Photo Credit: Swizz Beatz via YouTube
Swizz Beatz is back with his latest EP release Hip Hop 50: Vol. 2, which he recorded as part of Mass Appeal’s celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. The six-track EP features a star-studded line-up of veteran rappers, including Nas, Jay-Z, Jadakiss, and Lil Wayne, along with current rising stars like Lil Durk and Fivio Foreign. Swizz’s intention for this EP was to create a love letter to the birthplace of hip-hop and its East Coast sound, and he delivers with his signature chaotic production that complements the brash style of hip-hop that emerged from the region.
Swizz’s production skills are on full display throughout the EP, showcasing his ability to ignite a fiery edge out of his collaborators. Swizz Beatz’s production prowess is second to none in hip-hop. On “This Sh*t Right Here,” he uses a blaring horn fanfare to encourage Lil Wayne to recreate his frenzied form from their previous collaboration on “Uproar.” Similarly, Swizz’s bruising beat on “Say Less” endows A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, with a new-found assertiveness that is outside of his typical comfort zone. Swizz further extends his administrative role with spoken words, occasionally adding to the anarchy by shouting adlibs. While at times his presence can be overwhelming and drown out his guests, for the most part, he picks his opportunities wisely.
However, clocking in at just nineteen minutes, the EP feels rushed, with the producer struggling to provide each guest with sufficient space, holding back their storytelling potential. Jay Electronica’s braggadocious verse on “Khalas” is sandwiched between Swizz’s Ramadan celebrations and an inspirational speech, leaving little room for his guests to shine. Even Jay-Z’s chorus on “This Sh*t Right Here” is inconsequential and leaves his presence detached from the song. Despite these missed opportunities to create a cohesive narrative throughline, Swizz manages to deliver an impressive showcase of the region’s past, present, and future talents.
The inclusion of New York natives isn’t merely a token gesture, as they lend authenticity by sharing their personal connections and experiences from their youth in the city. On “Runaway,” Nas combs through memories from his past, while Benny The Butcher shares experiences of the streets he knows best on “Take ‘Em Out.” Both tracks offer uncensored insights into their harsh New York upbringings, elevating the EP from a selection of quality songs to an interconnected, intimate body of work. Although, these lyrical moments are not pronounced enough, and the EP would benefit from a more coherent structure.
Overall, Hip Hop 50: Vol. 2 is not the East Coast Chronic that Swizz may have intended to make, but it serves as an impressive tribute to New York hip-hop and its culture. Swizz’s production shines through, complementing the legacy of his collaborators’ past while helping them make some of their strongest material in years. While still not having a concrete narrative, the EP successfully focuses on Swizz’s production palette, immersing listeners in the sound that birthed hip-hop and its future possibilities.
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