Picking the right beat can be as difficult and time consuming as choosing the right spouse. Choose right, and it can completely change your life. But choose wrong... and you're probably going to be cursing that decision for years to come.
While we've all probably scene that iconic video where JAY-Z is picking up beats for the Black Album, it always serves a reminder that for every time an artist gets it right, they've also had an error in judgment on a few occasions also.
Here are 15 legendary beats that MC's passed on.
According to DJ Premier, he cooked up what would become "Devil's Pie" for D'Angelo while at D&D Studios working with Canibus. The latter wanted to do a song called “Nigganometry” that had a beat with a mean, driving bassline.
Premier felt so strong about the beat that he gave Canibus and MCA Records the advance back. He then took it directly to Electric Lady studios where a dream team of legends — including Questlove, Alchemist, and J-Dilla — had all assembled.
At that point in his career, Premier said he hadn't quite broken out of his "Hip-Hop bubble" yet.
"D'Angelo and I were already friends, through the label, and we had mutual friends in Virginia that we knew, so that's how we were cool," Premier says. "I guess you could say that because the first gigs I was getting, because I couldn't get any American work. Nobody trusted my level yet. I was getting remixes for Loose Ends who are actually British, [and] Wendy & Lisa who were French."
"Devil's Pie" eventually earned Preemo his first Grammy.
Disturbing the Peace's Shawnna actually had first crack at what would become one of Kanye West's biggest crossover hits: The Jamie Foxx-assisted "Gold Digger."
The original beat was created long before the Ray Charles biopic was poised to hit the silver screen. However, the now iconic chorus was in place when West headed down to Atlanta to help Shawnna with her debut, Worth the Weight. West's A&R rep, Patrick "Plain Pat" Reynolds, recalled that he made the beat in Ludacris' house. West ultimately produced "What Can I Do" for Shawna's project.
Rashad "Tumbling Dice" Smith worked alongside Puffy at Uptown Records as an A&R, and was planning on helping him build his Bad Boy Empire. Smith (with Aron Marshall) had created hits for the likes of Total and Mary J. Blige, when he really hit it big with the "One More Chance" Remix for Biggie.
"Doin it" — which ultimately hit number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1996 for LL COOL J — was originally meant for Biggie. That’s why in the beginning there’s a sample from “Top Ballin” that goes “Go Brooklyn” even though LL COOL J is as tried and true Queens as any MC in the game.
It came down to simple economics: Puff was slow on the $10,000, and LL COOL J swooped in with a cool $25,000.
During an interview on the Rap Radar podcast, Common revealed he regretted passing on ‘Heard ’Em Say’: “[Another] one of the beats I passed on—that I regret—is the song he did called ‘Heard ’Em Say,’ He made that beat for me in the studio. He was like, ‘Rash, you want this?’ I was like, ‘Man, it’s cool…’ He was like, ‘You sure? You want this?’ He gave me about 30 seconds to think if I wanted it; usually, I can sit with ’em. I said, ‘It’s cool.’ He said, ‘Man, I’m takin’ this, I’m gonna rap on it.’ He wrote the song in about 15 minutes.”
While Pusha T certainly has a knack for production, he found himself in a completely different headspace when presented for the Hit-Boy-produced beat.
"Niggas in Paris’ was playful to me and I was in demonic rap mode," Pusha T told Sneeze. "I was like, ‘Yo, I don’t want this right now, ‘[and Ye] was like, ‘Man, this will be a club smash,’ and I’m like, ‘Maybe, but don’t ask me to wrap my brain around that when I’m writing stuff like ‘My God,’ which is another Hit Boy beat.”
While "0-100" went onto becoming a huge hit for Drake, it was initially supposed to be for Diddy who wanted to hire the crooner to ghostwrite a song for him. The situation eventually turned physical after Diddy allegedly punched him at LIV Nightclub in December 2015.
The in-house magic between Swizz Beatz and Jadakiss have resulted in big records for both The Lox and for his solo career. However, the Yonkers native might have missed out on a certifiable hit after passing on what become "Jigga my Nigga" for JAY-Z.
"Listen to the record close, but the original record was 'Jaaaada,'(as sung by Eve) and he (Jadakiss) didn’t want it." Swizz told Drink Champs. Then ‘Jigga’ came out and we got into some words."
When D12 was planning a follow up to their successful debut, Devil's Night, they were of course afforded the opportunity to dip into Dr. Dre's stash of beats. But for whatever reason, they didn't see the value in what would later become "In Da Club." Coincidentally (or maybe not), a D12 version does exist and seems to embody a lot of the elements that 50 either was inspired by, or who set the blueprint for D12 to follow.
The beat that would become known as "Whoa" for Black Rob was produced by Buckwild of D.I.T.C, and originally passed on by a trio of Rocafella artists including. JAY-Z, Amil, and Memphis Bleek, Ultimately, he brought it to Bad Boy and Black Rob had a smash on his hands. The song was Black Rob’s biggest hit and the lead single off his debut album, Life Story. and peaked at number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“That was originally meant for Foxy," Buckwild said. "Tone from Trackmasters picked the beat for Foxy, and Foxy heard it, then she said, ‘It’s the worst beat I heard in my life.’"
11. Beanie Siegel and "Bring Em Out"
The JAY-Z=sampled hook from "What More Can I say" that served as the basis of T.I.'s smash hit was actually meant for Beans. The "bring 'em out" refrain was actually in reference to the fact that Siegel was just about to get out of prison.
If you're noticing a trend, it's that a lot of Swizz Beatz' beats found their way to other artists. During an interview with Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s Beats 1 program, Swizz revealed that "Touch It" was made with Eve in mind.
“She just wasn’t vibing on it at that particular moment, but Busta couldn’t wait to take it," he said, "‘I’ll take it, duke. Give me it now. What are we doing?’ He started doing this dance. It was over in 2.1 seconds. I knew it was over.”
According to an interview with XXL about Illmatic, Busta Rhymes was present while Large Professor was making "Halftime."
"I went over [to Large Professor’s house], and he made the “Halftime” beat in front of me, and he was gonna give it to me at the time. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know why I didn’t know what to do with it, because I loved the shit out the beat. Then I heard it on “Halftime,” and I was like, Goddamn, I was a stupid ass for not touching this beat."
On College Dropout's “Last Call,” Kanye revealed that “Heart of The City” was meant for DMX.
It's hard to imagine anyone else on the Just Blaze-produced "Girls, Girls, Girls," but he revealed that he intended it to go to Ghostface.