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 (or beatmaker), and the one who crafts the rap is the MC (emcee). In this format, the rap is almost always the primary focus of the song, providing most of the complexity and variation over a fairly repetitive beat. Instrumental hip hop is hip hop music without an emcee rapping. This format gives the producer the flexibility to create more complex, richly detailed and varied instrumentals. Songs of this genre may wander off in different musical directions and explore various subgenres, because the instruments do not have to supply a steady beat for an MC. Although producers have made and released hip hop beats without MCs since hip hop's inception, those records rarely became well-known. Jazz keyboardist/composer Herbie Hancock and bassist/producer Bill Laswell's electro-inspired collaborations are notable exceptions. 1983's Future Shock album and hit single "Rockit" featured turntablist Grand Mixer D.ST, the first use of turntables in jazz fusion, and gave the turntablism and record "scratching" widespread exposure. The Mix-Up is the seventh studio album by the Beastie Boys, released in 2007. The album consists entirely of instrumental performances and won a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Pop Instrumental Album.
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, hip hop, and film score, DJ Shadow's innovative sample arrangements influenced many producers and musicians.
In the 2000s and 2010s, artists such as RJD2, J Dilla, Pete Rock, Large Professor, MF Doom, Danny!, Nujabes, Madlib, Wax Tailor, Denver Kajanga, DJ Krush, Hermitude, and Blockhead have garnered critical attention with instrumental hip hop albums. Due to the current state of copyright law, most instrumental hip-hop releases are released on small, independent labels. Producers often have difficulty obtaining clearance for the many samples found throughout their work, and labels such as Stones Throw are fraught with legal problems.