Dave James, Noxz, Gwen Bunn, and Don Cannon pay homage to 50 years of hip hop

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop.

In celebration, leading producers and beatmakers Dave James, Noxz, Gwen Bunn, and Don Cannon crafted beats and shared their perspectives on their favorite eras of hip hop—see below for their thoughts and sounds.

Dave James celebrates the innovations of the early ’00s

Dave James is a producer and artist with a distinctive soulful sound that blends alternative R&B, hip hop, and pop influences. He’s also known as the lead singer / songwriter for the band Ndelible, which was activate from 2006 – 2012, and as a close collaborator of Dreamville’s vocalist, Ari Lennox.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop, Dave James crafted a beat that pays homage to 2000s-style sampling and the Roc-A-Fella era—watch his process and hear the final result here. “It’s one of my favorite eras—one of the most important eras in hip hop,” Dave tells us. “Producers of the early and mid ’00s took sampling to new heights and really pushed the genre forward.”

Dave cites Just Blaze, J Dilla, Kanye West, The Alchemist, B!nk, and The Soulquarians as a few of the many artists and producers who he looks up to from this era.

Looking ahead, Dave feels excited about where hip hop is headed in the years to come. “I think it’s headed in a great direction,” he says. “The internet has made it so people are now more connected than ever. The younger generation is able to access older music online, giving it a new audience. So many different types of artists are able to create fanbases and get music to their listeners quicker than ever. A lot of barriers have been broken down, and the future is bright.”

Noxz dives into the timeless feel of the ’90s

Also known as Enoch, Noxz is a London-based producer who has a love for drum grooves, guitar licks, keys, and hardware synths that incorporate retro influences while fusing genres in a cutting-edge fashion.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop, Noxz created a beat that pays homage to the iconic sounds of the ’90s—watch his process and hear the final result here. “As a ’90s kid, this era speaks to me as an artist and producer more than other years,” he tells us. “Growing up listening to the likes of Ms. Lauryn Hill, Fugees, Dr. Dre, etc., I loved the sounds and feelings their songs put out. A lot of producers in that era were experimenting with new sounds and ideas—Q-Tip fused a lot of jazz with his productions, and J Dilla swung his drums and added a bit of soul. I tried to capture the essence of the productions released in those years.”

In addition to the creators mentioned above, Noxz cites Dr. Dre, Tupac, Timbaland, Outkast, The Roots, and TLC as artists he admires from the ’90s.

“I think hip hop is doing a 360 at the moment,” Noxz says as he reflects on the future of the genre. “We’re commemorating the vibe and feel from the ’90s, but with the modern producer touch. Heavy-hitting drums, jazz influences, and soulful samples are in—whether that’s an old sample or something new created to sound old. Artists and producers are definitely beginning to reference the ’90s era.”

Gwen Bunn highlights the sonic aesthetics of the early ’90s

Gwen Bunn is a producer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and beatmaker who’s known for her smooth and groovy sounds. Her collaborators include the likes of Alex Isley and Jordan Ward, among many others.

Gwen Bunn also produced a beat inspired by the ’90s, using vocal chops, scratch samples, and drum loops that harken back to the earlier years of the decade—watch her process and hear the final results here. “It’s one of my favorite eras; I love how they chopped samples back then,” she shares. “It influences how I flip vocals and songs when I sample.”

Gwen cites Marley Marl, Pete Rock, and Sidney “S.I.D.” Reynolds as some of her greatest influences from the early ’90s.

“There are already many different styles of hip hop,” Gwen comments as she looks towards the genre’s future. “It’s hard to categorize it as one thing. I think it’s going to go through phases, like it always does.”

Don Cannon combines influences from across generations

Last but certainly not least, Don Cannon is a seasoned producer, songwriter, DJ, and record executive. He has worked closely alongside the likes of Jeezy, Logic, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, 50 Cent, and many others.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop, Don Cannon crafted a beat combining influences from the ’90s with more contemporary sounds—watch his process and hear the final results here. “’90s hip hop is my favorite era of hip hop—I like to call it the golden era,” he shares. “It’s raw, authentic, innovative, and conscious. In my sound, I like to capture the essence of hip hop, and I love this era due to its emphasis on sample-based production, intricate drum patterns, and storytelling.”

“The ’90s had so many dope hip hop stars like Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, Jay Z, and Snoop, whose music exemplified the creative and emotional depth that I strive for in my own production. The ’90s era had all the dope lyricists, gritty beats, and a connection to the streets. I draw inspiration from the golden era.”

In addition to the names mentioned above, Don Cannon cites DJ Premier (“Preemo”), Dr. Dre, RZA, Easy Mo Bee, Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Havoc, and J Dilla as a few of his many other influences.

“I think the the future of hip hop is going to be about social consciousness, lyricism, and more innovative beats,” Don says. “I think the fans are getting more into the stories and the lyrics, and we will be getting a lot of that soon.”

Join the celebration

Join the celebration alongside Dave James, Noxz, Gwen Bunn, Don Cannon, and the rest of the producer community with our From Vinyl Scratch to Sample Pack Collection, which features 50 timeless loops and one-shots that provide a taste of the expansive array of iconic sounds that mark hip hop. We hope you’ll use it to create something new.

Here’s to 50 years of hip hop, and many, many more to come.

Dive into curated sounds that celebrate hip hop’s rich history:

October 13, 2023

Harrison Shimazu

Harrison Shimazu is a composer, content strategist, and writer who’s passionate about democratizing music creation and education. He leads the Splice blog and produces vocaloid music as Namaboku.