Y2K Beats, A Fad Or Here To Stay?
4 Aug 2023
Words by Plamedi
It’s no secret that Gen-Z has an insatiable obsession with all things y2k. It started in fashion with brands like Evisu, Ed Hardy and JNCO returning to popularity again after nearly two decades in the wilderness and the music scene has followed suit. From Pharrell’s four-beat intro to the immense experimentation present within a Timbaland beat, British hip-hop producers are repurposing prominent features of our favourite noughties tracks and giving them a new lease of life.
Music and culture alike have always taken inspiration from the past, this is nothing new. But withstanding the ever-changing trend cycle is a different question altogether. Within the British rap scene, we’ve seen many sub-genres come and go. For example, the PinkPantheress-led garage renaissance. But what makes this different from uninspired remakes is the producers’ ability to blend nostalgia with the ever-evolving soundscape of the present day.
“Digga D is the one that I know embraced it first (old-school beats). If he’s flipping the ’21 Questions’ record and ‘Pump 101,’ trends in rap are changing faster than we think. To me, this is real rap,” said Kenny Allstar.
Southwest London-based producer Aaronorage was responsible for producing “Pump 101” for Digga D, and the influence of the fifty’s era is extremely prevalent in the track. From the infectious chords to the off-beat rhythm, it captures the essence of that time.
You cannot cover this topic without talking about Strandz. The South London-based rapper has undoubtedly spearheaded the movement. “Us Against the World” and “J’adore” serve as prime examples of Strandz’s artistry as he showcases his clever wordplay and infectious flow that transport us to 50 Cent’s “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” era.
Blueboy and Lex1x’s work on “Us Against the World”, is especially reminiscent of Dr Dre and Mike Elizondo’s hard-hitting production.
Kenny Allstar talking about Strandz in an interview with Avirex: “One thing I respect about his music so much is it’s like listening to old school stuff, east coast, like proper 50 Cent when he first came through. The beats that he’s jumping on, I’m thinking how old you are. You definitely weren’t around when we were listening to these records.”
Strandz also works production on his tracks to ensure that he can create beats that he identifies with. “I couldn’t find the beats anywhere, so I started learning how to produce and from there I just developed.”
Rising star, IZ is currently poised to make a splash on the scene with his track “Trust Issues”. The London-based rapper teamed up with frequent collaborator, producer CG who utilised east-coast style production to create a certified banger. This paired with IZ’s distinctive flow has helped the artist garner the attention of hip-hop enthusiasts on TikTok.
The rapper is looking to capitalise on this momentum by teasing an unreleased track, “Big Dreams” where IZ, like Strandz, has channelled 50 Cents’ most iconic era.
Multi-disciplined artist S.A.M has also hopped on the wave but has ensured that he has stayed true to his artistry while doing so. S.A.M. can create a unique sound by pairing his dancehall-like cadence with infectious melodies. As he produces his own tracks, he has the creative freedom to blend a multitude of sub-genres on top of an early 2000s-style hip-hop beat. The result is his most recent track “100 Bags,” which eloquently encapsulates a summer vibe.
Despite this, the anticipated upcoming release “Where Ya Daughter” is looking like it will be the crown jewel of his discography, as teasers have gone viral on TikTok. The North-West London-based rapper has achieved this by pairing his track with throwback music videos such as “Yeah!” by Usher.
Influence on the scene
On the other hand, it can be argued that British emcees have always hopped on old-school West/East Coast beats, as the states have clearly had a great deal of influence on the British hip-hop scene. The beat for “Talkin the Hardest” by Giggs was made by Dr Dre and was intended for Atlanta-based rapper Stat Quo on his shelved track “Here We Go.” Nines also took the beat from “My Buddy” by G-Unit for his track “AJ’d Out.” However, at the time, British rappers hopped on these beats out of necessity, as the British rap scene was not nearly as saturated with producers as it is today.
It’s no secret that historically British rappers have struggled to make a splash across the pond, but this Strandz-led hip-hop movement may help to bridge the gap, as these speak to all of us on a nostalgic level.
Presenter, Chuckie said, “I love it when people are just being themselves musically and creatively, and I feel like we are getting into that space. I even sense it in elements of the way that some people dress. Now there are so many different culture shifters.” This is creating a counterculture as not everyone is listening to drill, and as more mainstream British rappers hop on these beats, the scene will continue to change.
Additionally, we saw grime have its renaissance in the mid-2010s, but now there are only a handful of artists still partaking in the sub-genre. Artists like Stormzy have also moved away from their “Shut up” days to create more conscious and introspective projects like “Heavy is the Head.” So, what is going to stop this from being just another fad?
Well, the infusion of nostalgia into the British rap and streetwear scene provides a refreshing break from the current norms, while allowing fans to reminisce about a simpler time. Fashion and music have synchronized to enshroud London with y2k-mania. This serves as a reminder that creativity always has the potential to transcend eras and find new life through the creativity of the youth.