The Evolution of Hip Hop Production in Less Than 500 Words

Back in the early 1970s, old school DJs began using several breaks (part of a funk or jazz song where the music “breaks” and only rhythm section plays) that created something fun to dace to. DJs would mix it up with turntables; switching from break to break, creating an ongoing loop known as a breakbeat.

Kurtis Blow was one of the first artists to use a digital sampler to make a record. Samplers and sequencers really let samples and drum beats to creatively mixed together stretching the sound capabilities of vinyl alone…this my friends gave birth to real hip hop production.

The Roland TR-808 aka the 808 was introduced in 1980, one of the earliest forms of advance music production technology… paved the way. The E-mu SP-12 then came out in 1985 which allowed 2.5 seconds of recording time. In early hip hop the recording time on these devices were primarily used to sample drum loops. Followed by the SP-1200, the Akai MPC60 came out in 1988, capable of 12 seconds of sampling time…the first MPC to hit the market.

Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad revolutionized the design and structure of hip hop beats by combining multiple samples per song and layering some breaks with a drum machine. Thanks to the group who brought us the classic Fight The Power, hip hop beats were taken to a new creative height opening up the ideas of using multiple beat samples and going beyond a repetitive loop. This new sound in modern day hip hop allowed a track to contain a sound sequence for the verse and another sequence for the hook…a new day for Hip Hop Production.

Updated versions of the MPC were released in the Mid-90’s and continued to improve itself every other year with more advanced features and flexibility. MPCs combined a drum machine, longer sample sizes and an onboard sequencer. Sean Combs aka Puff Daddy and his production team pushed the envelope with a new style where entire sections of records were sampled, oppose to only short snippets. Another major step forward in production, this gave birth to turning old school classics into new school hits. With the evolution of MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), software programmers were now able to write applications that could record and play back the notes played by a musician. Yet another massive step in the evolution of hip hop production and music technology in general.

Today technology has come so far that the need for most heavy and expensive equipment been replaced by computer software. A $20 program now allowed vocals to be recorded, edited, mixed and mastered while beats are able to be made from scratch. Anyone can produce records these days and with advancements in social media and video sharing websites like YouTube, you can go from your Momma’s basement to a million dollar studio making beats with the best in the business.

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