RECORDING: Hip-Hop Production Tools


Lately I’ve been getting more into hip-hop production (I wax and wane, musically– sometimes I’m all about the shoegaze, sometimes I’m all about the poppunk, and sometimes it’s old country/honky tonk). Today, I’m all about the hip-hop.

Hip-hop has evolved insanely, since it was first invented. Without going into the history of it, let’s talk about the tools used.

Back in the day (80s/early 90s)

strictly hardware–
Emu SP-1200
Akai MPC60
Akai MPC2000
Akai MPC2000XL (and all MPCs)
Roland TR-808 and TR-909 (used heavily in 80s rap/electro)
These were great tools, for their time. But I feel they’re all truly outdated, these days (I know I’ll get a ton of shit for saying that). I’ll be the first to admit and know that all the best hip-hop records from back in the day have been made on the 2000, or the 60, or the 1200. I guarantee (without researching) that Wu-Tang made “36 Chambers” on the 60 or the 2000. And I believe Nas’ “Illmatic” was made on a 60. Oldschool hip-hop (late 70s/80s) was made primarily on the 1200 or the 60. I think all the Tribe Called Quest records were produced by Q-Tip on the MPC60 or the MPC2000.

Again, these were great tools, for their time. And keep in mind– the people who used the tools were (and still are) some talented, passionate cats.

Back in the day / Golden-era / Underground (early 90s-early 2000s)

Fruity Loops (now FL Studio)

These, again, were great tools for their time. Nothing like the MPC back in the day. No doubt. But then, as computers became more powerful, the capabilities and potential really took the spotlight away from the MPC.

Present (2010-2015)

Native Instruments Maschine (Studio, MK2, Mikro, and all MKI’s)
Akai MPC Renaissance / MPC Studio
FL Studio
Poise VST

and to a lesser degree:

Now, why the hell would people prefer software instead of hardware, right? There’s always a chance of your computer bugging out or crashing or whatever. The MPC (aka “empee”) has dominated hip-hop and rap production easily for 25+ years. But, I have to say that that era is over. Software/hardware combos are better. They’re faster. More efficient. More powerful. Better workflow, the whole nine.

This is so freakin’ easy, right? Yes.

I have Maschine Studio, and LOVE it. I wouldn’t consider myself a hip-hop producer, but I definitely dabble, and I know what I’m doing, by and large. I have owned an MPC1000 in the past, and I have owned various hardware and nothing touches Maschine. It’s so friggin’ easy to chop samples, as you can see in that video.

Nothing touches the new stuff.

I’m not going to talk about the Akai MPC Renaissance, because my personal experience with it hasn’t been intuitive or fast. Maschine owns.

If you’re new to hip-hop or beat production, I highly recommend either picking up Maschine, or a 4×4 MIDI pad controller (Korg PadKontrol, Akai MPD26, Akai MPD18, etc) and use the Poise VST within a DAW (such as Reaper). You’ll save money, and you’ll be way ahead of the game once you learn the basics.

It’s cheaper and easier than ever to get into this stuff. I wish I was 16, today. When I was 16, computers still sucked (I had a Windows computer that had 2MB ram… yes, you read that right… it wasn’t enough to keep Windows 3.1 from crashing constantly, as it needed 4MB). I couldn’t even have dreamed of even picking up an MPC2000XL, as they were well over $1000 back then (even in 1992), but shit man, these days? There’s just no excuse….

I wish I could write more, but I’m feeling restless today, and I’m hungry…. I love real hip-hop, and you should, too. 🙂


recommended listening for April 25th, 2015:
Tribe Called Quest – Low End Theory (1991)
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique (1989)
Little Brother – The Listening (2003)
Buck 65 – ANYTHING pre-2005… Vertex, Square, Synesthesia, etc.
Sage Francis – Personal Journals (2002)
J-Live – The Best Part (2001)
and countless others!!!!


About chriscaulder

Posted on April 25, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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