The Top 9 Most Influential Digital Samplers In Hip-Hop History

December 10, 2007

Every time I saddle up to bang some beats out of my Akai MPC 2000XL the internal debate arises inside of me about how the greatest pieces of Hip-Hop production equipment would stack up when lined up alongside each other. Obviously, in terms of technical specifications, the latest technology with win out every time; however, what equipment made the most valuable contribution could be debated for years on end. What makes this topic so great is that everyone has a favorite producer, style, and time period that contributes to their view and infallible opinion about which sampler is truly king. So in the name of classic, never ending arguments about top MC’s, DJ’s, and best beefs, we present, in perfect order, the 9 greatest digital samplers in Hip-Hop history.

  1. EMU SP-1200/SP-12.  Considered the godfather of digital samplers and foundation of countless hits from late eighties and early to mid nineties, the SP-1200 was released in 1987 and featured an integrated disk drive and mere 10 seconds of sampling time. (Pete Rock, Clark Kent, Da Beatminerz, DJ Spinna)
  2. Akai MPC 2000/2000XL.   Arguably the most popular hardware sampler, the MPC 2000 was released in 1997. The 2000 XL model was later released in the year 2000 and added features such as zone sample editing, improved sequencing, and the ability to add an internal IDE zip or Compact Flash drive. (Kanye West, Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz, Kev Brown)
  3. Ensoniq ASR-10.   As an update to the EPS 16+, the ASR 10 featured extremely powerful DSP and a unique live recording feature making the keyboard a complete production workstation. (Alchemist, Kanye West, RZA, Minnesota)
  4. Akai S950.   Released in 1988 as an upgrade to the S900, features such as increased memory and the all important time stretch were introduced to a new generation of producers. (DJ Premier, Clark Kent)
  5. FL Studio.   With an unprecedented low price tag, this now infamous software DAW brought Hip-Hop production into the hands of anyone with a reliable computer and soundcard. In essence, FL Studio can be credited with bringing Hip-Hop production into the mainstream. (9th Wonder, Soulja Boy)
  6. Akai MPC 3000.   Released in 1994, the MPC 3000 improved upon the MPC 60 by adding 16 bit stereo sampling and dynamic digital filters along with increased sampling time. This was also the last of the Akai line that was designed by Roger Linn. (J Dilla, Havoc, DJ Shadow, DJ Spinna)
  7. Akai MPC 60/MPC 60 II.  As the first of Roger Linn’s partnership with Akai, the MPC 60 was released in 1988 and featured 12 bit sampling along with an 8 line LCD display. The introduction of the MPC 60 II in 1991 added a headphone jack and cheaper case design. (DJ Premier, D.R. Period) \
  8. Akai MPC 4000.   As the master of all MPC’s, the 4000 was released in 2002 and came standard with memory expandable to 512 megs, internal hard drive, and filter and effects processing. (Madlib, Just Blaze, Heatmakerz, Buckwild)
  9. Ensoniq EPS 16+ – Released in 1991 as an update to the EPS and added 16 bit sampling, DSP effects, and is known for having an early crunchy sound. (El P, True Master)

**Future Additions and Honorable Mentions:  

  • Propellerheads Reason.   Arguably a more powerful program than FL Studio, Reason tends to have a substantially longer learning curve. 
  • MV- 8800  Could be slated to be the MPC killer if the price tag was lower and software production tools weren’t so prominent.  
  • MPC 1000  Could very well turn this into a top ten list very soon if the issues with faulty pads are corrected and development of the JJ OS continues.

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