When it comes to hip-hop production, you’ll need extra oomph in your mix choices, and a little boldness from time to time, in order to help make the music measure up to the flow of an MC or rapper.
Sampling, and the art of treating samples, has long been a key requirement for building hip-hop, as has keeping a magpie-like ear out for new sounds, noises and effects.
So, whether you’re creating old-school MPC beats, adding crackle to some looped samples or tightening up your raps, any hip-hop creator’s toolkit will certainly be positively enhanced by acquiring the following free plugin selection.
1. iZotope Vinyl
We’ll start with a cheat. Bypass the rigamarole of sampling from vinyl, and pretend you’ve done it already by using iZotope’s magnificent dust, scratch, warp and noise emulator! Vinyl’s UI is dominated by a turntable, with easy-to-use knobs for different sound-dirtying elements. With its hugely authentic results, Vinyl is the fastest (and certainly the cheapest) pathway to lo-fi, 80s vibes.
2. Native Instruments Urban Beats
This awesome virtual drum machine features five instruments and a long list of drum loop presets. It’s fairly easy to use, and the resulting impacts sound pleasingly phat.
There’s also a range of effects, including reverb and saturation, to fine-sculpt these beefy beats. It comes free as part of Native’s superb ‘Komplete Start’ selection. A suite that, if you’re on the hunt for remarkable free swag, you absolutely should download it this very minute.
This brilliant, browser-based DAW offers much to the hip-hop producer. For one thing, signing up will give you access to a very cool cloud-based music production environment, with social and collaborative abilities. There’s also a massive bank of community curated samples (over 200k!), and that’s before we’ve even mentioned three massive drum machines, with a pleasingly retro-sensibility. Give it a go.
4. TX16Wx Sampler
Bursting with features, TX16Wx is one of those bits of freeware that leaves us wondering what on earth its makers were thinking by offering it up cost-free. Modelled on Yamaha’s TX16W, the software reads WAV, AIFF, Ogg, FLAC and Yamaha, allowing oodles of sonic manipulation, keyboard-mapping and two resonant 6/12/24dB multimode filters.
Though TX16Wx is not just one of the best freeware samplers, but one of the best bits of freeware you can download full stop, there’s a wealth of other sampler options, and it’s good to have a choice of slicers and dicers. Groove BPB is more tailored to beat-sampling and slicing, as is Decomposer’s Sitala, which keeps things a lot simpler, with a more minimal set of control rotaries.
For more complex percussion sequencing, why not give Contralogic Productions’ RPS-1 a try? With its randomisation and step-sequencing approach, it’s a far more focused workspace for sample manipulation. These are just a taste of the vast free sampler options available right now.
5. Shattered Glass Audio SGA1566 Tube Preamp
Add bite and punch to your track elements with some vintage tube preamp flavouring. The SGA1566 offers two 12AX7 tube amp stages, and a slick two-band EQ. Stick it on your beats and be dazzled at the sudden weight provided. It’s also great for increasing the wallop of your rap vocal.
While this may not technically count as freeware, our extensive library of over 75,000 free samples will undoubtedly come in useful to any hip-hop producer looking to expand their sample collection without disturbing their bank balance. Alongside killer drums, vocal samples and melodic loops, there's a couple sample packs available that are aimed squarely at the modern hip-hop producer.