Boom bap ex machina: hip-hop aesthetics and the Akai MPC

Exarchos, Michail ORCID: (2019) Boom bap ex machina: hip-hop aesthetics and the Akai MPC. In: Producing Music. Perspectives on Music Production. Routledge, New York. ISBN 9780415789219

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Boom Bap ex Machina- Hip-Hop Aesthetics and the Akai MPC.pdf - Accepted Version

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Over the past two decades, the growing literature on Hip-Hop musicology has paid ample tribute to Akai’s range of MPCs (Music Production Controllers), acknowledging their pivotal influence on the methodologies of Rap production. The technology’s combined functionality of sampling, drum-programming and MIDI-sequencing has been embraced by practitioners since the release of the standalone MPC60 in 1988, until its more recent computer-dependent incarnations manifested in a multitude of current controllers and DAWs. The timeline coincides with particular sonic priorities in Hip-Hop that can be grouped under the ‘Boom Bap’ aesthetic - an onomatopoeic celebration of the prominence of sampled drum sounds programmed over sparse and heavily syncopated instrumentation. But what is the association between sub-genre aesthetics and MPC functionality, and what parallels can be drawn between the evolution of the technology and stylistic deviations in the genre? The chapter examines how MPC technology impacts upon the stylisation of Hip-Hop as a result of unique sonic, rhythmic and user-interface characteristics, which condition sampling, programming and mixing practices, determining recognisable sonic signatures. Furthermore, the Boom Bap sound is traced from its origins in the late 1980s to its current use as an East Coast production reference, honouring a sample-based philosophy that is facilitated by the MPCs’ physical interface and operating-system scripts. Utilising a two-fold methodology that combines musicological analysis with practice-led actualisation, the research explores a number of representative case studies, before investigating the interactivity of original composition and MPC workflow further. The findings form a systematic typology of technical characteristics correlated to creative approaches and resulting production traits, informing speculation on the future of the MPC, its technological descendants and the footprint of its aesthetic on emerging styles and technologies.

Keywords: Hip-Hop, Aesthetics, MPC, Sampling, Boom Bap, Production

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge/CRC Press in Perspectives on Music Production: Producing Music on 19/03/2019, available online: or
Subjects: Music
Music > Musicology > Popular music
Music > Record production
Depositing User: Michail Exarchos
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2018 14:15
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 07:10


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