I admit it. Once upon a time I was a purist. When I first started seriously making beats, I scraped up enough cash to buy an Ensoniq ASR-10. My friend DJ Stress and I were at another producer’s home (I am TERRIBLE at remembering names!), and it was the first time we laid eyes on one. He showed us what it could do, we had that wide eyed look like “I WANT one of these!” Stress got his first. Off we went…. he made the beats for songs I had written, for a good portion of time, but I still had that hunger for more. Finally, I bought one right before surgery to repair a broken foot.
Five months in a cast in a third-floor apartment, I needed something to do, right??? I learned that sampler like my life depended on it. I LOVED that machine. We created our first records on the ASR. Fast forward a few years, my friends Maci and Dez brought the Akai MPC 2000 to my attention. I was living in a new apartment, and didn’t have the space to set up the ASR-10, so it sat in a closet. It was a heartbreaking decision (for a gadget guy!), but I decided to sell the ASR and buy an MPC. Only thing, Akai didn’t make the 2000 any more, there was the new (at the time) 2000XL. I knew a guy named Chief with an EMU SP-1200, but they were discontinued, and I didn’t like the limitations of only 8 seconds of sample time (ha!). I took the chance on the 2000XL.
After about 2 weeks of messing with this machine to get a feel for it, I wondered how I ever got along in life without it. Needless to say, I made TONS of beats on the MPC, and became a professed Akai aficionado. I sold the 2000XL to my friend (and fellow beatsmith) Jack, he wanted it since it was the machine I taught him to make beats with. I went ahead and bought the MPC 1000, since it was portable. I could bring it from studio to studio, no problem. We weren’t about to go around carrying that humongous MPC 4000 ANYWHERE.
(Yes, I tried it and hated that machine, more on that later.)
I liked the 1000 for the fact that it came standard with a few basic onboard effects, and it’s difficult at best to get your hands on a pristine MPC 3000. People who have them tend not to let them go. I also liked the mute group function.Decision time again…
(I know, hopeless, right?)
Time to go with more horsepower and a hard drive. My friend Rod and I look at the Akai MPC 4000. We gave it a test drive, he loved it, I hated it. We produced maybe 2 or 3 songs on his album with it, before it too got the heave-ho. I happened to see a few YouTube videos of RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan fame) and Jermaine Dupri (Award winning producer & executive) working with a new piece of gear.. the Roland MV-8000. I’m curious already. Off I go to the local Sam Ash, where the salesman gave me a quick tutorial, because an MPC user is going to be a little confused! I’m in love. You can construct your whole song, even record vocals, scratches, plug in your guitar and knock out a riff…. mix it down and burn it to disk… all ON THE MV. Wow. I won maybe 5 beat “battles” and earned a few placements working with it.
Crunch time, I was getting ready to move out. The roommate thing was cool, but the transition to family man was fast approaching. No room for a home studio until a house is built or bought. Time to think compact, without sacrificing function or power. For the longest I kept hearing about this Image-Line “Fruity Loops”. Like any other hardware based guy, I dismissed it without a second thought. I wondered, how can you chop samples and make beats like THIS, using software? Eventually more people kept talking about it, and my friend DJ Stress introduced me to a record from a group called Little Brother. I did a little research, and found that 9th Wonder and Khrysis (main producers of the project) created their beats almost exclusively in what??? “Fruity Loops”, which in its later iterations has been dubbed FL Studio.
THAT got my attention. 9th and Khrysis are formidable beatmakers and producers, so that made me take a second look at the software platform. I have a vast library of samples, drums, etc. that I saved in wav format from the majority of my old samplers, on an external hard drive. Within a month, I was making beats in FL Studio that were so close to what I did with the MPC or the MV-8000, that no one knew the difference. I was turned to the “Dark Side”. I must admit, have to practice a bit more on my evil laugh.
However…. I’m primarily a Mac guy, and FL isn’t for Mac. And I have a prior love/hate relationship with Windows based machines. Thanks to VM Ware, I can run Windows and fire it up if I need to, but I needed a Mac based solution similar to this. Along comes my good friend DJ E.L. He pointed me to a YouTube video (notice a trend here??) of DJ Babu from the group Dilated Peoples, editing a sample in a program called Recycle, and inserting the file into a program called Reason.
Both Recycle and Reason are by Propellerhead Software. The way Babu manipulated samples with his midi keyboard brought back memories of my old ASR-10. I’m in research mode now. Hardware purists are calling me insane, I’m trying to tell them that while I’m embracing technology I always apply what I’ve learned on hardware in various studios. Again, I took the leap of faith. I started with version 3, then 4, and now 5. There is a bit of a learning curve with Reason, but once you’ve got it, you’ve GOT it.
My production continues to evolve, and I don’t lack for horsepower or functionality. I have been using Recycle, Reason, GarageBand, and my always – trusty Pro Tools. With a midi keyboard (and Akai MPD32 controlle), I now had my ASR-10, MPC 2000XL, and Roland MV-8000 all over again. With 4GB of RAM, 15 inch widescreen, 32 tracks of 24 bit /96 kHz recording, bluetooth and wireless internet access. And regularly scheduled backups. Not to mention a MUCH nicer utility bill. All is well, right?
Just when you think the matter is settled, lo and behold! Native Instruments debuts a software production environment coupled with a hardware controller, aptly named Maschine. It looked to be the bridge I sought: the flexibility of software with the tactile feel of hardware. I researched extensively for information and video tutorials, interested, yet wary. I solicited the advice of legendary Hip Hop producer Domingo, who is a supporter of the software. After getting the nod, I proceeded to the nearest Guitar Center to make my purchase. I’ll sum it up briefly: I made that purchase last June, I still use it today. Almost exclusively. A match made in beatmaker heaven. In my own mind, of course.