The holiday season is upon us yet again, and although this year has been pretty challenging, now’s the time to be grateful for all the wonderful people in our lives; and that includes the amateur beat producer currently taking up residence in your basement trying to make a living.
This one’s for them. Here’s a list of affordable yet game-changing gifts solid enough to help elevate the skills and inspiration of any hip-hop producer, whether they’re a basement-dwelling beginner or studio-renting pro.
But first, we gotta get one thing out of the way and let you know about our exciting 2020 Holiday Giveaway. Everybody enrolled in Soundfly’s all-access subscription by December 19th will be automatically entered to win loads of great prizes including gear for your home studio, autographed albums from some amazing artists, Soundfly swag, and more!
Check out some of the prizes and click here to read more.
And speaking of which…
Soundfly’s All-Access Subscription
One of the greatest gifts you can give this season is the gift of knowledge. And did you know that you can get access to all of Soundfly’s premium online music courses with a monthly or annual subscription?
That includes MY course, The Art of Hip-Hop Production, which will teach you the nuances of producing beats, arranging tracks, and creative sampling, drawing on the rich history and influence of hip-hop culture.
Plus, from now until the end of December, you can take 20% off your subscription with the promo code: HOLIDAY2020 at checkout.
Gift options ARE available, so think hard about any aspiring musicians, composers, songwriters, and of course producers that might benefit from an all-access pass to modern music education! Just email us at [email protected] and we’ll walk you through the gifting process.
Fun Merch Ideas
Wu Tang Clan
Although the Staten Island collective is known for its grimy early ’90s mafioso street rap, the collective has been a mainstay in hip-hop culture for over 25 years. Meaning people like me actually grew up with Wu Tang and became hip-hop fans because of their influence. You can find great gift items in their official merch shop. My absolute favorite right now is their face mask — “protect your neck!”
The official J Dilla Foundation merch shop is a great way to show your hip-hop producing loved one that you’re knowledgeable about the producers that came before them. In addition, when you buy directly from his foundation, your purchase helps support James Yancey’s family, and their youth educational initiatives in and around the Detroit area.
Swizz Beats and Timbaland’s “Verzuz” was the musical and cultural event that swept the nation once COVID-19 hit. It’s now evolved into one of the most anticipated and viewed livestream events of 2020, period. Although the “battles” — which are really celebrations — started with two well-respected artists from past decades playing their hit songs against each other, as the brand grew it has become a platform for artists both products and causes. And nothing helps support artists this year better than merch. The most recent line features Travis Scott designs for the “Gucci Mane verzuz Jeezy” battle.
Hip-Hop Craft Beer
There’s a long history of rappers endorsing liquor brands, okay… all types of brands… but did you know that a number of rappers and producers also make craft beer? Here are just a handful of my favorite hip-hop craft beers.
Let’s face it. If you want to call yourself a producer, you’re gonna need to record artists and play engineer every now and then. Having a decent quality microphone and stand is essential, but that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. Here are some good affordable options.
Audio Interfaces ($100-250)
Now you’re also going to need an audio interface. Most producers who aren’t working with full bands only need a two-channel interface, since rappers are likely recording vocals to a track. Focusrite has some great options such as the Scarlett Solo and 2i2. If you’re ready to tackle recording multiple musicians at the same time, then their Octo Pre is a great eight-channel interface and mic pre-amp.
While monitors are never that cheap, they are critical in setting up your home studio. If you want to impress future collaborators, get yourself some professional studio monitors. For producing hip-hop, I personally recommend the Yamaha HS5, the KRK Rokit 5 G4, and the PreSonus Eris E5.
And hey, guess what: we’re giving away a free pair of PreSonus Eris E5s in our Holiday Giveaway this year! Check it out, you don’t want to miss this opportunity.
A good pair of headphones is essential to any producer who tends to work on the go, or even if you just enjoy a more detailed and nuanced listening experience while working on music. The AKG-K240 is a great set of studio headphones that are very affordable. And a second great option is the Audio Technica M30x.
