51 Micro-Chop Articles Anyone Can Read Without a Paid Subscription

The making of Sade's "Smooth Operator," eight intense beat tape backstories, looking back at Bobby Womack's 'Understanding,' and 48 other gems for your reading pleasure.


I’m kicking off today’s newsletter with some exciting news.

I did my first interview with the Substack newsletter Music Journalism Insider, a great resource created by music journalism veteran Todd L. BurnsAmong many other cool things, Todd co-founded Stylus Magazine and played a key role at Red Bull Music Academy. If you want to learn a little bit more about who I am and where I come from, check out the interview.

Since the publication of my interview and a recent long-form article for Reverb, I’ve had an influx of people signing up for free Micro-Chop subscriptions. I’m really grateful to have so many people show an interest in my work.

If you’re just joining the party, I started this newsletter in July of 2019 after running Micro-Chop as a Medium publication for three years and change. I publish one article per week for free subscribers and three articles per week for people with paid subscriptions. I have yet to miss my mark of publishing three total articles each week.

I’ve written about: Missy Elliott drinking 10 Patron shots while writing "My Love Is Like...Wo," the use of royalty-free loops and stock sounds in popular songs, “Baby Got Back” making $100 million dollars, Sade’s demo recording of “Smooth Operator” winding up on ‘Diamond Life,’ DJ Screw raising appreciation for lyricism and rappers from all coasts, and much more.

With some new interest in Micro-Chop and a growing archive or work, it seemed like a good time to compile the 51 articles people can read without a paid subscription. I hope in browsing through the list below you find some good music and inspiring stories.

If you’re interested in getting a paid subscription after checking out some of the articles included here, I’m running a 60% off subscription sale for the next six days. That’s just $2/month or $17.33 for an entire year.

You can also buy me a $3 cup of coffee—both PayPal and Stripe are accepted.

Whether you’re a long-time reader or this is your first time here, I’m extremely grateful for your time and attention. Thanks for taking a moment to read my words and give them some support. It means a lot.

51 Micro-Chop Articles Anyone Can Read Without a Paid Subscription

1) About Micro-Chop

Dissecting beatmaking, DJing, music production, rapping, and sampling.

2) 1 Million Views And Counting

How obscure rap records are finding a second life on YouTube.

3) Prince Wrote “Manic Monday” for The Bangles

4) 6 Essential Instrumental Albums

A must-have collection of beats, from the well-known to ones you might have missed.

5) Grammy Award-Winning Producer Boi-1da Sampled Windshield Wipers

An examination of the "God's Plan" co-producer's origins, process, and unique sampling strategies.

6) From Madlib to Mannie Fresh: A Glance at iOS Apps in Music

A brief examination of how producers are using iPads and iPhones to create original sounds.

7) The Importance of Cassette Tapes as a Sample Source

How Evil Dee, Prince Paul, and Large Professor used cassette tape samples to make timeless music. 

8) Celebrating Ras G

Some recommendations and brief thoughts on the music of an icon.

9) Detroit MC and Producer Illingsworth is Consistent as Fuck

So let's give him more well-deserved props.

10) Exile Made an Entire Album Out of Radio Station Samples

An in-depth look at the Los Angeles producer's unique 2009 concept album.

Image result for sade promo photo

11) A Forgotten Aretha Franklin Single and the Making of “Ms. Fat Booty”

How Ayatollah used Marley Marl's former sampler and the Queen of Soul's voice to make a classic.

12) DJ Magic Mike Earned a Radio Gig at Age 13 With a Pause Mix Demo Tape

How a Prince song, a bedroom tape deck demo, and a mother’s encouragement launched the career of a bass music icon.

13) Moving Units Without a Major Label

How small market artists went gold and platinum in the 80s and 90s by believing in themselves and the independent route.

14) Sade's "Smooth Operator" is a Demo Recording

How a lack of vocal training, no MIDI, and a traditional piano blended with a Fender Rhodes spawned the biggest hit from 'Diamond Life.'

15) Royalty-Free Loops and Stock Sounds

A brief examination of stock sounds, presets, and royalty-free samples in TV themes and hit songs.

16) 8 Essential Instrumental Albums by Ohbliv

An immersive journey through the Mutant Academy member's extensive discography.

17) Two Weeks or Less

A look at projects that came together in record time for John Carpenter, (Liv).e, the Foo Fighters, and Black Sabbath.

18) "Baby Got Back" Made 100 Million Dollars

An in-depth examination of the inception, creation, and continued relevance of Sir Mix-A-Lot's 1992 ode to big butts.

19) The Making of T.I.’s “What You Know”

DJ Toomp's origin story and masterful sample spotting, Wonder Arillo's laptop replays of Robert Flack, and the meticulous creation of a classic.

20) 7 Bandcamp Beat Tapes for $5 or Less

A quick look at some essential instrumental albums that won't break your bank account.

21) “I Like Hitting Pads and Turning Knobs”: A Conversation with Linafornia

The versatile L.A. producer discusses bouncing back from a severe car accident, her impressive debut album, and new royalty-free Ableton compositions.

