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How to get that 90's Hip-Hop sound? Condenser Microphones
Old 2 weeks ago
  #1
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Thread Starter
How to get that 90's Hip-Hop sound?

Hi,

I'm going to be recording a 90's style, jazz breakbeat Hip-Hop track for a university assignment.

I'm taking influence from groups such as Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and De La Soul.

I'm going to be using a live drums and a double bass to get that Jazz element.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what sort of equipment was used in 90's Hip-Hop e.g. compressors, microphones etc. Information about popular recording studios in that era would also be really useful.


Thank you!
Old 2 weeks ago
  #2
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Many hip-hop producers typically used the Neumann U-87 for recording vocals which imparts a glassy "sheen"
An SSL 9000 board was used in a lot of the 90's sound that Kanye used in that era and SSL 4000 that Timbaland used in that era.
Kanye's vocas were recorded with a Neumann 67 and that went into a Neve 1073 and then an Urei LA2A.

A lot of the drums in the 90's where sampled using drum machines, not live drums. so that is something you should think about if you want the 90's hip hop sound.

FYI: The sound is more about the attitude and talent and not about the equipment used
Old 2 weeks ago
  #3
f33
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the roots were the only relevant hip hop band of that era. The Roots and stetsasonic were the only really hip hop bands i can think off of any historical importance.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #4
whatever sounds u use add 1/16 triplet swing to them and make sure the sounds are 12 bit
Old 2 weeks ago
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by f33 View Post
the roots were the only relevant hip hop band of that era. The Roots and stetsasonic were the only really hip hop bands i can think off of any historical importance.
Wasn't asking about relevant Hip-Hop artists.

I was asking about the recording equipment used in recording studios in that era.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morganjones33 View Post
Wasn't asking about relevant Hip-Hop artists.

I was asking about the recording equipment used in recording studios in that era.
Track Neve, mix SSL.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #7
f33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morganjones33 View Post
Wasn't asking about relevant Hip-Hop artists.

I was asking about the recording equipment used in recording studios in that era.
those would be your two to see if you could find some info on the web. google is your friend
Old 2 weeks ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundnarcotics View Post
whatever sounds u use add 1/16 triplet swing to them and make sure the sounds are 12 bit


Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Nut
The 3 groups that the OP mentioned all used samples from jazz records during that time. Most of those sounds were achieved through the use of filters and processing on SP-12, SP-1200, MPC 60, S-950's, ASR's, etc. Those were the tools of the day and were widely used to create a lot of that sound.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morganjones33 View Post
Hi,

I'm going to be recording a 90's style, jazz breakbeat Hip-Hop track for a university assignment.

I'm taking influence from groups such as Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and De La Soul.

I'm going to be using a live drums and a double bass to get that Jazz element.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what sort of equipment was used in 90's Hip-Hop e.g. compressors, microphones etc. Information about popular recording studios in that era would also be really useful.


Thank you!

I think the SSL is one of the most popular pieces in 90’s hip hop especially for major release artists signed to a label. The track compressors were used a lot as well as EQ. More independent artists though probably recorded and mixed on more modest setups however.

Other stuff

1176 compressors
LA 2a compressors
Dbx style compressors (can’t stand the hard knee sound on vocal though, but a lot of Rap was recorded on a budget and most dbx compressors were very affordable and highly used in project studios)

Mackie 8 bus was very popular in the adat era of the mid to late 90s in project studios.

Analog tape (But many records were recorded on digital systems as well)

Standard mics

Neumann U87
AKG C414
Ev re20

That said probably any decent condenser mic can get you far. A handful did use dynamics though. IMO more of the sound came from technological limitations actually.

IMO I think the samplers played a bigger part

MPC 3000
ASR 10s/eps variants
Sp 1200

The samplers of golden era hip hop


Also production techniques were different.

Samples were tuned by ear probably 95% of time.
Too much auto-chopped samples sounds more 2000s era, so I would try to do stuff by ear. No auto tempo time stretching. Actual DJ scratching with some producers. Filters were important too in many cases. The filters on the old school samplers.

A lot of Rap utilized live instruments as well: (Bass, guitars, Rhodes, Wurlies)

Synths:

Roland JD800 (early 90s)
Roland XP/Jv variants (mid to late 90s)
Roland Juno 60s (bass, leads)
Moog minimoogs

I think the biggest things were a lot of songs weren’t overproduced (which is very easy to do now). And most producers were in-house usually 1-2 producers per album and folks who actually knew and connected with the artists. Now you tend to have various beatmakers from different cities which creates a different vibe. The multi producer trend kind of started in the mid to late 90s with artists like Jay-Z, Tupac but most albums back then had a more consistent sound and sounded more like an album and less like a mix CD. Also most 90s albums had in intro and outro and skits (might be taking it too far now).

