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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.

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