Brian A.’s Answer
I did some music production before I went to law school. So although I don't work in the industry, I made a pretty strong go at it and continue to record for fun on my own.
I think more important than equipment are software and samples. I use logic pro and pro tools (the latter is truly the industry standard). The software is also demanding on your computer, so having a laptop or desktop with some power (SSD hard drive and an i7 processor, for example) really helps. I've been working on projects with tons of tracks and lost hours of work because everything crashed. If you want to use real instruments, an interface is a cheap additional piece of equipment that can supplement your samples library. YouTube is a great resource if you are trying to learn how to use this software well.
As far as "making you beats stand out," that is all about your ear, and I don't mean simply the ability to hear things. Listen to lots of music; varying styles from different eras. You will be tempted to listen to what you like but really challenge yourself. Listen to blues and classical music, for example, and think about the structure of the music. Learn about rhythm and listen to drummers carefully too, especially if you are interested in hip hop or electronic music. Try to write something that isn't in 4/4. With a healthy range of musical experiences, melodies will present themselves more readily and catch the attention of a larger range of listeners.
Do NOT try to sound like your favorite artist. So many budding musicians do this and there music ends up sounding so contrived and they never go anywhere. The best musicians defy genre tropes or evolve a style into something new--find your own sound.
Lastly, record constantly. You will likely make a ton of tracks that are garbage, but you'll learn from what you don't like and eventually create things that sound great.