RECORDING WEEK 2022: Built on rhythm, rhymes and a considerable amount of swagger, hip-hop productions’ tools are some of the most sought after in the world of music production.
While in our efforts to minimise your expenditure, we’ve chosen some cost-effective kit to get you started on your quest to become the next Jay Z, when it comes to the full-fat impact of solid hip-hop, you’re really needing space, size and – we’re sorry to say – eventually, investment in high end speakers so you can scrutinise every nuance of your mixes, to guarantee that your tracks have maximum impact.
For now, we’ve chosen some particularly bass-frequency-leaning headphones that we’ve used for years, and can guarantee their accuracy and their hardiness over many long nights of use.
When it comes to the bedrock of your hip-hop production, few DAWs radiate as brightly as Image Line’s FL Studio. With the ability to loop and sequence your beats, synths, samples and vocals swiftly, the DAW has been cherished by the A-list of the genre’s major players. While we’d normally suggest a budget route, we’d even go as far as to plump for a more complete version.
Getting a decent microphone/interface setup is another biggie; after all, what good is hip-hop without sharp, clear vocals? Our microphone and interface choices reflect these priorities.
Beat-making is an art form that is crucial to the genre, and while FL Studio itself contains a salvo of tools that can help in this regard, and Akai’s free MPC Beats should certainly be picked up, we’re recommending a very fun, very genre-aligned beat machine.
As always, we’ve also taken the liberty of directing you towards one of the CM Plugin Suite’s most hip-hop-flavoured tools; a remarkable sampler that’ll have you slicing, dicing and stitching quickly, particularly when used in conjunction with FL Studio. The CM Plugin Suite is free with every issue of Computer Music Magazine.
So, without further ado, here’s our overview of this cost-effective hip-hop hub.
The headphones: Audio Technica M50x
A pair of cans that has been widely praised for granting both detail and oomph, AT’s M50x’s sport 45mm dynamic drivers which give a fair indication of the frequency range, and are comfortable enough to wear for long sessions. They can also get pretty loud – useful for listening back and getting in the zone.
The DAW: FL Studio Producer Edition
£159 | Buy at Image-Line
An absolute powerhouse of a DAW, FL Studio is both an easily navigable music production environment – complete with sequencer, mixer, channel rack and more – as well as a bursting treasure chest of exceptional plugins, such as percussion modeller Drumpad and slick beat detection tool Slicex.
Read more about getting started with FL Studio
The beats: Dopesonix Beat Machine 2
Building beats with a distinctly hip-hop vibe is the aim of this flexible little drum machine from Dopesonix. Containing 300 kits that span the last 30 years of hip-hop, the sample-and-effect packed plugin provides a complete top-down vantage point to concoct the types of contemporary hip-hop that have dominated across the last few decades. It might just be your secret weapon.
The freeware: Expert Sleepers XFadeLooper CM
A dazzling piece of software that could be another great boon to your hip-hop endeavours, XFadeLooper allows you to crossfade between multiple samples and build up your own DIY pads and sonics. You can then play them backwards or crunch them up accordingly. It’s a nifty, fun tool that is endlessly creatively inspiring.
The mic: MXL V67G
Distilling the Neumann U87’s best qualities into a mic under £100 is no mean feat, yet that’s what MXL do with V67.
Internal high frequency attenuation gives the vocal a boost in the lower end, resulting in more all- round vocal thickness. Its green design looks suitably retro too. A top budget mic.
The interface: Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Of course, you need to get your vocals into your computer, and the most ubiquitous budget interface around right now will certainly do that, and more besides.
Focusrite’s Scarlett Solo is a simple 2-in-2-out interface, but under the tiny hood, 24-bit/192kHz converters, coupled with the expansive ‘Air’ mode, will make your vocals stand just that bit further out.