But I think a big thing with 90s Rap was having your own sound as in the 90s as a consumer, I was like a kid in a candy store as you had variety most people strived on having their unique sound, so pinpointing 90s Rap can be difficult as many artists took different directions to get their sound.

Last edited by jlgrimes11; 1 week ago at 09:56 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #11
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Nick Stedman's Avatar
For this style I really like the sound of sampled breakbeats going into an Akai S900/S950. Different samplers have their own distinct sounds but it always did something gritty to the drums that was so nice. Pitching down a little bit gives them a certain sound as well. Also filtered bass lines. Take the sample and filter the highs off until you get just a bass tone. That can serve as the bass for the track, which is very common in 90's hip hop. Not all but a lot of it had a lo-fi thing to it (not necessarily by choice lol). So sampling from cassettes or bouncing the drums to cassette and back could be cool for some things as well.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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Old 1 week ago
  #13
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As others have said, S950/SP and vinyl samples where a huge part of that era's sound.

If original poster is keep to go the live band route specifically maybe the addition of tape, Neve preamps, some ribbon mics maybe?

SSL's I associate more with late 90s hip hop (and it's not the most colourful mixer used in hip hop), early 90s tribe/soul/pharcyde could have been mixed on anything, I don't think Tommy Boy used one studio to mix all its releases, otherwise Tribe wouldn't have had Bob Power.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Use loops, not drum machines, that is more from 94 onwards, Also roll off the high end, right down even to 10-12khz, a lot of that golden area sound is very Dolby sounding, you don't hear crystal clear hats and, its all about the snare sound SNAP!.
An SM58 is also fine.
The mix should not be wide nearer to mono, only a few sounds are very stereo, the mix should normally be in the same stereo placement throughout the whole track so use little movement if possible, see "KRS one - sound of the police" for a good example if eq and stereo placement.

Cheak out my playlist on Spotify if you really want some research.
The Golden Age of Hip Hop (1989 -1994)
Spotify Web Player - The Golden Age of Hip Hop (1989 -1994) - Aaron Owen Smith


Last edited by aaronsmith; 1 week ago at 01:03 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #15
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Lyrics through a handheld dynamic mic, sung parts through a nice large-diaphragm condenser mic, beats sampled from vinyl, with cheaper (at the time) 70s and 80s mono synths layered on top, layers added with 90s samplers, a nice maple drum kit with a solid drummer to play it, a Stratocaster guitar with pedals, and a funky sounding electric bass guitar; all running through a decent small format mixing board into something like an Avalon limiter/eq on the master. Should get close. Don't forget the direct drive turn-table for scratching nice and loud to trigger the master limiter hard.
Old 1 week ago
  #16
I’m seeing a lot of response that have their decades a little off.

Most of the major releases did the u87ai into either an Avalon, Focusrite Red, or Neve pre.

As a NYer growing up and hanging with some of the legends of hip hop, I can say the SSL thing was only for the major artists. Even Biggie tracked into a DDA console for a while... I know because my studio bought the exact console from the liquidation when the studio closed.

The cheaper setups at the time used mackie and peavy boards, usually in crappy rooms.

The production gear and what was sampled had a bigger impact than the outboard. Limitations in what rack samplers could do, difficulty in editing on digital multitrack recorders, less ability to polish a turd.

Almost no one used an sp1200... not compared at least to those using Akai, emu, and Ensoniq samplers. The MPC 3000, 2000, asrx, and actual drum machines were used... almost no one was micing up a kit.

If you want the live drums, I’d suggest you record them with dynamics and sample into an MPC or similar where you can edit and chop it like you ripped it off of vinyl.

Hints: Record the drums at a slightly different tempo than the song you are writing. Part of the sound of 90s hip hop was the art of forcing things to fit. Make a dollar from that 15 cents.

Don’t use time stretch, don’t warp. Sample hits individually so you can filter out the kick and snare of your drum loop and replay with the processed one-shots over your chopped and re-assembled loops.

Don’t go 12 bit. It’s sort of an overblown myth that everyone used crunchy dusty sp1200s. By the 90s, almost everything was already 16bit.

After your new loops are ready for arrangement, hire a good dj if you don’t know how turntablism. Even if the track doesn’t utilize scratching. Having someone with a serato setup to do transitions and juggles and transforms will be more authentic to the sound.

Don’t use auto tune. Don’t double the verse. Track everything out on a cheap mackie board. Use an ssl style compressor if you have access. Use and older Yamaha or lexicon for verb sends. Older Roland and emu rompler racks. Mix on ns10ms.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
I’m seeing a lot of response that have their decades a little off.

Most of the major releases did the u87ai into either an Avalon, Focusrite Red, or Neve pre.

