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Instrumental hip hop is hip hop music without vocals. Hip hop as a general rule consists of two elements: an instrumental track (the "beat") and a vocal track (the "rap"). The artist who crafts the beat is the producer, and the one who performs the rap is the rapper. Rap is almost always the primary focus of the song, providing most of the complexity and vartiation over a more or less repetivitive beat. Instrumental hip hop is therefore hip hop music without an emcee accompaniment. THis format allows the producer to have the flexibility to create more complex, richly detailed and varied instrumentals, with less emphasis on vocals. Songs of this genre may wander off in different musical directions without the vocal constraints of the emcee.

The release of DJ Shadow's debut album Endtroducing..... in 1996 saw the beginnings of a movement in instrumental hip hop. Relying mainly on a combination of sampled funk, jazz, hip hop and film score, DJ Shadow's innovative sample arrangements influenced many producers and musicians. In recent years, artists such as J Dilla, Pete Rock, Madlib, Nujabes, MF Doom, and DJ Krush have garnered critical acclaim with a number of instrumental hip hop albums.

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