Arturia MiniLab MK II ($80)
A versatile and robust MIDI controller will change your life. And Arturia’s MiniLab is a rad option because not only is it reliable, it comes with software like Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano Model D, and Analog Lab Lite. Arturia is a leader in virtual software instruments (VSTs) so getting a controller that is built to integrate with high-depth sounds is an advantage you might want to, well take advantage of!
Novation Bass Station II ($300-400)
In the mid 2000s, every producer wanted to have a keyboard workstation like the Korg Triton or Roland Fantom. These massive keyboards had thousands of sounds packed in, but now with so many digital options available to everyone, producers are looking specifically for keyboards and mini-synths that they can design their own sounds with. The Novation Bass Station II is extremely affordable and powerful, and worth every penny.
ROLI Seaboard Block ($350)
MPE controllers are the way of the future. These types of controllers allow players another level of expression by being able to bend notes, slide, and even modulate effects parameters based on pressure sensitivity and other intuitive functions. And ROLI is an unquestionable innovator in this market. Their smaller and more affordable version of the Seaboard, their flagship product, is the Seaboard Block.
Software & Samples
BeatMaker 3 ($36.99)
There are tons of mobile beat making apps on the market right now, but the one with the most straight forward title is also probably one of the best. BeatMaker 3 is an amazingly powerful software tool that you can use right on your phone. This is a great app for students learning how to produce as well as veterans who need something to sketch out quick and dirty ideas. Once you complete a beat, you can easily export the stems to Dropbox and load them into whatever DAW you like.
Roland Cloud Membership (Various prices)
With Roland’s Cloud subscription, you pretty much have access to every Roland synth and drum machine emulator and VST available; classics such as the Juno-106, SH-101, Jupiter-8, TR-808, TR-909, and more. The software sounds so close to the original analog instruments, you won’t believe it. Roland Cloud offers a free 30-day subscription to the ultimate tier of their software so you can hear and use all of their instruments before deciding to pay.
Splice Sounds Subscription ($7.99/month)
Splice is like the Netflix of sample packs. Modern hip-hop producers all but rely on samples to generate lots of beats, as fast as they can, in as high a quality as possible — and there’s no better place to get high quality royalty-free samples than our friends at Splice. They’ve got hand-crafted drum, voice, and instrument sample packs from some of the top musicians and producers in the world, and you can access all of them with a simple, affordable monthly subscription.
Soundtoys 5 Plug-in Bundle ($249 for full-time students, $499 regular price)
Soundtoys is one of my favorite plug-in companies. Their top-notch effects will instantly elevate the sound of your tracks. Soundtoys periodically run discounts on all of their software, so it’s easy to find their plug-ins for as little as $29, but the bundle will always be the best possible deal. So if you know a producer who’s looking to get to the next level sonically, this will help them achieve that dream. If you’re a full-time student, you can get the academic discount of $249, otherwise, this is still a great deal at $499.
XLN Addictive Drums 2: Beat Producer Edition ($169.95)
XLN Audio has also created a series of game changing plug-ins that have become very popular amongst well-established producers. Some fan favorites are RC-20 Retro Color, DS-10 Drum Shaper, XO, and Addictive Keys and Drums. Most of these plug-ins are pretty affordable and are easy to integrate into your workflow, but the full pack of Addictive Drums for producers is essential if you want to kill it in the hip-hop game.
Some of the best tools for personal growth can be found in a book. This applies to hip-hop producers as well as any type of artist. Here are a few books I recommend that will definitely inspire any hip-hop aficionado or creative.
- Shea Serrano – The Rap Yearbook ($12.50)
- Marcus J. Moore – The Butterfly Effect ($16.31)
- Russ – It’s All in Your Head ($13.59)
- Questlove – Mo’ Meta Blues ($10.29)
- The RZA – The Tao of Wu ($12.39)
And of course, you can’t forget about Soundfly.
If this list has inspired you to work on your own musical chops, join the Soundfly subscription! We just slashed the price of our annual subscription so that you now get 6 months FREE when you sign up. It now costs only $19/month for access to both all our premium, creative music courses, and our online Slack community of musicians where you can get feedback, ask questions, find collaborators, and get inspired!