22) "Kiss From A Rose" Started as a 4-Track Portastudio Demo

How a 1987 DIY recording that Seal hated turned into the biggest song of his career.

23) The Long Road to "The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)"

How multiple chance meetings, sample clearance delays, and Mr. Lawnge's evolving production led to a Black Sheep classic.

24) Missy Elliott Drank 10 Patron Shots While Writing "My Love Is Like...Wo"

An overview of Missy's songwriting dominance and the track that reignited Mýa's career.

25) Beat Tape Backstories

Eight beatmakers and the challenges, loss, and upheaval they endured while creating some of their best work.

26) The Making of Fleetwood Mac's 'Tango In The Night'

How battles with addiction, strained relationships, and new recording technology led to an unforgettable album.

27) Instrumental Versions of Rap Albums

Five instrumental versions of non-instrumental albums worth listening to alongside the originals.

28) Psychedelic Suds and Transformative Love: The Making of Mndsgn's 'Body Wash'

How imagined alternate dimensions, 80s drum loops, and vintage synths led to a fascinating concept album.

29) Revisiting De La Soul’s ‘3 Feet High And Rising’ 30 Years Later

Unpacking the genesis, creative process, legacy, and complicated legal history behind one of rap music’s most important albums.

30) Count Bass D's Journey from 'Pre-Life Crisis' to "Jussa Playa"

The musical miracles, artistic evolution, and serendipitous experiences behind his early work.

31) Four Successful Beat Tapes That Weren't Initially Made for Public Consumption

An examination of projects by 14KT, Apollo Brown, Ras G, and Nameless.

32) DJ Screw Raised Appreciation for Lyricism and Rappers from All Coasts

A look at how the late Houston legend enhanced people’s reverence for MCing while introducing his listeners to deep album cuts and rappers from other regions.

33) Odd Frequencies: A Brief History of Sampling Radio Stations

How The Beatles, Public Enemy, Exile, and Swarvy used radio stations to their artistic advantage.

34) "I Make All the Everything": A Celebration of Jean Grae's Production

A look back at late-90s Pumpkinhead singles, self-produced debut album cuts, and the most powerful moment from 'Everything's Fine.'

35) Dibiase Discusses 303s, 404s, MPCs, and Tape Hiss—Part 1

The uncut, 6800-word version of an enduring Micro-Chop favorite in two parts.

36) Dibiase Discusses 303s, 404s, MPCs, and Tape Hiss—Part 2

The uncut, 6800-word version of an enduring Micro-Chop favorite in two parts.

37) You Should Consider Making A Christmas-Themed Beat Tape/Instrumental Album

Use the season as an excuse to make some holiday music people might actually enjoy.

38) The Making of 14KT’s Ambitious Jazz Album ‘For My Sanity’

The Ypsilanti native discusses making a song for his mother, using his voice as an instrument, and how the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling influenced his music.

39) The Collaboration, Philosophy, and Process Behind ‘Give Thanks’

Ohbliv explains the value of building bridges in your artistic community, rejecting traditional song structure, and the meaning behind his recent Fat Beats LP.

40) O.G. Style, Delinquent Habits, and The Importance of Documenting Beatmaking History

An argument for telling the stories of more production pioneers.

41) “Summoned By Aliens”: How the Beastie Boys, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, and Others Changed Rap Music with the Pause Tape

42) DJ Premier and the Importance of a DJ Mentality

How a Guru ultimatum, a desire for more creative control, and live scratching loops helped Preemo evolve as a producer.

43) J Dilla Disassembled His Cassette Deck to Extend Certain Samples

How one of rap music’s most storied producers used technological innovation to make incredible pause tape beats.

44) Mannie Fresh's DJ Roots

Looking back at the super producer's family influence, legendary live shows, and bounce music contributions.

45) The Equipment and Creative Process of Jean Grae, Q-Tip, Linafornia, and Easy Mo Bee

A look at the artistic evolution and gear of four notable producers.

46) “There Really Was a Science to That Shit”: A Look Back at ‘Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop’

Jazzy Jay's mentoring, label headaches, innovative production techniques, and the making of a classic.

47) The Sad Stories Behind Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore"

Marital strife, group turmoil, and the making of a timeless classic.

48) The Bomb Squad Used Sampled 808 Drums Instead of Basslines on ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’

Intricate sample stacking, gritty textures, and the production philosophy behind a masterwork of sound collage.

49) A Selection of Four Albums from the '70s and '80s That Are Worth Revisiting

Phil Spector protege production, tear-inducing vocal harmonizing, and other musical selections that you shouldn't live without.

50) Looking Back at Bobby Womack's 'Understanding'

Legendary recording studios, Beatles and Neil Diamond covers, a tribute to his late brother, and the making of a classic.

51) “I Would Sing into the Computer’s Mic”: The Making of ‘New Amerykah Part One’

Unwanted labels from critics, writer’s block, 2-track GarageBand demos, J Dilla tributes, and the four-year odyssey behind Erykah Badu’s fourth studio album.

Image result for new amerykah part one

Thanks for reading, see you on Wednesday!