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Hip Hop Progressions | Virtual Instruments Magazine

Reviewer: Chris Meyer Back to Hip Hop Progressions product details

The Loopmaster Origin series is very reasonably-priced collection of genre-focused discs created by an assortment of producers who know their games-and how to cross over to other genres as well. To give a taste of the series, let's sample four of the 15 currently available titles.
Every Loopmaster Origin library contains a large number of 44.1\\kHz 16-bit stereo and mono loops presented in both WAV and Rex2 formats on a data CD. The libraries also contain a varying selection of single-hit sounds with corresponding Reason NNXT (.sxt) patches; later releases also contain Halion, Kontakt, and ESX24 patches.

More recent libraries also contain a second CD with either more sounds or a traditional audio version of the collection. The documentation with each library is very slim (no printed index of the samples), but the CDs themselves are well-organized with a useful shorthand employed for the sample names, including the tempo of the loops and/or key of the pitched samples.

Percussionism, the oldest of the libraries reviewed here, is (surprise) a library of percussion sounds and loops produced by Harvey Summers. The loops are organized into 23 folders based on tempos ranging from 60 to 160 bpm. Most folders contain a fully-mixed percussion bed plus two to five remixes, as well as breakdowns of the individual instrument tracks (such as bass, snare, different conga licks, and shaker). A few folders contain simpler arrangements such as just udus, or bougaraboo plus bells.
Typical length is 2 or 4 bars. This is augmented by over 350 1-bar shaker, cabassa, jingle stick, rainstick, and tambourine loops organized in 80, 100, 120, 140, and 160 bpm folders. There's also a good number of single-shot sounds, including over 70 "atmospheric percussion" samples of gongs, rainsticks, spring and talking drums, water bowls, and wind chimes, plus hundreds of single hits of a wide variety of percussion instruments with corresponding Reason patches.
The style of the percussion beds leans towards heavy African (which I like), although there are certainly Middle Eastern through Western styles and influences as well. (If your tastes lean more South American than South African, check out the Loopmasters AfroLatin Producer library.) These parts are not overplayed, making it easier to mix them with other loops. The recording quality is good, with a very immediate feel that doesn't lose the room's vibe. Overall, an excellent toolkit to add to your library.

A library named Raw Power brings to mind heavy metal; in reality it covers a wide variety of modern rock genres. Producers Jay Price and Jez Miller have chosen an unusual organizational structure. There are five main stylistic folders, called Alternative USA 145 bpm, Artskool 135 bpm, England's Dreaming 140 bpm, New Wave 120 bpm, and New York Underground 130 bpm.
Each of these contains folders of roughly 150 mostly 2-bar bass, drums (both patterns and fills), guitar, and synth loops. But these are not simple construction kits-for example the basses may be synthetic, fuzzed, straight, or flanged; the drums may be big-room acoustic kits or techno-processed machines. The styles range from the '70s through the present, solidly anchored in the '80s. Many of the drum loops in a given folder are related, although this is not always obvious from their names.
Most of the guitar and many of the bass loops are presented in different keys (a big plus), but you get only a single 2-bar loop for each key (not great for variety). Finally, a Toolbox folder contains nearly 200 single-shot samples and corresponding Reason patches. In short, there's a lot of material here, but it will take some thought and work to realize its full potential. If you are doing short commercials, or higher-energy trance-like styles (such as early Chemical Brothers), you'll be happy; those looking for subtle variations to craft more conventional songs may become frustrated.

The core of the Hip Hop Progressions library (produced by Hoodoo of the Groove Criminals) is a set of 30 "drum kit" folders ranging from 80 to 110 bpm. Each contains four programmed 2-bar loops of increasing complexity, as well as all the samples and subloops the mixed loops are built from. The sound is sparse but engaging, each featuring a big crunching kick and a variety of interesting ornamentations ranging from normal drum and percussion sounds through vinyl noise to kettle drums and other tonal elements.
In addition to this is the Bonus Beats folder, which contains another 69 highly useable drum loops ranging from cleverly programmed, understated beats through big-room acoustic kits to blown-out distortionfests. There are also folders of over 130 bass, guitar, keyboard, and "music" loops, again mostly two bars in length, neatly organized into tempos of 80, 90, 100, and 110 bpm.
The relative shortness of the loops and lack of related variations is less of a problem with this library, because the central genre is based more around repetition and stings. These loops are also interesting enough to hold attention while being sparse enough to layer easily. Beyond the drum loops, there is a wide variety of single hit effects, record scratches (most done to tempo-nice touch), human beatbox loops, and vinyl crackle beds. A second CD contains the samples as audio.
The vibe is immediate and street-wise, while managing to fold in a wide range of genres. For example, the instrumental loops contain acoustic strumming and orchestral strings as well as psychedelic licks and sci-fi synth warbles. The result is a lot of material useful for anything from progressive hip-hop through downtempo cool lounge to nu metal and industrial electronica. It is rare that I've heard a single library that inspires so many different compositional ideas.

The newest of the libraries discussed here is the 2-CD Polyester Loops, crafted by composer, producer, and remixer Jerzy Korzen. Unlike the other libraries discussed, which are primarily acoustic-sourced, this library was created almost entirely with soft synths and effects. The results are considerably more twisted than your standard techno libraries.
There are two main folders of loops: Handwashed and Machinewashed. Handwashed contains 36 bassline, 40 music, and over 180 drum loops ranging from one to four bars in length and 80 to 180 bpm in tempo. The styles range from technotribal to geeky hip-hop to clockwork industrial to experimental electronica. They tend toward the minimal, with many of the drum loops having strongly pitched elements while the "music" loops sounds more like radio waves from Saturn.
Machinewashed contains 57 music and nearly 170 drum loops ranging from 70 to 170 bpm, again typically one to four bars long. They are slightly heavier and earthier in tone, bringing to mind experiments such as a mind meld between hip-hop and electronica producers, drum 'n' bass through an acid jazz filter, and industrial experimentations muted through a veil of anti-depressants. Very few of the loops are related to each other, so you will either need to focus on repetitive trance forms or layer other loops to add variety.
The loops are augmented by 20 "drum kits," which are folders of anywhere from a couple dozen to nearly 100 related single-shot sounds, with corresponding Reason NNXT, EXS24, Halion, and Kontakt patches. If nothing else this library will serve as inspiration for budding softsynth programmers.

Although they all come under the Loopmasters Origin banner and use similar formatting and naming conventions, each library strongly reflects the sensibilities of its individual producers. All I've heard are worth their money; some of them-such as Percussionism and Hip Hop Progressions-are truly inspirational in how many useable ideas and layers they pack onto a single CD.

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