Being a 90’s kid, I grew up on memorable TV shows. I remember watching Hey Arnold, All That, Kenan and Kel, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, hell, I even enjoyed a few episodes of Seinfield. But the first time I discovered Toonami, a programming block on Cartoon Network, my life changed forever. While it introduced me to anime, it also introduced me to some great music, too. Years later, I would scour the internet for “bumps” that evoked a similar sound; Something jazzy and spaced-out with laid back drum breaks. Eventually, this obsession introduced me to my favorite beatmakers, J Dilla and Madlib. Toonami’s background music is important. It inspired many bedroom beatmakers and forged its own subculture on music platforms like BandCamp and SoundCloud. There’s a good chance your favorite contemporary beatmaker watched Toonami growing up.
Enter the world of Corey Arnell, an experimental hip-hop producer based in Austin, TX. He’s worked with up-and-coming artists like Curbside Jones, Plue Starfox, 7¢ HERM, and Lenard. Like many older artists, he balances a full-time job with his musical pursuits. He isn’t driven by money and fame, though. He simply enjoys making music and sharing it with his peers.
Basic Cable is Arnell’s second beat tape (according to his BandCamp) and it shows his progression as a beatsmith over the past two years. The tape has a good balance of sample-based production and original compositions. His sample choices are off the wall and that’s emphasized even more when he blends them with synth-soaked melodies and chords. The meticulous drum programming stood out the most, though. The rhythms are off-kilter but never ruin the groove. He knows how to hit the sweet spot in the experimental department.
Basic Cable is lengthy, sitting 17 tracks deep with each one named after memorable TV stations. Arnell transports you to a nostalgic time when you were a kid flipping through channels late at night.
Arnell wears his influences on his sleeves for most beats. He does this respectfully, though, because he is great at adding his own spin to things. Nickelodeon has a 90’s Timbaland feel to it. So much so, I could picture Missy Elliot or Aaliyah on it. The jazzy Hallmark sounds like a potential Jay-Z/Pharrell collab. Then you have CBS, which you could easily hear MF DOOM spit zany bars on.
The tape isn’t just filled with Arnell paying homage, however. Many beats meet the line between “maybe somebody could rap on this” and “this belongs in a video game.” Syfy (Parts 1 and 2) fall in this category. Both have swinging drums that make it easy to rap on but also would fit in a Metroid OST.
Some Additional Notes On Beats I Enjoyed
A chill track that takes you to another planet. Detailed drum patterns with a nice bounce. Love the chords on here too.
A washed out guitar sample and screaming back vocals make me think of teenage angst. Banging 808’s take this to another level.
Has a Neptunes feel. The drums on this are addicting.
This one has a nice groove. Digging the classic Lyn Collins Think (About It) sample.
Basic Cable quietly fits itself in the realm of Toonami-inspired beat tapes. With its trippy album art and Adult Swim-inspired typography, it’s easy to see where Arnell was trying to go. If you like your beats experimental with bounce, Basic Cable is for you.