Episode 4 – Software Based Production

When did “software based production” get popular in Hip Hop?

9th Wonder

9th Wonder

This is a very interesting topic but this all can be traced to one person, 9th Wonder. Back in the 1970’s when Hip Hop started everyone was rhyming over disco music. Just looping an R&B or Disco song was good enough. Beat machines were the next phase in Hip Hop. Legendary producer Kurtis Mantronik of the Hip Hop group Mantronix was a producer who popularized the The Roland TR 808 and TR 909 beat machines in the 1980’s. Then sampling became the thing to do and it was all hardware based and that hardware was very expensive to purchase. The Large Professor at 18 years of age asked his mother to purchase E-mu SP-1200 Drum Machine/Sampler which became a popular in the 1990’s. She agreed but in the process had to max out 3 credit cards for him to get it. As sampling (and getting those samples cleared – Check Episode 2 for more detail) became more of a dominant thing in Hip Hop music the hardware that was used to make music got better. There were more options to choose from but software production was not even a relevant concept except possibly in the case of Kurtis Mantronik who was known to use Apple computers. Whether the music production software was not up to par or computer technology wasn’t readily accessible to the masses not too many people thought of using a computer and software as a viable means of music production for Hip Hop, however, this all changed in the 2000’s.

In 2003 a hip hop group that formed in North Carolina called Little Brother released an album entitled “The Listening” which was produced by Patrick Douthit B.K.A. 9th Wonder. This album was strictly produced using FruityLoops now known as FL Studio. At about the same time 9th Wonder released a remix album for Nas’s “God’s Son” LP entitled “God’s Stepson” also done with FruityLoops. Both releases garnered him respect in the Hip Hop underground and set the tone for additional work. 9th Wonder freely let the world know what software he was using to make his music. At this point music production software reached a point of serious notoriety and the ease of getting a computer and the software took it even further. Continuing his career as a producer and producing for people like Jay Z and Destiny’s Child allowed him to gain even more work as a producer and made the concept of software music production legitimate.

Little Brother

Little Brother

Now software production is just as popular if not even more popular than hardware production in Hip Hop. More music production software is out and even hybrid software/hardware music production combinations are viable as tools to make music.

The Double Edged sword:

As I mentioned before back in the day music production was expensive but now anyone can afford a computer and some type of music production software. So, anyone can try to be a producer with a small monetary investment and that has helped those with talent who just couldn’t afford hardware for music production. However, not everyone should be trying to make music which we’ve all witnessed on Strictly Hip Hop’s Producer’s Test Bin. Just because you have FL Studio, Reason, Maschine or any other software or software/hardware combination doesn’t mean you can make good music. I digress…

Fruity Loops - FL Studio

Fruity Loops - FL Studio

Simply put, in Hip Hop software production was not even thought about as a legitimate way to make music but after 9th Wonder (and we have to respectfully add FruityLoops aka FL Studio) it has become a very credible way and perhaps preferred way to make music.

If you have any discrepancies to what you just heard, comments on what you just heard or have new ideas on who or what changed hip hop then send an email to patrick@patrickscientific.com

This is Patrick Scientific and until next time peace

Audio Verison as done originally on Strictly Hip Hop on WEAA 88.9 FM below.

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  • http://www.ohbaltimore.com kelly c.

    good post… interested to know if any other “big name” producers do the majority of their work on fruityloops or the like? nobody is popping to mind.

  • Kil

    Dope post…me personally, when I’m making beats I gotta touch those MPC pads or those ASR keys. I messed with Fruity Loops once and it seems like a nice one stop shop but I got have something I can touch. Next thing DJ’s will be using to ipads to spin on! I remember when I first heard 9th’s beats…I told my man, it’s something about hsi drums…they’re not hitting. And my man said, “he makes beats on a computer” and I said “ohhhh, that explains it!” And now 9th uses the MPC right?

  • DXProject

    I teach Music Technology in London and it appears that there is a new generation of young Hip Hip and dance music producers to whom hardware sampling is an alien concept. We have an MPC 2000XL and access to an MPC 1000 at the college, but to the youth editing on a 2-3 inch screen and not having access to the multitude of sounds available in software programs such as Logic, FL Studio, Cubase and Reason seem a nice novelty but ultimately time consuming and pointless.

    I agree with Kil that touching the MPC pads is far more intuitive and musical than mouse clicks, but with the new range of controllers available you can have the touch with the bonus of software editing and arranging. Not to mention the fraction of the expense incurred for the young. There is always the “you just can’t get that feel” or “you can’t get that sound” argument, which is often right, however you can’t do anything if you cant afford the gear! There are so many talented young musicians who now have access to software enabling them to make excellent music rather than the expensive hardware necessary in the past. Their taste in music and approach to production is perhaps not as puritan as the producers of the past and present, however they are the future of music production and will be the big names in times to come. As a teacher, I find it exciting to hear such good music coming from people so young.

    Check out this video of some of my (now ex) students and a talented young man called Pepstar working in the studio using Logic and an Akai MPD controller to produce a track on the fly. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydEbVaJmNm0

    • Anonymous

      That young kid is talented. Great video! Thanks for your response

      Quoting Disqus :

  • Bigctv18

    very interesting post I think you should have a featured producer one every week be a nice addition.

  • King David

    I completely agree with DXProject. I teach thousands of students music production, songwriting and Audio Engineering around the world. Many of them have never known anything but computer based music production. And let’s not even talk about Analogue production. Still, year after year, we are delivered some amazing productions no matter what tool is used.

    Personally, I endorse knowing how to use them all. After all, they (The Hardware, Software and Analogue recorders) are just tools. So who’s to say what fork you must eat your spaghetti with? Just as long as the spaghetti ends up in your mouth.

    The Science of Audio Engineering however, will never change.You still must adjust the 3k up a few DBs to get clearer vocals, and you still still must adjust 250Hz up a few DBs(approximate of course) on that Kick drum to get it to cut through the mix.

    Audio engineers seem to be safe for now. As for the switch to software based production, I think you still have to be a great ARTIST to create great ART(Music) no matter what tool you use.

    You can checkout my online schools at http://www.Beatclass.com and http://www.Gwardyak.com

    King David
    David & Goliath Music

  • http://twitter.com/JonManness Jon Manness

    Very informative. It’d be great to have sources with these posts in case we want to read more about the background of Hip Hop software production. I agree for the most part about the double edged sword that comes with software music production, but I don’t think it’s fair to say that “not everyone should be trying to make music” because the technology’s cheaper. Everyone has different reasons and intentions for making music, and some are just starting out and are looking for feedback. We are lucky that it’s easier than ever to share music, and I hope that those with the potential to be great producers use the web to grow and learn, and not just hope to get “famous.”

  • Lynchaudio

    Hey Man,

    I’m enjoying the blog! I’d like to add that producers like the RZA and DJ Shadow were definitely championing the use of MIDI pretty early on (late 90’s), and thereby the use of computers in the production of hiphop. I also remember Chad Hugo of the Neptunes writing about how critical non-destructive midi editing was to their workflow back in 2001. What’s interesting to me is that 9th Wonder was probably one of the first to be so transparent about what he uses and how he uses it, which I think is the model of the future. I’m a big believer in giving away everything you know! IMHO.

    Keep up the good work, and I’m looking forward to more posts!

    -Matt