The Big Elektronauts Hip-Hop Thread: production tips, sharing our music, feedback and inspiration

While this threaded started of as a simple “looking for advice topic” it seems that some of us would like to see a more general Hip-Hop thread where we can share our love for Hip-Hop.

Just to give future visitors/contributors to this thread a bit of context, the first posts in this topic where directed at answering my personal request for help with producing boombap-like Hip-Hop, but I feel that there are tips, resources and wisdom in there that can be really helpful to any (aspiring) Hip-Hop producer.

I hope that this can become a place where we can share our love for Hip-Hop music and culture. A place where we can ask for and share production tips (with a bias towards the music itself rather than the tools used for it), ask for feedback on our beats/tracks, share awesome resources and inspiration.

In other words, a place where we can learn with and from each other.

Imho anything goes, as long as it is in the spirit of peace, love, unity and having fun.

11 Likes

sounds like you might need an MC?
if you want to keep boombap instrumental, then possibly utilizing a soloing instrument on to p of your groove to take the place of an MC might help, like a horn etc…

cutting records on top of boombap grooves is delicious as well, and help keep things interesting

2 Likes

I can’t really provide a theoretical breakdown or guide or anything, but for me, the foundation lies in the “groove”, I think a masterful example of the concept can be seen in the JB’s “Same Beat”. It’s got the perfect combination of repeating the “same beat” over and over to keep you locked in, but bringing other elements in and out to keep you interested without ever feeling like you’ve been drawn away from the fundamental groove.

I really struggled to do boom bap for the longest time. Everything I made sounded like “trip hop”, which I really don’t like much to be honest. At some point though, things just sort of clicked. One thing that helped me for boom bap was realizing that you have to be careful not to overdo reverb and delay. I absolutely love reverb and delay, but I save that for my dub and psychedelic tracks now.

My suggestion for learning how to make boom bap is to learn by doing. Give the beat battle competitions a try. You might not get it on your first go, but the more you do the more you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t.

8 Likes

Also, read this. One of my favorite pieces of music writing. It’s about making funk music, but a lot applies, like keeping things brutally repetitive (as per the Same Beat example).

8 Likes

Hiphop head here! As DimensionsTomorrow suggested, you should join one of our beatbattles here, there a lot to learn from the way other people use the samples provided, and the many variations/tricks you can do with them.

As for some theoretic approach, I don’t know any resources, but I can try to give you some tips of my own!

  • It’s a good idea to get a basic understanding of where boombap came from, to understand its theoretical fundamentals. Boombap started out with people having no instruments, but lots of records to sample from and some very limited samplers. The sp1200, on which a lot of stuff was invented, has 10 seconds of sample time, some basic low pass filters and no fx, but the ability to do fake echo’s with velocity. These limitations shaped boombap as a style: there’s very little instruments used, but a lot of short samples and loops. Drums are made from sampled and chopped drumbreaks, variations by low-passing the main melodic sample, or echo-ing a short (horn) sample over the main loop. Basslines are made using either a low passed sample, or a pitched single bass tone. Soundwise, theres low bitrates and aliasing going on, which were part of those early samplers, and which give boombap its signature sound. All of this can now more or less be replicated using any machine/daw, although the limitations which caused it are no longer there.
  • you could learn a lot by remaking well known beats from different producers. You can often find most samples they used on whosampled.com, and by redoing them you’ll pick up a lot of tricks used by the greats.
  • there’s a lot of ways to add variation to a repetative loop: by adding things like echoing stabs, filtering things, or muting certain elements (drums, bass, sample, etc).

Good luck!

20 Likes

For this, definitely check out all of @Sleepyhead‘s killer remakes using Elektron machines.

16 Likes

Haha thanks man! I truly learned a lot by doing those…

3 Likes

Have you compiled those in a playlist? That’s a sick series. Definitely an amazing resource for people looking to get into hip hop on Elektron machines!

3 Likes

Wow thanks for that, Good idea to make a playlist, will look into that. I’m currently doing some remakes on the AR, might make that into a series as well.

