Most people’s first attempt at a hip hop production tends to be the hardest, not least because they’re working on a tight budget. Often, the best option is to make your own beats, but not everyone has the time or the skill for it. Free hip hop instrumentals, which you’ll find at dozens of music websites, have made things a bit easier. Just listen to a few beats and decide which one best suits your music, and you’re good to go. These have allowed more than a few artists to put together a demo and kick-start their careers.

When you have the budget, however, buying exclusive instrumentals may be more worth your money. Exclusive means that you pay for the rights to use the material, which in turn means that no one else can use the same track. The advantage to this is that you can be sure you get a unique sound. With royalty-free instrumentals, there’s a good chance that someone else is using the piece, and your material can sound eerily alike. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be an issue for people who value originality and creativity.

Price points vary for different hip hop tracks, from just a few dollars to several hundreds or thousands. It’s even possible to find the same track offered for free on one site and for an exclusive fee on another. This should be a cause for suspicion: there’s always a reason why a company would give something away. It could be that the sound quality is low, or that some of the notes are off-key. If it’s free, you can always give it a try and see for yourself. Sometimes the flaws are minor enough to fix in an editing program, and the time you spend tweaking is worth the few dollars you save.

Of course, this also means that paying for something doesn’t always mean you’ve got exclusive rights to it, although that’s the theory. When you find a good instrumental, look it up and see if it’s available somewhere else. You may find that it’s actually a royalty-free piece, or at the very least get it for less from a different dealer. You can also consider making your own beats. Both approaches are more time-consuming, but it’s an important investment—if you plan on doing this professionally eventually, you don’t want copyright troubles to get in the way.

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