Cut’n’pasted in the studio, and often mistaken for background music when it can play well in the foreground, instrumental hip-hop has much in common with the broader field of ambient/electronica. But there are key differences, and one of them is economic. For any i-hop producer with an interest in going pro, beats are a form of currency, pure and simple. Thus, while netlabels proliferate with free downloadable electronic music, much of it beat-driven and sample-derived, someone coming from the hip-hop side of the continuum is less likely to post anything gratis — not when any given track might yield a payday. As a producer named Illmind says on his myspace.com page (myspace.com/illmind), “I am telling yall right now, please do not waste your time sending me messages for free beats.” (Apparently streaming audio is OK.)
One apparent exception: record labels that traffic in i-hop are known to post MP3s to promote proper albums. Yesterday it was Stones Throw, pushing a single of the the 35 tracks off Madlib’s forthcoming Beat Konducta Vol. 1-2: The Movies (link). Today it’s the great label the Agriculture, noting the release of the 14-track Gentrified by QPE (aka Quiet Personal Electronics, aka Kacy Wiggins) with a pair of freebies. Like much of the Agriculture’s catalog, QPE’s Gentrified is only hip-hop in the most dub-minded, slack-paced way, and QPE appears to have embraced “hip-hop nouveau” as a tag to distinguish itself. Up for the download: “Stare” (MP3), a loungey beat with a raspy hi-hat amid a watery riff, and “McGarrett” (MP3), which has a similar feel, laced with a deeper underlying melodic line, the mating call of some sad robot. More info at theagriculture.com.