I recently had a conversation with someone about the sound of production, specifically during the early 90’s Hip Hop era and how that sound reflected their surroundings which were oftentimes cluttered with things around them that influenced their output. That clutter and influence is ultimately what shaped their sound which was more rugged and grimy versus today’s sound which is cleaner. I noticed it more and more after looking back at DJ / producers bedroom and basement studios of then and how today, most setups are in nice clean and minimalistic spaces that are brightly lit and very “instagram photo ready”.
Although equipment plays a major part in the sound, its ultimately the daily surroundings and outside influences of other producers which dictates the creative flow and trends of what’s popular. Speaking primarily about here on the East Coast, producer bedroom setups were pretty similar with equipment which included variations of the Emu SP1200, Akai S950 and 8 track tape recorders and of course tons of Jazz, Funk, Roc and soundtrack records to sample from. In addition to their production setups, the other popular things that were included in the room was the ever popular Sony Trinitron TV and VCR combo with stacks of tapes which were mainly Kung Fu and Blaxploitation, mixtapes (especially those featuring rare samples) and of course Hip Hop magazines. Obtaining at the time what were rare Kung Fu movies on VHS was a very New York / Philly thing during that time with the bootleg VHS craze having its beginnings in New York. If you haven’t read my interview with Johnnyray Gasca the King of The Bootlegs, then do a search here at Nostalgia King where he talks about the Hip Hop and Kung Fu connection.
Fast forwarding to the present and the raw grimy sound of the 90’s is a rare thing to be heard on tracks and when you do hear them they honestly sound more like a rendition of yesterday. Of course a few make their way through but over the years equipment has changed, production technics have changed and producers aren’t digging in the way that they did prior. But shout outs to those who still get it in on the boards and bang out beats that have that same nostalgic feel while coming fresh and new for today.