The Indelible SP 1200 – An Annotated Bibliography


I’ve been an MPC beat-maker for the past ten years, but always had fantasies of owning this bad-boy. This wonderful machine is responsible for much of the sound we associate with the “Golden Age” of hip hop.  Some of my favorite early 90s songs and albums were crafted using the SP 1200.  I’ve been digging around the Internet looking to see what else has been written about the iconic sampler and I found some great articles and blog posts.  Here are four worth checking out if you are a music fan or gear head.  (Just click on each title to make your way over to the article/blog.)

1. The Dirty Heartbeat of the Golden Age

First of all, I love the title.  This article, which appeared in the Village Voice seven years ago, features a notable cast of characters who speak about the importance of the SP 1200 in hip hop lore. Hank Shocklee and Pete Rock’s use of the SP 1200 is widely heralded, but it is Lord Finesse’s contributions to the article that tugged at my heartstrings:

Lord Finesse – They had me as a special guest on Stretch and Bobbito, one of the popular radio shows of the ’90s. I thought it would be slick if I brought my 1200 down. A lot of producers did total beats with their 1200, and I think I did two or three, and one specifically was when I chopped up Marvin Gaye‘s “Let’s Get It On.” I chopped all around his voice using the 1200 and put an instrumental in the back. I played it over the air, and me and KRS-One freestyled over it. It was real slick.

Luckily, I recently unearthed the exact Stretch and Bobbito moment Lord Finesse is referring to above.

2. The Sampleface Museum

The Sampleface Museum consists of a series of articles exploring the various iconic samplers, synthesizers and drum machines that served as the backbone of hip hop music.  Sampleface provides a concise history of the SP 1200 and has links to some great YouTube videos featuring Grap Luva working the SP.  The overall site is a really great concept –Sampleface is a blog showcasing the best sample-based music around, underground and mainstream, old and new, as well as classic albums of all genres, news, reviews and everything in between.  

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.37.31 AM

3. Should the E-MU SP-1200 Make a Comeback? 

Hey, it’s a fair question!  This article breaks down why the SP 1200 is such a popular sampler and explores what a modern day version of the SP could look like. The YouTube link perfectly captures the functionality and feel of the machine.

www.illmuzik.com is another great resource and community for novice and veteran beat makers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 10.46.23 AM

4.  Wax Poetics 

Here are the videos to accompany Wax Poetics’ “Analog Out” section of issue number 41.  From Pete Rock to Ski Beatz and a few other gems… Enjoy!


The Arsonists (from the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Radio Show Vaults)

More beer coming soon! I’m trying to set up a BierWAX visit to Other Half Brewing Company to get some behind the scenes shots. I’m also sitting on some photos from my trip up to Ithaca Beer Company over the summer. More music, for now. I’m having too much fun rediscovering these cassette tapes which have been sitting in shoeboxes for too long. Enjoy!

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.51.58 AM

The Arsonists 

Driving up to Binghamton, New York with a random assortment of emcees was an experience I’ll never forget. My brother from another mother Reals TCK ran a radio show up at Binghamton University called Tae Kwon Flows, named after a line from the Arsonists’ first single “The Session.” I helped him coordinate a hip hop show in Binghamton. I don’t remember if it was hosted by his show or one of the many student groups on campus. I do remember that I was asked to pick up the Arsonists somewhere in Manhattan and drive them up to Binghamton, a 4-hour drive. On a broke student budget, we had enough funds to rent a wreck. I think that’s what the car-rental company was actually called. I pulled up to the designated curb in a beat-up extra long van. The 4-hour drive was a blur of disses back and forth, D-Story and Kinetic clowning each other, and other shenanigans from the group of talented emcees who were trying to establish a name for themselves in the burgeoning independent hip hop scene of the late 1990s. The performance was filled with plenty of charisma and energy, as captured in the first appearance of the Arsonists on the DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Radio Show on 89Tek9 below.

arsonists 2

After releasing their LP, As the World Burns, the Arsonists shrunk in size from eight members to eventually three. The group quietly released another album in 2001 and continued to tour. A third LP was in the works, but never saw the light of day. Q-Unique, D-Stroy, Freestyle, Jise, and Swel continue to raise aloft the Arsonists’ banner, while focusing on their individual projects.

Sometimes you never know where you might bump into a former Arsonists member.  Here we are with Kinetic at the NYC Craft Beer Festival, a BierWAX moment for sure.


From the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Vaults (Charlie Brown and Tragedy)

This 89tek9 freestyle was such an unlikely pairing, but it worked so well.  Let’s start with Charlie Brown…

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 11.10.13 AM

Charlie Brown and Busta Rhymes clearly were vying for leadership and charismatic sway during Leaders of the New School’s rather short lifespan. After they dropped their second album T.I.M.E., which was a notable disappointment, the group disbanded. Charlie Brown and Dinco D. basically fell out of the spotlight, while Busta Rhymes rose to legendary status, releasing several albums and making countless cameo appearances on albums left and right throughout the 1990s and beyond. If you ever wondered what happened to LONS from both C Brown and Busta’s perspectives, here are two great links from a few years ago:




When I first heard this freestyle, I thought it was Charlie Brown rapping with Nas. I was surprised to learn it was another Queensbridge native, Tragedy Khadafi. Further shock set in once I did my pre-Internet hip hop research (we’re talking mid-1990s) and realized: Intelligent Hoodlum = Tragedy Khadafi. His style changed considerably once he was resurrected as Tragedy Khadafi and appeared on tracks alongside Mobb Deep and C.N.N.  Tragedy released several albums from 1993 through 2011. He dropped his last album Thug Matrix 3 after serving nearly three years in jail for drug charges.


Introducing the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito BierWAX Series

I was recently invited to contribute to a project that Stretch and Bobbito are working on. It was amazing to spend the afternoon with two hip hop legends who had such a significant impact on my musical sensibilities beginning in the early 1990s. In preparation for this much anticipated meet-up, I dug out two shoeboxes from storage and dusted off numerous cassette tapes of Stretch and Bobbito shows that I have not heard in many years. Most of these tapes were live freestyles (both actual freestyles and “writtens”) from a wide range of artists who visited the show throughout the 1990s. I’ve started to finally digitize these tapes and I will periodically post them over here at BierWAX.com.


If you have no idea who DJ Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito are, here is a quick bio from their event at the New Museum last year:

Widely regarded as the best hip hop radio program of all time, the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show broadcast from Columbia University every Thursday night from 1990–1998. Co-hosts Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia operated one of the few independent, noncommercial forums for hip hop in the ’90s, a position that allowed them to explore the furthest creative, political, and controversial reaches of rap music. By featuring exclusive demo tapes and in-studio freestyles from unsigned artists, the show introduced countless MCs to the world, including Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., and the Wu-Tang Clan. Home-recorded tapes of the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show have circulated internationally for decades, celebrated as much for their humor and attitude as for their incredible selection and mixing. Today, contemporary websites offer exhaustive catalogues of these historic programs, reiterating their continued relevance.



I plan to post mainly freestyles, demos, and some rare tracks.  However, some of my most cherished moments of the show were the live calls and shenanigans between 4:00 and 5:00 am.  Here is a compilation of phone calls, Lord Sear beat boxing, and other early morning ridiculousness.