This weekend, the New York Times took a look at the burgeoning practice of musicians using the MPC — a drum machine and sampler best known as that thing Kanye was playing during his VMA performance — as a live instrument. The basics: Each MPC has sixteen finger pads, with each pad holding one sound, and with each machine usually holding four sets of sounds. Acts who currently utilize the MPC in live settings include, but are not limited to, D.J. Shadow, Exile, Jel, RJD2, Divinci, Exile, Erykah Badu (J. Dilla taught her how to use it), and Jamie xx, the de facto drummer of The xx.
If you've seen The xx live, you may have wondered if the dude really bothers to re-create his production, or if he's got everything prerecorded. Turns out that, much like how Girl Talk is actually up there programming his loops, Jamie xx is up there bashing out the beats. Explains Jamie: "I’ve never really liked the sound of live drums in a live gig. It doesn’t really work. It’s the same sound through the whole set.” There's also Araabmuzik, a former drummer and now-ascendant hip-hop producer (Dipset's massive "Salute," for one) who, as YouTube attests, pretty much shreds on that damn thing. And while he may be the greatest MPC operator alive, he's a bit salty about Kanye's use of the machine.
A few weeks earlier [than the VMAs] he’d been in a studio with several of Mr. West’s associates, who filmed him as he played. “Kanye’s never in his life brought a machine out and done that,” he said. “Everyone knows he’s biting me.”
It's called inspiration, Araabmuzik.