Challenge from a Rap and Hip-Hop Engineer

Robert Katz Leave a Comment

My comments are: reading your opinion on modern compression, specifically the ‘four cherry bombs and an m50’ pertaining to rap music, i instinctively felt this was.. wrong ๐Ÿ™‚ had to think about it, but here’s why: if you are in your car playing loud rap music and you want to scare the bejeezus out of some old lady at the light next to you, every second of your track has got to be an m50. otherwise, you miss it. and it would sound lame if you had to fast forward to that critical break.

I imagine with other genres the concept is similar. music is, like it or not, often used as a form of communication on this level. making every second have maximum impact is critical in a society where seconds can make or break.

Makes sense. The faster society moves, the shorter the time you have to make your impact. But I think there is still some room to breathe and applying more dynamic range, even if it’s microdynamics, may improve the sound, in both hip hop and rap. In my article on compression I also point out that overcompression may be suitable on the time-scale of a single, but very boring and undramatic for an album. So I recognize the duality of this affair.

Only time will tell (pun intended) whether a (slightly) increased dynamic approach will be appropriate for hip hop and rap. Whether it will sound more interesting, or, as you say, in contrary, take away its impact. I’m voting for the former because I think we’ve reached the limit of squashing and beyond, especially in R&B, rock, country, jazz, etc., and it’s time to back off—big time! But you’re right, hip hop and rap are (usually) trying for a very different effect than even the most “punchy” R&B (Bell Biv Devoe, Cherelle, Janet Jackson….).

But… the ebb and flow within the natural rhythm of the music, what I call “microdynamics”, within even 2 to 4 bars… can create more impact. Consider the musical phrase…

shooby dooo WOOOOP shoooby dooo WOOOOP

versus

SHOOOBY DOOOOO WOOOOPPP SHOOOOBYYY DOOOO WOOOOPPPPP

The first version is two cherry bombs and an M80 in short succession instead of all M80s… makes MEEEEE jump more. I don’t know about you.

(see how the emphasis in caps in the above sentence grabs your ATTENTION)

Why not send me one of your hip hop tracks for mastering with us and we’ll see which approach sounds better! I’m betting I can make you dance more with my mastered version. Fair enough?

Best wishes,

Bob Katz

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