How To Create Unique Mixes Using Hip Hop Samples

Few types of music allow you to experiment creatively with the freedom to cherry pick from just about any other genre quite like hip hop does. Since its emergence in the late 70s and early 80s, hip hop samples have included almost every style from classical music to folk, pop to jazz and just about everything in between.

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During the early days, DJs would take percussive breaks from funk, soul and and disco tracks, isolate them from the rest of the mix and loop them for MCs and rappers to riff over the top of.

These days, advances in technology has made it far easier for hip hop samples to be created and just about any element from a track can be used as a basis for generating new beats, breaks and hooks.

It’s not always smooth sailing though, as many hip-hop artists have found themselves on the end of lawsuits for using samples without clearance, and even songs which sound similar to others can find themselves in hot water.

As it’s such a fine line between using a sample as a homage and copyright infringement, that’s where hip hop sample packs come in. They are an ideal way of getting that classic sound without running the risk of finding yourself in court.

Plus, even though Prime Loops’ hip hop samples are already professionally made and ready to drop into your mix you can still chop, change and edit them to create unique sounds, mixes and productions to suit your own taste.

To help you make a killer track, here are 5 of our top tips for creating unique mixes using hip hop sample packs…

1. Get the tempo right

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Although there are no hard and fast rules, it’s generally a good start if you consider the following tempo ranges for the style of music you’re aiming for:

60-90bpm - Pop

60-100bpm - Hip hop

90-120bpm - Trip hop / downtempo

115-130bpm - House

135-160bpm - Dubstep / trap

160-180bpm - Drum & bass

If you’re caught between two minds on which tempo to run with, start by considering how you want your vocals to fit in, work your way backwards and experiment.

The juxtaposition between a quick fire rap verse over a slower beat can really show off your MC’s skills, whilst picking a tempo that’s too fast can make your mix sound frantic if you’re not careful.

Most hip hop sample packs provide similar loops at different tempos, and most DAWs will allow you to time stretch your samples if you’re a couple of BPM short. However, if you go down this route, be aware that stretching your loops too far could result in pitching issues.

2. Get your drums right

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A good beat gives you a killer foundation for your track, and your drums section is always the best place to start with when you’re creating a mix for the first time.

Early classic hip hop relied heavily on sampled drum breaks and beats and further down the line the advent of the Roland TR-808 and other drum machines created a whole new approach to creating beats.

Switch up your usual hi-hats by 808 samples or creating your own foley drums to give your mix a unique feel.

With hip hop drums, less is definitely more so keep your drum lines simple but add extra fills and samples to keep it interesting.

3. Keep your recorded vocals simples

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For most hip hop tracks, the vocals are the most integral part of the mix so should be approached with care and allowed to stand out from the rest of the instruments.

Whilst a load of reverb might sound great on a ballad or a classic rock song, using the same effects on rap vocals can make the end result sound muddy and you run the risk of losing the punchiness you want in the delivery.

While there are no hard and fast rules, if you do want to add reverb aim for a decay of around two seconds at the very most and keep it subtle.

This is even more critical if you’re using layered vocals where multiple vocal lines can run the risk of echoing or stuttering if the timing between them starts to slip and your mix loses clarity.

4. Chop and change your vocal samples

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Of course, if you did want to push the boat out then vocal sample packs are a great way of adding extra interest into your recording.

Using a melody driven vocal hook rich in tonality and intervals can provide a pleasing contrast to rapped verses, which are traditionally more monotone and dry.

Further editing of these tracks, if used sparingly, can transform a vocal line from a standard riff to the centrepiece of a great mix.

Use a stutter edit to trim the start or end of a clip and give it extra attack or a different type of delay, or throw in a tape stop effect to add a pitch shift feel.

5. Experiment across genres

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Traditionally hip hop samples were all about funk, soul and disco but now just about anything can be used as a basis for creating a great mix or for providing a new bout of creativity.

Juxtaposition between two seemingly contrasting genres can add a sense of intrigue and balance if used in the right way and a great hook can make or break a track without being too overbearing.

Once you’ve got the foundations of your track together, throw in some samples from our classical & orchestral loops, jazz piano samples or just some random sound effect samples and experiment with what sounds best.

Prime Loops Hip Hop Samples In Action

When you download a sample pack for the first time it can be overwhelming to know where to start when you’ve a huge bank of sounds to work from.

From finding the best bass loop to piecing together a fully formed mix, the creative process can be long and arduous or you can fly off the cuff and build out a killer track as you go.

Luckily, beat maker-extraordinaire and Prime Loops affiliate Tasherre Risay is on hand to show you how to make the most of your hip hop samples using our Toasted Hip-Hop sample pack from XXL Audio.

With six variations built out from the samples within Toasted Hip-Hop, Tasherre shows just how versatile our hip hop samples can be and the possibilities for creating unique sounds are endless.

Check out the rest of the XXL Audio range for more classic lo-fi styles of hip hop drum loops, guitar riffs, keys and basslines and build your own sound.

Download music sample packs from Prime Loops here
Follow Prime Loops on Facebook, Twitter & Soundcloud
Need more inspiration? Create a Prime Loops account and get a free welcome pack of loops and samples

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