A Hip Hop Love Story: Kevin Beacham and the SP-12(00) (1990-2013) PT 1

January 21, 2013 5 min read


Although previously on many occasions I used the terminology to describe myself, I wouldn’t really consider myself a producer. I was a MC who got tired of rhyming to peoples 12” instrumentals and wanted to make my own songs, so I became a Beat Maker. That started with a Roland TR-505 in ’86 to a Roland TR-808 in ’89, and the Alesis HR-16in ’90, all three used in conjunction with the Casio SK-5,a cheap, but useful and one-time popular sampling keyboard. Originally, it was all just to make beats for myself and group, but as the word spread around I started to be in demand to make beats for others…in the 80s owning a 808 was a guaranteed way to make nearly every Rapper in a 100 mile radius want to be your friend…ha. It was from that venture, of making beats for others, that the tag producer started to get associated with my name. I ran with it and wherever I set my equipment up became the official Rage Cage Studios for the time being*.

In 1990, my Tascam Porta Studio One 4-Track was on its last legs and it was time for an upgrade. I was also looking to improve the vocal quality of the home recordings, so I made a trip to Gand Music & Sound (Northfieled, IL), which was my primary spot to mostly look at, but sometimes buy musical equipment. The Salesman convinced me that the newly arrived Tascam 688 8-Track was the way to go and for my vocal effects I selected the Alesis Quadraverb.

While standing at the check out counter, waiting to get my credit approved, I noticed they were just putting out some Used equipment they had just brought from someone. One thing caught my eye. I didn’t really recognize it, it just had this certain look to it that was interesting. I walked over and read the words on its outer-casing….SP-12! I looked at the price tag…$495!!!! As I was reading those two pieces of information my mind was racing to all the memory links I had for this machine; Paul C, Ced Gee, and Marley Marl… I had to have this. I rushed back to the counter and asked about adding it to my order. They said I would need a bigger down payment, but I didn’t have any more cash with me. I tried to negotiate a deal, but they wouldn’t budge. I was digging thru my mental rolodex of where I could get the money needed. I had a few options, so I asked if they would hold my complete order and I would be back in an hour with more down payment money. They told me they wouldn’t hold any used equipment…again they wouldn’t budge. Frustrated, but still excited I jetted out the door, headed towards home, still without a plan. I know I owe someone props, but for the life of me I don’t remember whom. My parents are the likely source, but someone gave me that additional money and I raced back to Gand Music and Sound and got that SP-12 Turbo added to my order!

Over the next few years I was in front of that machine for a countless amount of hours. I didn’t have any real understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. No one I knew had one. I didn’t have anyone to learn from. I would jack my drums from open parts on Rap records and then dig thru my Soul, Funk, Jazz, Rock, Disco, and Kiddie Records to find things to layer on top. Personally, I think if I had the knowledge to dig for the drums that same way I could have been a reputable producer. I had great ideas and was creative in my approach a lot of the time, but I was jacking too many Hip Hop records. Another problem** is that I had hordes of MCs coming to me for beats, so I was just knocking out beats and sometimes full songs in an hour or two. I was so busy that I never had time to stock pile tracks. I was making beats right in front of the artists half the time and BAM, send them on their way with a new joint. This resulted in lots of satisfied customers in the Lake County, IL area; D.B.I., Chapter 2, Captain 2 Fresh, Lethal Weapon, Black Man Zeke, DJ Dread, D.O.P.E, S.P.O, Twice Born, Brain Leakage, Source Of Style, Crypto, Cueball, Lethal On Delivery, Detonator, Mental Blokc, Madfreaka,and many more!

Around ’94 my production slowed to an eventual stop. I was dealing with life struggles and not really sure how I felt about pursing a artist-based career anymore. Plus, as the story goes, by then I was working with Jel and he got a few tutorials from me before he purchased the reissued SP-1200 in ’93. After that day he disappeared for a while, calling me only once or twice with some quick questions and then two weeks later he was making beats as good as anyone I knew, better than most. From that point I stopped making beats and Jel was my producer.

At that point, my SP-12 just sat around mostly. I loaned it to a few people here and there and finally one of the loans saw it never make its way back to me. Even though I wasn’t actively using it, I still missed that damn machine. I dreamed of one day owning it again, preferably the 1200. I actually was upset that most of my equipment I owned had got away from me and I have had a goal of eventually repurchasing most all of that equipment again. Plus,  I always wanted to collect some of the more classic 80s Drum Machines (I particularly want a Oberheim DMX and Linn Drum). I thought that seemed OK since I don’t really buy things. Besides the true essentials in life, I generally only spend my money on restaurant eating, music, occasionally comic book stuff and the movie theater. I don’t have any other real vices that require spending and do most of all those listed things in moderation (except maybe the restaurant thing, that can be excessive....).

For some reason, the bug to own a SP-1200 hit me super strong about two weeks ago and I set out on a mission to get one and I am now a proud owner of one. Check in for Part Two tomorrow to found out how and more importantly from where/who and how it all relates back to my 90s production days on my own SP-12!!! #LifeIsALoop

Written By Kevin "I Own A SP-1200 Now" Beacham

-Editor's Notes:

HEADER PICTURE: I wasn't able to find many photos of my original SP-12. Unfortunately, I didn't do many photos or video of my home studios. This photo is circa '95 or so at my spot on Miraflores (Waukegan, IL). Note the Ultramagnetic MCs CD in the bottom left corner and that I was still rocking my Radio Shack Realistic Mixer from '85!

*RAGE was the umbrella company name for everything I did. There was Rage Promotions that indie promo for Record labels. Plus, Rage Studios for the music side of things and Rage Management/Artist Development for the groups that I worked with that I really believed in, to help them get to the next level.

**A third issue on a lot of these demos is that a lot time when I worked with an artist on a demo I would ask them what they wrote the rhyme to or what artist was their biggest inspiration. Then I would take that and loop it as a foundation and then build around it. They goal was just to make the MCs feel comfortable in that zone. The goal was always to go back and pull those parts out when we went to a "real studio", but that didn't happen most of the time...

Here's the receipt from my original SP-12 Purchase in 1990:

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