Over the course of nine albums in the 2000s for their producer-led Beat Generation series, BBE adopted an unusual stance. “Do what you want,” their artists were told for probably the first time in their careers. The label’s enormously liberal approach was the antithesis of stiff major record label A&R practices, their forward thinking rewarded handsomely by a truly diverse set of albums from some of the world’s most capable hip-hop architects. Among those picked to contribute were Golden Era greats (Marley Marl; Jazzy Jeff); acclaimed DJ/producers whose work habitually blurred genre lines (King Britt; DJ Spinna; Madlib); and those whose regular gigs didn’t afford them the creative freedom they craved (Will.i.am).
No-one made better use of the brief than Jay Dee, whose inspired Welcome 2 Detroit showed that despite all the techno and soul that seeped into and out of the Motor City there was still room to be influenced by the Carpenters and Sergio Mendes. Pete Rock, the hip-hop producer’s producer, filled his rapturously received PeteStrumentals disc with classic sample-led tracks packed with drama and finesse. DJ Jazzy Jeff’s The Magnificent celebrated the slew of Philly talent at his A Touch Of Jazz studios, Jill Scott guesting on an exalted Roy Ayers cover in finale. Then there was veteran cellist and arranger Larry Gold, on hiatus from adding strings to hits like Brandy and Monica’s ‘The Boy Is Mine’, who called upon fellow seasoned pros McFadden and Whitehead and Bunny Sigler for his piece of the puzzle.
Press play and give it up for the Beat Generation.