5 Likes

there are already some good tips above. here are some things that really helped me get into making classic sounding hip hop:

  • keep your tracks short at first (or maybe forever). short and sweet is just fine. come up with a longer “verse” section and a shorter “chorus,” then repeat.
  • focus on the funk. if it makes you want to move at all, you’re on the right track. maybe you chopped a small 1 bar loop from some classic soul album as your base. channel james brown and make it funky. branch out from there.
  • don’t crowd your track. i am guilty of this all the time. whenever i listen to those early 90s beats, their sparseness is striking. producers back then did a lot with a little. get your drums right, and not too many of them. you only need kick, snare, and hats — and sometimes not even all three. lay in a simple bass line. don’t complicate it. then you need a melodic hook, which might be samples or played in live. add a variation or two between verses, and you’re good to go. whenever possible, use the space between instruments to let the track breathe.
  • listen to your favorite tracks and pick them apart. try to recreate them like sleepyhead has done. it’s hugely informative.
  • let the music be your guide. you already appreciate the form, so go back and listen for your education. now that you have a foundation of making other types of music, you should be able to translate those techniques to this style. there’s a lot of potential crossover.

with all that said, i make no claims to being good at any of this. i’ve just been listening to music a long time and have unfounded confidence that i can create some now. join the battles. you’ll pick up stuff, for sure.

almost forgot: check out the rhythm roulette videos on youtube for lots of examples of how people put together tracks.

14 Likes

This is so true. My best tracks have always been the ones where I’m nodding my head or even up moving in the studio. The ones where I’m just sitting there are definitely the throwaways.

9 Likes

Keep it simple. Don’t overthink it. If you make dance music and grew up on hip-hop then you probably have more of a foundation than you think you do. Also a lot of beats are boring if no one’s rapping on them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I think recreating tracks you like is probably an especially good idea for you since you already know the technical production stuff. While you’re doing that it’s probably a good idea to go back through the original songs too. See what the producer picked up on. Would you have heard that? Would you have picked something else? If so, why not try it out?

I’d focus on that part, the sample selection, more than anything else. Figure out what kinds of sounds you like to work with. What kinds of drums you like. All that stuff.

You’ve also got a background that other people don’t necessarily have that might let you put your own spin on things. You’ll have other ideas about melodies and rhythm and sound design, as well as sample sources. You don’t need to leave that part of yourself at the door.

15 Likes

You got 3 of the best in @Doug, @rockpapergoat, and @DimensionsTomorrow giving advice. All past beat battle winners if I’m not mistaken. I’d second or third doing the beat battles. Super low stakes and supportive group. A lot of times a capaellas are allowed which may help you craft a beat with a specific verse in mind which may also keep you from getting bored of the beat and therefore cluttering it up (edited for clarity).

10 Likes

Wow guys, I went to sleep after posting this and now I wake up and see this thread is filled with great tips and advice. And from people that always post awesome music here :heart:

I will:

  • join a beat battle. I actually intended to do the last one, but as our second child is just 4.5 months old and we are remodeling our house, time is a bit scarce.

  • try to recreate some stuff by my favorite producers such as RZA, Premier, Q-tip, large professor and DJ muggs for example.

  • keep building my Spotify “to sample list”, I will also check out whosampled.com

  • keep my beats short, stupid and simple.

I also like the idea of dropping some verses. I greatly admire producers/rappers that use their voice/flow as an instrument (Q-Tip comes to mind) I know that I can write, but I am not sure about actually rapping myself. I think will focus on the music first and indeed add some variation by using vocal samples, sampled scratches and maybe some existing rap accapellas.

Thanks also for all the interesting other info. I loved the rant about funk (should listen to that genre a bit more) and about the origins of boombap. I watched a lot of documentaries and even read some books about hip-hop culture, but I can’t get enough of this.

9 Likes
2 Likes

Depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go, this book is an interesting way to study classic breaks.

11 Likes

Just watched this, what a legend.

Was also watching this recently:

@DimensionsTomorrow, knowing myself, I will probably go deep. Thanks for the tip :slight_smile:

3 Likes

My main advice for producing boombap beats is : go to the essential, less is more.
You can limit yourself to use a low amout of tracks (8 tracks is enough) and focus on the drum samples choice.
You can find all the classic drumbreaks used in hiphop here in wav quality and for free :
breakbeats - Breakbeats - Rhythm Lab | Free Wav Samples, Loops, Breaks, VST Plugins, Synth Presets and much more! and layer those breaks with kick and snare samples.
PM me if you want i can send you a drumpack with vinyl drum hits sampled into a sp1200.

11 Likes

Step1: Find a good loop
2: chop at each beat
3: filters*** lp hp bp!!! Use them
4: chop a break
5: chop one more break
6: filters again! Yeah!
7: PITCH DOWN EVERYTHING
8: make a drum pattern
9: layer the drums with sounds from the other break
10: sequence the chops from the loop on top of the drums ( maybe in different order)
11: speed up the sequence just a tad (or slow it down)
12: make variations and use fx
13: there u go thats the most basic boombap way to make a beat…

18 Likes

You guys are absolutely amazing :grinning:

1 Like