Have you ever heard people tell you that "the book was better the movie"?
I will admit that I'm not a big reader and I do prefer visual aids to my story lines, but this is a statement that always confused me. I always genuinely thought that a gifted director / film studio staff can bring a story to life like no other. But one person described it to me as if you're reading the book and you carved out the characters image, actions and behaviors. Then along comes a large movie production who scoops up the book and throws their representation of the characters / scenes up on the screen.
I can see how this can be frustrating for readers cultivating their own custom characters and visuals.
Now take that idea and apply it to music. I'm strongly aligning with the idea that "the instrumental is better than the song with vocals" at least a lot of the time. I would like to submit the argument that vocals can be distracting or can point the listener in only one direction based on what the lyricist is rhyming about. Because of this, songs with vocals relate to movies in that regard, at least to me. If you take the same song and listen to the instrumental, starting to forget the direction of the lyricist. Then your mind starts to really analyze the song and formulate your own feeling or direction with the sound of the music.
My enlightening moment is when I discovered artists like Pete Rock, Premier, J Dilla and more. I first discovered the songs with the original vocals in them and I'll be damn right honest it was absolutely pathetic. Don't get me wrong there is beautiful hip-hop vocals out there, but let's be honest we all know that hip-hop lyricist go in and purchase any track they like from the producer they like slap a vocal that is 3 dB too loud over it, thus hide the original beauty of the track. All to make sure that their voices are heard but unknowingly burying a really pretty song under really awful loud vocals.
Let's be honest, some of the stuff out there should not be spoken.
But once I stripped out the vocals and found the instrumental, it became one of the top tracks on my playlist, now I have a whole playlist dedicated to instrumental hip-hop or at least the most part. Guys like Eric Lau, FloFilz, Freddie Joachim, Damu the Fudgemunk, Mark Farina, K-Def, Kev Brown fill my Instrumental Hip Hop playlist!
For a long time I've been listening to instrumental hip-hop outside of the electronic dance music that I write, I find that it’s a nice reset button for me!
Over the course of the last year this thought process has been a real driving force behind the last few tracks that I've been writing, I'm starting to use vocal samples more for perks and instruments rather than to tell story. I think I remember Kanye saying that vocals are the best instrument ever and I do kind of agree with him. But used by somebody out of tune or with an incorrect message sounds just as bad as an out of tune guitar.
Here is a jam I've been feeling lately from J Dilla called Waves from his final album Donuts, I hope you like it too.