Programmed and produced by Lukecage in the heart of LA, Ultra Magnetic Beats is AMG's latest hip-hop sample library, which claims to be "Stayin' true to the tradition of hip-hop." Jolly good — let's take a look.
Consisting of 78 construction kits, one per track in the audio version I was sent for review, Ultra Magnetic Beats keeps true to the tried and tested format of a four-bar burst of the full loop, followed by just the drums, bass and melodic elements. The tempos of all the kits fall in the hip-hop-friendly range of 78 to 120 bpm.
Fitting in with the continuing trend in US hip-hop, a great deal of the individual elements included here are synthetic in nature, although there's also a good scattering of 'live' instrumentation, principally bass and guitar, adding a welcome human feel and groove. I also liked the inclusion of vinyl crackle and unexpected elements like tabla, Latin percussion and double bass, which help to keep things varied and interesting.
As for the content and authenticity of the actual kits themselves, on the whole they're very good. The beats have the prerequisite boom and crack and keep a nice grimy edge, while the programming is slick, if a little too busy in places for my taste. Style-wise, the kits range from the upfront staccato synth stabs still popular with Dre/Eminem et al, to more laid-back, jazzy grooves and some raw, bass-heavy head-nodders. On the whole I preferred the more down-tempo kits that carried a darker vibe to the more upbeat loops, but both are equally well produced.
With any collection of over 70 kits, inevitably some don't come off (although this is admittedly down to personal taste as much as anything), but the ones that do hit the target have a real swaggering attitude to them that I found quite refreshing.
On the down side, I'm not too keen on the lack of a printed track listing or accompanying booklet (all the loop info can be found in a PDF on the data section of the CD), but this does seem to be the way things are going. Also, I'd like to have seen a few more elements added to some of the kits, and a better breakdown of the parts that are included to give more user-flexibility, in addition to individual drum hits for each beat and some (noticeably lacking) turntable scratching.
Niggles aside, Ultra Magnetic Beats is a good solid collection of beats and grooves that manages to stay inventive while avoiding many of the tired old hip-hop clichés.
Audio, Refill or REX format £60.
AMG +44 (0)1252 717333.