A Hip Hop Love Story: Kevin Beacham and the SP-12(00) (1990-2013) PT 2

January 22, 2013 6 min read


Continuing on where we left off yesterday with my desire to own a SP-1200 on high personal demand alert...

It was something that had been on mind for a while, but it was always one of those “one day in the future I’m going to…” type things. It just so happens I had a little extra money "laying around" and not sure when that might happen again so with that in mind, I did an EBAY search and found several SP-1200 options, but only one in my price range. I waited to the last minute to bid on it. I tried to beat the clock, but in the end I lost. I decided maybe that was fate telling me I didn’t need it yet…

The next day I decided to go a cheaper route and buy a used Tascam Porta Studio One 4-Track. I have a bunch of 4-tracks tapes of songs I haven’t heard since approx ‘89/’90 because my machine broke back then and it happened before a lot of those songs were finished or mixed down. I was just getting ready to bid on one and then I started feeling sad about losing that SP-1200auction, so to mope I decided to search if any new ones came up in my price range. Lo and behold, one did and had a “BUY NOW” option I could afford. Much like I did in 1990, I threw on my coat and rushed out the door. I went home and grabbed two checks I had been holding, went direct to the bank and asked them to please make the cash available immediately, they complied. I hurried back to work and the SP-1200 was still there. I had a quick inner-debate to make sure I should spend that money here rather on what I was saving it for and then I just went for it. Approximately five minutes later I was finally the owner of an SP-1200, another life goal to check off the list.

When the seller contacted me to confirm the transaction he told me to email him if I had any questions. I imagine that is generally reserved for more practical item related questions, but the Hip Hop researcher in me had a different agenda. I messaged back asking if he would tell me what types of things he had made on the SP-1200. I was particularly interested because he noted in the description that he had owned it since the 80s. He responded that he did a bunch of Hip Hop stuff and named a couple artists, two of which caught my attention; the legendary Sha Rock (of Funky Four Plus One More fame) and, particularly in this case, Papa Chuk.

Papa Chuk was an artist out of Texas who came out in the early 90s. His debut 12”, “Funky Science” b/w “Texas Roughneck”, is an important development in my career in the rap business. In ’92 I randomly called Nastymix Records after seeing an Insane Poetry AD in the Source Magazine, because I was trying to get in touch with the group’s MC, Drew a.k.a Cyco, who I knew/rhymed with via a connection thru his His Majesti partner, Shakespeare, who I went to High School with**. When I asked Nastymix if I could help the record in any way they said I could do street promotions, which I didn't even know what that meant, but once they explained it then Rage Promotions was born that day. I saw it as a great opportunity to meet people in the business, as well as learn the business. Next step was looking on the back of record covers and in magazine ads to start calling every label who had an artist I respected. One such label is Pendulum (a division of Elektra Records). I remember I talked to Charles Dixon and he agreed to give me a trial run to see how I worked by helping with their new artist, Papa Chuk. He said he would Fed Ex me the record. At this time I had never heard of Fed Ex, so I had no idea what he was talking about, but I didn’t want to sound uninformed, so I just responded, “Uh…OK…sounds good….I’ll…uh…look out for it…” I remember getting off the phone and sitting there thinking what that meant and imagining how the music was going to show up. I was thinking of all sorts of futuristic stuff, something similar to email before I probably even heard of email…ha. The next morning when the doorbell rang extra early, I got out of bed all frazzled thinking, “Who the hell is this??!!” I went downstairs and there it was, “FED EX”. I was amazed! How did he get a packaged hand -delivered from New York to Waukegan in that short of time, I was officially mind blown…ha.

Back to the present time, I find it interesting that I brought a SP-1200 on Ebay from the guy who was responsible for producing the 12” that was a key step in my direction of understanding the business, which eventually resulted in my deciding I didn’t really want to be a part of it like I had originally thought, which included being a producer. Although, at that point, I was soon to leave the SP and beat-making in general alone, before that time I also jacked one of his beats and made a song for one of my artists...

D.O.P.E (Deadly Organized Poetry Experts: DMF, Ram, and DJ Dread) was a crew from North Chicago and are one of the last artists that I worked with before shutting down Rage Cage Studios and Artist Development. Once we went into a studio to record a DMF solo cut ("One To Think About") and a Posse Cut ("Wrong One To F**k With") that also featured myself and Ram rhyming. We ended up knocking out things pretty quickly, so it was looking like we were going to have some extra studio time left over. I rhymed first on the posse cut and while they were recording their verses I took the SP-12, my crate of records, and some headphones to the back of the room and whipped up another track in about 15-20 minutes for DMF to record. It was a track called “Skills”. There really wasn’t much to it*…lots of beat jacking, including Papa Chuk's "Texas Roughneck", with Ram + me on the back up vocals and hook, then we left the studio with three new cuts (unmixed) in a few hours.

D.O.P.E "SKILLS"[Super Ruff Mixdown] '92: 

The Papa Chuk 12" was produced by Doug Lazy (who was recognized in Chicago for his Hip House stuff) and Casanova a.k.a DJ Cass, which is who sold me the SP-1200 last week. Along with the SP-1200 he also sent me bunch of discs with it filled with beats and song modes. Haven’t heard them all, but there’s some dope stuff there. Artist names include Funky Natives, R.P. Cola, Sir G, and a Papa Chuk “Funky Science” Remix! I’m looking forward to soon doing an interview with Cassanova to get more of his story.

I haven’t had much time to mess around with that SP yet, but I did go thru a bunch of discs I had tried to start sorting them by SP-1200, MPC-60 and EPS. So far I’ve found 13 unreleased JEL beats (one is actually the last beat I produced, which JEL co-produced). There are another 7 JEL discs I have that didn’t load up for some reason, still figuring those out. Working on some means for people to hear this because there are some of JEL’s earliest beats and they are super dope!

What’s next for the SP and I? I don’t know where or how I relationship will develop. I do have two crates of records and extensive notes that I’ve been compiling for about 15 years that I thought would be great sample material to make beats, so who knows, perhaps I will start to test those theories out and see what I come up with. Worst case scenario it acts as a nice decorative piece to my home, sort of like a fine piece of art, and that it is…

Kevin "SP-1200 Owner" Beacham

-Editor's Notes a.k.a Additional Rap Rambling:

HEADER Photo: My current Drum Machine Collection+

*I'm putting it mildly there, Shakespeare (previously known as Doc Rock of Fresh City) was/is a Hip Hop God to me! I have a "Neighborhood Legends" story on him coming soon...

**For those not in the know, the primary difference in the SP-12 and the SP-1200 is that the 12 only has 5 seconds of sample time while the 1200 has 10 seconds. In both cases you are limited to a maximum of 2.5 seconds for any one sample. This of course a far cry from today when you can sample nearly unlimited amounts of sounds. The SP theory is that the limited time was successful in pushing the limits of creativity and this in true in many cases, particularly of the masters of the machine. However, in some cases it also maximized the laziness, as witnessed in this track above “Skills”, even though I wasn’t thinking of it like that. I was just in the studio and saw we had some time so I wanted to do something really quick. I suppose sometimes the act of recording a new song very quickly can give a sugar high to blind you from the lack of creativity.

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