Hip-hop is in a weird place. Never before has there been such a saturated market in terms of the sheer amount of content. With the ease of access to studio quality equipment and software, anyone and everyone can make a song, and hopefully a career right out of their bedrooms. Back in the day, all the equipment you can now get for free (I see you pirate bay) or around a few hundred bucks, used to cost thousands of dollars. This hurdle deterred many from pursuing a hip-hop career, specifically in production. The hurdle has been taken away with programs like FL Studio or Logic that can be bought for approximately $200, or as the earlier mentioned and absolutely not recommended method, pirated off the internet for free (as many producers will regretfully admit).
This brings the first big question, what can you price an instrumental nowadays, considering the cost of production? Also, you have to take into account the sheer number of beats that exist on the internet and are uploaded each day. What these are called is a “Type Beat.” When a rapper or singer wants to find an instrumental, they can go to YouTube and search the sound of an artist they are looking for, by searching (Insert Artist) Type Beat. There are literally thousands of these uploaded every day, so why would any rapper pay $500-$1000 for a beat by Metro Boomin when there are thousands of beats just like the ones he makes on the internet for a small portion of that cost.
The answer to that is simple; the name and tag of someone like Metro Boomin carries more swag than a random producer on YouTube. This is the same reasoning for when people buy a white supreme t-shirt for $200 when they could just buy one at Walmart for $5. Beats on YouTube can range anywhere from $10-$50 for a lease, which means you can sell a song using the beat, but others can still use it too. An exclusive purchase of a beat can be in the ballpark of $50-$200.
If you keep up with hip-hop, chances are that you have heard a big name rapper on a type beat. Desiigner’s 2016 hit Panda made him the youngest artist to have a #1 song on billboard since Lorde three years earlier. Guess where he got his beat: YouTube. It was the beat of Menace, a type beat producer from Manchester. He sold it to Desiigner for $200. These two never even met face to face, the purchase was done over PayPal. This summer’s hit song, Tay-K’s “The Race”, was a Playboi Carti type beat he found on YouTube, too.
The next big question to ask is whether type beats are either hurting or helping hip-hop as a genre? I think there are compelling arguments both ways. The benefit they bring is that it makes it easier for more people to hop on a track and make a song, allowing for more artists making art. The more people making art the better, as it gives listeners a wide range of artists to choose from. Also, more competition means higher standards to stand out from the crowd of a saturated market. The harm they may be causing could be the lack of originality. If 500 rappers are making a song over Playboi Carti Type Beats, will the genre really benefit? Or will we just see a surplus of clones trying to emulate their peers?
There might be no right answer, but what we do know is that producers are winning no matter what. It is easier for them to get paid than ever before, and with the competition they have, they are innovating with familiar sounds at rapid rates. These producers, known and unknown, are defining a generation of rap as we speak. Will they fizzle out and become obsolete, or will the format of internet producers advance in ways that we don’t know about yet? Only time will tell, so, for now, let’s enjoy the ride… and a few Lil Yachty Type Beats along the way.