The Roland SP Series

Here's how producers used the famed Roland samplers in the #SwinginFlipChallenge, #RunToFlipChallenge, #YouWereMineFlipChallenge, and #ChristmasFlipChallenge.

Producers from all over the world have cooked up an incredible number of high-quality beats since I announced the first Micro-Chop sample challenge in mid-November. I would guess a combined 400 to 500 beats were created over the course of the #SwinginFlipChallenge, #RunToFlipChallenge, #YouWereMineFlipChallenge, and #ChristmasFlipChallenge.

I want to continue to highlight different beats from all four challenges to honor the hard work of the producers who participated. One area I wanted to explore was the use of Roland’s SP sampler series. Throughout the four challenges artists used the SP-202, 303, 404, 555, and 606 in various setups with impressive results. I’ve selected some of my favorite SP creations for this article.

During the #SwinginFlipChallenge, Boston’s Lightfoot used his SP-404 and Teenage Engineering’s OP-1 sampler/sequencer/synth to flip Mint Condition’s early-90s hit on its head. With crunchy drums and extended vocal samples, he built a feel-good, upbeat track that contrasts perfectly with Westside Gunn’s “Over Gold” layered on top.

Taking a different approach, Pennsylvania producer Frilent used an insane series of reversals to capture the perfection of Mint Condition’s harmonies and put them in a blender. The end result has a mesmerizing, hypnotic feel.

Moving in a slightly different direction, Oakland-based beatsmith Dirac employed his SP-555 to cook up a mellow, soulful #SwinginFlipChallenge track. The vocals have a nice ethereal echo and Dirac used just enough stutters and effects to give the beat some added spice.

Mandeville, Québec’s Brkls used his SP-606 to capture the magic in Mint Condition’s vocals in his #SwinginFlipChallenge instrumental before dropping their voices out for an unexpected change of pace. With a slightly darker vibe, the second half of the song sounds excellent and provides some interesting contrast.

Moving on to the #RunToFlipChallenge, Naga, Philippines producer ビクター MKII used his SP-555 alongside his Maschine to create a soothing, vocal-heavy flip of The Jones Girls original. Making generous use of the 555’s various effects, the end result is a brief, powerful listen.

San Francisco-based producer q no rap name somehow managed to cook up an outstanding SP-404 track two hours after I posted the #YouWereMineFlipChallenge, taking the Manhattans’ original and building a more uptempo but equally somber and reflective instrumental. The filtered vocals that sit underneath the beat sound great and the sample chops and arrangement are flawless.

In Los Angeles, earoh also utilized his 404 to obscure the same sample source, pitching “Wish That You Were Mine” way down into some filtered, warbly madness that sounds incredible. The loop that serves as the bulk of the track works perfectly, catching the word “every day” as “ayyee” while giving the song a slurred, surreal quality

London-based beatmaker Aupheus sequenced his #YouWereMineFlipChallenge track in Logic and used MIDI to trigger the sample pads of the SP-202. The final product is a mournful bit of minimalist beauty that sounds unlike anything else produced during the challenge.

Sitting in isolation in his car with a face mask on, San Diego’s janu.solo captured some of the intense isolation many of us have felt during COVID while he performed his impressive #YouWereMineFlipChallenge song with his SP-404. The super filtered, haunting vocals hit just right and help make for a truly memorable listen.

Moving on to the most recent #ChristmasFlipChallanege, Virginia-based producer Nya7seeDz took a unique approach by combining Kurtis Blow and Donny Hathaway’s Christmas classics “Christmas Rappin’” and “This Christmas.” Using the effects and stutters on the 404, he perfectly slowed down and altered the vocals of the Hathaway original to create a trippy, stuttering beat.

And last but not least, Massachusetts-based DJ Manipulator used his 404 and Maschine to turn Paul McCartney’s happy Christmas classic “Wonderful Christmastime” into something much more ominous and somber. His #ChristmasFlipChallenge track proved that with the right approach and creativity, producers can completely change the energy of the original sample.

I hope you enjoyed these video highlights from the first four Micro-Chop sample challenges. If you’re feeling inspired, use the hashtags #SwinginFlipChallenge, #RunToFlipChallenge, #YouWereMineFlipChallenge, and #ChristmasFlipChallenge on Instagram and Twitter to take a deeper dive into each one.

Be on the lookout for more sample challenges in the future.

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