King of the Beats: “I’m Non Violent” and “King of the Beats” (Radioactive)
King of the Beats is the second release from Bay Area producer Dan “the Automator” Nakamura. Like his first, 1989’s Music to Be Murdered By, it’s firmly in the beats and breaks/DJ tools style that typified instrumental hip-hop at the time. (Also see the 45 King’s 45 Kingdom.) The two tracks of note here are collaborations with MC Twan, a local MC that has since disappeared into history. “I’m Non Violent” is a crackling whirl of sampled voices and funky loops, and Twan matches the Automator’s energy with punchy pro-Black verses and allusions to 90s arcana like Spike Lee and 21 Jump Street. As a lengthy homage to the producer of the hour, “King of the Beats” isn’t as focused, but Automator weaves some compelling samples — 18 in all — as he shifts from Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw” to The Kay-Gees’ “Who’s the Man? (With the Master Plan).”
Perhaps the most exciting thing about these tracks is how their dusty aesthetic — especially “Non Violent’s” opening drum break lifted from Little Royal & the Swingmasters’ “Razor Blade” — anticipated future West Coast indie-rap crews like Solesides. Dan the Automator would be a key part of that era, producing classic concept albums like Dr. Octagon and Deltron 3030, and helming Gorillaz’ massive global debut.
Read more: The 100 Best Rap Singles of 1990