There can be no doubt that, as a genre of music, hip-hop has overcome its street‑based roots to become a major influence on popular culture, and it accounts for a fair chunk of mainstream radio airplay around the globe. Using this as a brief, Rotation Hip Hop promises to deliver 'hard hitting, chart‑ready construction kits and loops'.
You know the drill by now: there are 39 construction kits, labelled with key and tempo information and sorted into folders containing a demo mix plus all the element parts, with an additional folder of the drum hits used. Construction kit tempos range from 71 to 120 bpm and there's an extra bundle of 41 additional beat loops thrown in as well.
Style-wise, the majority of this collection adheres to the tried‑and‑tested Dre/Eminem/Fiddy/Little Wayne school of hip‑hop, which, although not exactly original, certainly hasn't done any of those artists any harm in terms of airplay. So, expect plenty of laid‑back bass lines, orchestral string stabs, short snappy synth/guitar melodies and those wandering G‑Funk lead lines. Some kits do stray from this path into smoother R&B/street soul territory, which is a welcome change that still fits into the title's radio‑friendly brief.
On the loops side of things, all the beats are nice and meaty with the required boom and bite. There's a good feel to the programming, with some tasty groove and swing that got my head nodding.
Alongside the more standard synth‑based sounds there is a very classy line in piano, Clav and organ loops that runs through this collection. I also really liked the scattering of guitar licks, both straight and chopped-up, which are spot on. Bass sounds are deep and subby, with spacious, uncluttered patterns that complement the rhythm programming rather than fighting against it. There's also the very welcome inclusion of a few (Auto‑Tune-free!) vocal shouts and phrases but, although these are excellent for adding authenticity, there just aren't enough. I'd really like to see more.
On the down side, a couple of the kits are below par or a bit too indulgent (there are a couple of poor '80s funk moments) and there are a few weak loops here and there, but nothing detrimental to the collection as a whole. There are also a few cases of bad editing, with some clicks and pops left on the tail of a chopped‑up sample.
For me, though, this collection's main strength is also its main weakness (if you get my drift); everything sounds fat, but also very familiar. There's nothing that is particularly cutting-edge here and the majority of the kits follow a quite narrow, well‑worn style template. Whether this is more down to the state of radio‑friendly hip-hop or the producer's influences is a moot point, but the result is an extremely well put together collection that, although a touch 'samey', nails the style of a few of the genre's big hitters. Oli Bell