PROFILE: The Machine That Defined New York Hip-Hop

In the new Village Voice, regular XXL contributor Ben Detrick talks to Pete Rock, Hank Shocklee, Lord Finesse and Ski about the importance of the SP-1200.

For those who aren’t familiar, here’s Detrick’s break down of the machine’s importance:

Just as the Stradivarius or the Fender Stratocaster were standard-bearers by which other instruments were judged, the SP-1200 quickly became the tool of choice for East Coast beat-makers during rap’s so-called “Golden Age,” a period during the late ’80s and early ’90s, when sampling laws were still being meted out in courtrooms. Such artists as Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Gang Starr, Main Source, and the Notorious B.I.G. created classic joints over beats concocted on the SP-1200. The machine rose to such prominence that its strengths and weaknesses sculpted an entire era of music: The crunchy digitized drums, choppy segmented samples, and murky filtered basslines that characterize the vintage New York sound are all mechanisms of the machine.

CLICK HERE to read the full profile.

  • MK

    See this is what I’m talking about. Normally, you got a million people on her talking about “1st Bitches!”. But where are you same idiots when it comes to something that actually has to do with music? Incredible! But anyway, I always heard that the SP 1200 was an amazing piece of equipment, but back then if you were really broke (and alot of us were) you couldn’t even afford the SP. Being from Ohio, we had to use the 4 track analog machine and a cheap keyboard to make the beats. Or we had to record on a cassette tape, play what we recorded in another tape deck and record another part on another blank cassette. Any way ya’ll get the picture. Today, we’ve got alot more technology which allows more creative things to be done musically but the music sounds so bad. No staying power.

  • http://pimpinpens.blogspot.com/ PIMPIN’ PENS

    Yeah the SP was the original Producers Lab essential. Pete Rock of course is one of the masters as well as Madlib.

    CHECK OUT THE BLOG
    http://pimpinpens.blogspot.com/

  • Malakidagod

    YO MK I AGREE WIT U DIS IS IMPORTANT WHILE YA OTHERS NIGGAZ SAYIN 1ST BITCEZZ 2 CARELESS ENTRYS ANYWAY ITS UR BOY N PPL READ IT ITS GD 2 KNW

  • AZ40

    Niggas don’t care because they have fucking Fruiti Loops and Shit, they wouldn’t know what to do w/ that.

  • sistah

    oh my God!…i was just thinking last week…this is what constitutes a banger…the beats!…all this shit now sound like commercial jingles…anyway…knew ski was ahead of his time back in mid-80′s…we both cut our teeth on hip hop at this club called MC2 in Gboro NC…he was a b-boy then walking around in his triple fat goose! years later i said to myself…that’s that kid…we both were too young to be there(2 to 6 for college students)…i swear i remeber us looking at eachother like…u know u not suppose to be in here…but you HAD to sneak thru if you loved HIPHOP…but that’s what’s missing today…the beats!!!

  • Mr S

    from the SP-1200 to the MV-8800

    how things have changed

  • fraser mclaren

    i think premo’s only one still using it – which is a shame – pete rock needs to go back because his beats are so thin now

  • pwrply77

    I was an intern at a NYC recording studio in the 90′s when Lord Finesse and Showbiz (& A.G.) came in for a session. I never seen anybody put together such a hot beat in such a short period of time than Lord Finesse on the SP-1200. It looked like a secretary typing 200 words per minute the way he was banging that machine. He literally could have done it w/ his eyes closed.

  • Lesbiangirl

    A great piece of equipment. makes a difference