In an era of culture-vultures and corporate strangleholds, there are few entities within hip-hop culture that are really holding it down in an authentic manner. For the last 20 years, Mass Appeal has acted as a beacon for true lovers of the culture, developing into a bona fide media giant along the way.
Thanks to a "six-figure" investment from Nas in 2013, as well as partnerships with Sony, CNN, and TBS, Mass Appeal has reached into nearly every aspect of hip-hop culture in 2016, producing some very dope and engaging content and highlighting aspects of hip-hop culture that may not have otherwise received shine.
Such is definitely the case with their YouTube series, Rhythm Roulette. Over the past three years, Mass Appeal has been highlighting brilliant producers through their genius documentary series, in which they are tasked with creating a beat from scratch using samples from three randomly chosen LPs. Considering the hip-hop spotlight is most frequently on emcees, Rhythm Roulette has acted as an eye-opening glimpse into the skillset of hip-hop’s sonic architects.
Everyone from El-P to Erick Sermon to Black Milk has tackled the challenge over the years, but below you'll find five of the most impressive installments of Rhythm Roulette for your visual and sonic enjoyment.
Mac Miller aka Larry Fisherman
Mac Miller has been on a steady artistic incline for the past several years, and one of the main results has been his producer alter-ego Larry Fisherman. Known for downtempo, hazy instrumentals, Miller’s Fisherman incarnation has allowed him to further develop his sound outside of the expectations of his regular fan base. Mac’s rise to the Rhythm Roulette challenge not only provided a dope end result but showcased his musicianship and use of live instrumentation, a welcome addition to the sample-driven concept of the series.
East coast producer and longtime Booth favorite Statik Selektah is well known for his sample-based production, so it stands to reason that he would crush a challenge like Rhythm Roulette and that he does. Statik is a famed producer, yet he also possesses the skill set of a legitimate DJ, which lends itself to his DJ Premiere-esque sample and scratch-heavy breaks. The resulting instrumental sounds right at home within Statik’s catalogue, making it hard to believe it came from three randomly selected LPs.
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While the majority of the Rhythm Roulette episodes are filmed within the comfy confines of producers’ studios, Mannie was part of a Sprite-sponsored episode that was filmed in front of a live audience. The New Orleans legend exhibited his instrumental mastery in real-time, using his nearly 30 years of music experience to effortlessly craft a hype-as-hell instrumental deserving of the Mannie Fresh name in front of an entire room full of awe-struck onlookers.
9th has been crafting some of the greatest sample-driven beats in hip-hop for nearly 20 years, so the excitement for this episode was palpable. While many of the producers featured in the series use all three records for one beat, 9th made a beat per album, warming up with the first two before eventually settling on the third for an instrumental so fire not only did Jamla artist Rhapsody immediately hop in the booth to drop a verse over it, but RA The Rugged Man’s protege A-F-R-O recently tackled it with a dope Mass Appeal-sponsored freestyle.
K.R.I.T., like Mac Miller, is a double-threat: a producer who also happens to be an incredibly gifted emcee. Therefore, a K.R.I.T. edition of Rhythm Roulette wouldn’t be complete without the Mississippi musician rapping over the soulful instrumental he just crafted before viewers’ eyes, turning an installment of Mass Appeal’s series into a legitimate freestyle titled “Sticks and Stones.” Now that’s skill.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Mass Appeal