As a NYer growing up and hanging with some of the legends of hip hop, I can say the SSL thing was only for the major artists. Even Biggie tracked into a DDA console for a while... I know because my studio bought the exact console from the liquidation when the studio closed.

The cheaper setups at the time used mackie and peavy boards, usually in crappy rooms.

The production gear and what was sampled had a bigger impact than the outboard. Limitations in what rack samplers could do, difficulty in editing on digital multitrack recorders, less ability to polish a turd.

Almost no one used an sp1200... not compared at least to those using Akai, emu, and Ensoniq samplers. The MPC 3000, 2000, asrx, and actual drum machines were used... almost no one was micing up a kit.

If you want the live drums, I’d suggest you record them with dynamics and sample into an MPC or similar where you can edit and chop it like you ripped it off of vinyl.

Hints: Record the drums at a slightly different tempo than the song you are writing. Part of the sound of 90s hip hop was the art of forcing things to fit. Make a dollar from that 15 cents.

Don’t use time stretch, don’t warp. Sample hits individually so you can filter out the kick and snare of your drum loop and replay with the processed one-shots over your chopped and re-assembled loops.

Don’t go 12 bit. It’s sort of an overblown myth that everyone used crunchy dusty sp1200s. By the 90s, almost everything was already 16bit.

After your new loops are ready for arrangement, hire a good dj if you don’t know how turntablism. Even if the track doesn’t utilize scratching. Having someone with a serato setup to do transitions and juggles and transforms will be more authentic to the sound.

Don’t use auto tune. Don’t double the verse. Track everything out on a cheap mackie board. Use an ssl style compressor if you have access. Use and older Yamaha or lexicon for verb sends. Older Roland and emu rompler racks. Mix on ns10ms.
How did I post a summary of your post, before you even posted it?! haha
Old 1 week ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DomiBabi View Post
I’m seeing a lot of response that have their decades a little off.
Prob because the difference between what was used in first half and 2nd of that decade differs massively.

In the first few years of 90s (90-93 when most of the artists mentioned by OP main hits where out) people would have been mpc60/SP/S950. Mid>late in the decade people were on the mpc3000, ASR10, 2000xl etc

A small amount of people like Easy Mo Bee, the DITC crew, Beatminerz stuck with the SP1200 throughout the 90s, same with Premo and the 60/950. Others like Large Pro and Pete Rock moved away from SP to other machines.

ASR10 with its NO ID, Neptune's, Timberland etc users def had a huge place in hip hop history in late 90's. MPC3000 was industry standard for commercial hip hop and R&B.

In the uk it was all about Ataris and Akai, hardly anyone picked up MPCs here before late 90s.

SSLs have nothing to do with the colourful sound the OP was asking about.
Old 1 week ago
  #19
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i sound like a broken record but if sampling from vinyl the needle and mixer used make the most difference. that is the source and nothing after that in the chain can replace those missing frequencies

back in the days the most common sample source was an sl1200 with a dj/broadcast needle, which are not audiophile i guess but they have wicked bass and stereo separation

ie my old stanton 500 has the high hats on barry white's playing your game all the way to the left, and all other instruments separate in the mix, with a deep bass and smooth organic(?) sound. the replacement needle i got for it sounds like a mono fm radio station. the generic needle/cartridge i have is even worse, it is crispy which is nice but has no bass by comparison and again no stereo separation

also mixers have different sounds, some with more bass/less highs etc. you can get the same sound as the current underground sample based hip-hop if you make sure these things are in check

also: +1 to what he said about the difference between early and late nineties
Old 1 week ago
  #20
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Some of those beat up Stanton's and dusty Gemini mixers would def have rolled the top off a lot of samples.

Some beat makers would have used the terrible eq in their mixers too. I choose to bypass the dj mixer when sampling altogether.

Last edited by SEED78; 1 week ago at 01:56 PM..
Old 1 week ago
  #21
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b0se's Avatar
Great info in this thread, cheers to all.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
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viewing's Avatar
fine grade sandpaper can help with the old needles. i'm sure there are modern equivalents by other makes

i am wondering if the difference is between home use needles and dj/broadcast use needles especially for sampling drums etc. that or tracking force ie 1-3g vs 3-7g
Old 1 week ago
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Like most have mentioned, it has a lot to do with the samplers used at the time. I doubt these guys used super high end mics and boards for those early albums. Da Beatminerz used the SP1200 and the S950, Pete Rock and Primo used the S950, RZA used a lot of Ensnoq stuff, EPS, EPS 16, ASR 10.

But this is only gets you so far. Another big characteristic of 90s hip hop is the overemphasis on the snare and kick, and the specific patterns and loops. A beat from the 90s is so unique. Master the boom bap.
Old 1 week ago
  #24
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extra points if you know where these drums are from

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