums kick-in and the overall production is polished. For some reason I find this to be one of his most memorable touches, as it never fails to flag a song as a product of Kenny Beats. What makes it unique to him are the slight imperfections in the sound, like the audible sliding from the fretboard, that always make an appearance in these samples. It also helps that the general strumming pattern is more or less the same every time, making it hard to miss. I recommend checking out dvr’s song “Lowlife” to hear a similar intro.
A single part of his collaborative project with Denzel Curry, “Diet_” is filled with an eclectic array of beats and samples. Something that is carried throughout is this hollow percussive sound that could be described as a metallic pitter patter. This is another example of the balance found between heavy basses and lofty percussion that fills all the right spots without completely smothering a track. While this is probably the sharpest version of the metallic effect, a similar sound can be found in the verses on Rico Nasty’s “Cheat Code,” and a little more subtly in the first verse of “Foot Fungus” by Ski Mask the Slump God – what a classic.
Since we're already here, “Diet_” also showcases one of his dissonance tricks. As the bass remains a constant throughout the song, it sporadically weaves in and out of lower pitches, sometimes giving off the feeling that the bass has gone flat. This effect creates sonic peaks and valleys throughout the track, while simultaneously giving it a heftier sound. Check out the chorus of “Fuck u Pay Me” for the full effect.