The best rap beats of 2013

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6. Pusha T - "Numbers on the Board" (Kanye West, Don Cannon, 88-Keys) Perhaps the most idiosyncratic beat that cracked the mainstream this year was the beat for Pusha T's "Number on the Board," which is minimal and disjointed, like much of Kanye's production this year. But this beat, perhaps even more than anything on Yeezus, finds perfection in simplicity. The idea behind minimalism is that nothing more should be able to be removed to form a cohesive piece, and that certainly can be said of this beat.

5. Run the Jewels - "Run the Jewels" (El-P, Little Shalimar) Constructed by the beastly El-P, who also raps throughout the album, "Run the Jewels" is hardcore. In all the mayhem, the subtle touches that El-P laces this track with can be overlooked, but their effects are most definitely felt. Beyond the prevailing guitar strokes, dirty bass and drum line are yelps from dogs, muted trumpets and various glitchy effects that make the already unusual beat even more distinctive. Not to mention pulse-raising drum rhythm during the refrain.

4. A$AP Rocky - "PMW" (T-Minus, Nikhil Seetharam) With Long.Live.A$AP, Rocky made the perhaps conscious decision to depend less heavily on Clams Casino (though Clams has all but disappeared this year, so perhaps that has something to do with it), but he needed to find another source for moody, cloud-rap beats. T-Minus provided that with the best beat on the album on "PMW." The composition relies on subtle shifts in sound selection and balance to create a truly epic atmosphere. Listening to the instrumental alone feels like sightseeing on a low-flying plane that occasionally crosses mountain crests to reveal something truly extraordinary.

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Noah Hubbell