The Phoenix shudders and rises from her chair as Kanye’s fingers drift over the pads of an Akai MPC 2000XL. The dance of the Phoenix begins and a chopped up version of “Power” plays, stringed instruments replacing the original timing of Kanye’s lyrics.
In the early 1980s, drum machines such as the Roland TR808 and Linn LM-1, dominated the music scene-- allowing for artists to create drum loops and beats without the support of a live band. The TR808 analog drum machine, first heard on Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”, created the iconic 808 sound revered today. Simultaneously, the Linn LM-1 emerged as the very first drum machine to have programmable sounds and real drum samples, setting it aside from prior models. The downfall of both machines came with their price points. Although Prince and Michael Jackson could afford the $5,000 price tag of an LM-1, most musicians could not.
Enter the Akai MPC-- an affordably priced alternative, hailed for its user friendliness. With sixteen touch-sensitive pads, four MIDI outputs, easy sampling and a 99 track sequencer, the MPC truly revolutionized music production. DJ and Producer, Brian "Raydar" Ellis highlights the strengths of the Akai MPC here:
“The MPC60 was a different beast because it really put you in the driver's seat in terms of creating the sonic texture you wanted to have. It's a fully customizable machine whereas you look at the Linn Drum Machine or the Roland TR808, their sounds came preloaded...You couldn't change them.”
By the time the Akai MPC3000 rolled out in ‘93, the Akai MPCs were a favorite for rising stars and legendary producers like Dr. Dre, Q-Tip and J Dilla.
Today, J Dilla’s Akai MPC3000 is displayed in the Smithsonian, and he is recognized for contributing to Neo Soul, as he helped produce for artists like Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. Outside of collaborative work, J Dilla’s sound uniquely stands alone because of his consistent choice to turn off the quantization on his MPC. Perfectly described by NPR’s Giovanni Russonello, the J Dilla effect “injected a softened, swaggering humanity into the rigid slap of classic hip-hop drum beats.”
In 1997, Akai faced the departure of their product pioneer, Roger Linn. The release of the upcoming MPC2000 would seemingly seal the fate of Akai. If they could not maintain their following and product quality, the end of Akai would be on the horizon.
But the MPC2000 overcame all uncertainties with its release, offering new features such as more audio outputs. a transferable screen and a hard drive. The MPC2000XL came next with an auto chop button and a sequencer with 996 PPW resolution.
The 2000s brought the release of the MPC2500 (famously used by Alchemist) in 2005. It featured a built-in CD drive and a tilted screen. In 2006, the MPC500 garnered fans due to its compact size, easy portability and affordability-- the first MPC available for under a grand. Four years later, Kanye West dropped his short film, Runaway, in one scene remixing the track “Power” on an MPC2000XL. The attention drawn to Akai by Kanye struck again after a 2013 performance of “Runaway” on an MPC. Following the show, a fan frenzy ensued and Akai’s sales increased, MPC prices completely skyrocketing. In more recent years, the MPC Live II Retro marks an era of ultra portability and features an old school aesthetic, nostalgic for the brand’s early days.
Today, the MPC lives up to its legendary past-- every model pushing forward and designed in tune with the ever-evolving needs of producers and musicians. And if the MPC is your production tool of choice, Analog Cases has the perfect case for you. Click here to check out our full lineup of UNISON Cases for the Akai MPCs.