The music industry has come a long, long way over the last few decades. We are deep into the digital era, and there is currently an extensive range of tools, software, hardware and equipment that can help you in all areas of production, from starting out with an idea to making the finishing touches on your album.
Today, we’re going to zero in our attention on one of the most essential pieces of equipment in most musician’s inventories; the MIDI controller, which more often than not is an electronic keyboard. You can plug your keyboard into a computer to carry out all kinds of tasks and shape your music in previously impossible ways.
You can create rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and all kinds of musical effects, as well as being able to control any kind of instrument or sound; all with the push of a key. As a musician, producer, DJ or live performer, you need to make sure you’re prepared for your live performances, so it’s safe to say this is a priceless piece of kit to have by your side.
When it comes to the hip-hop genre, these are all elements you’re going to need, which is why a keyboard is an ideal tool you should invest in. However, before running out and buying the first one you see, why not take the time to buy the one that’s right for you?
Below, we’ve collected up four of the best keyboards that we could find, detailing what makes and breaks every one of them, and why they could be ideal for your future hip-hop ventures.
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII MIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller
To kickstart our list, we’ve chosen the Akai Professional MPK Mini. This awesome little MIDI controller is not only one of the most affordable keyboards on this list, but also one of the most popular, and feature-full that you’re going to find.
This keyboard is super-compact and highly portable, ensuring you can carry it around with you wherever you go, and you can even fit it into a backpack. It also takes up minimal room on your studio work desk!
It’s also compatible with both Mac and Windows computer systems and will work will the vast majority of your DAW platforms, or whichever one you’re using.
Once you’re ready to start producing, simply plug your keyboard into your computer using the standard USB connection, and you’ll be ready to start using the keyboard to control your sounds in your favorite DAW platform.
You can load up all kinds of sounds, samples, and virtual instruments, many of which can be downloaded for free on the Akai website. (Details included with your purchase). You’ll even find that this entire keyboard is powered by VIP.
VIP is Akai’s award-winning software that is second to none when it comes to giving you full control during your productions. From the moment you have an idea to the moment you’re finishing the final touches on your rhythm, Akai has the tools you need.
It even includes the MKII MIDI Editor, a leading virtual preset management system which allows you to add effects, FXs and sound-shaping features to ensure your sounds sound exactly how you want them too, as well as making sure your keyboard interacts with your computer properly.
The final feature that makes this keyboard ideal for hip-hop productions is the 8 velocity-sensitive drum pads on the left-hand side. These pads are perfect for creating your hip hop drum beats and come with eight controllable knobs to shape your sounds and is capable of holding two drum pad sample packs.
- 8 velocity-sensitive drum pad controllers
- Comes with Akai’s award-winning VIP music production software
- Highly compact and portable design
- Powered by a standard USB connection
- Installing the drivers online can be confusing for first-time users (poor website experience)
- A cheap ‘plastic-y’ feel to the build
Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller
Another hugely popular MIDI keyboard, just like the Akai Pro Advance 49, comes with a built-in drum pad to help you produce your new hip-hop beats and rhythms is the Alesis V49. This full-sized keyboard has been designed to produce a minimal yet feature-rich experience, providing you with everything you need to become a success.
The standard full-sized keyboard comes with 49 full-size keys which are squared at the front for an authentic keyboard experience. As the title suggests, the left-hand side also boasts 8 LED backlit, velocity and pressure-sensitive drum pads.
This means instead of clicking your drum beats and sequences into your preferred DAW application; you can perform them much more naturally into the keyboard itself. Above this area, you’ll also find 4 assignable knob controls for your own custom settings, and a classic pitch & mod wheel.
There are also four assignable buttons, once again allowing you to load up your favorite settings and most used feature, so they are only a tap away at all times. With the included V49 Editor, you can easily set what these buttons do, and control the way that your MIDI controller reacts and interacts with your computer, ensuring you can work the best way to suit you.
This keyboard is powered by a standard USB connection and even comes with a sustain-pedal input, giving you more opportunities than ever before to shape your sounds.
Each purchase also comes bundled with Ableton Live Lite 9 and the coveted Xpand!2 software, ensuring that you have everything you need to enjoy a full production experience.
- 49-full-sized, square-ended keyboard keys
- 8 LED-backlit, velocity/pressure sensitive drum pads
- 4 assignable buttons and knobs for your own control settings
- Powered and connectable via a standard USB cable
- Velocity drum pads aren’t as sensitive as some musicians would like (is adjustable)
Yamaha MOXF8 Music Production Workstation
Yamaha is a leader in the music industry and has been pioneering its direction for decades, and this MOXF8 workstation is a prime example of just how powerful their creations have become.
While this is the most expensive keyboard on this list, it’s also one of the most feature-rich, and you can be sure that you’ll never need to purchase another keyboard again. This keyboard is perfect for hip-hop since it’s the 88-key version, which means you’ll get such a broad spectrum of sounds or samples to control.
This keyboard is also capable of handling Motif XF sound quality, the term used to describe Yamaha’s patented sound technology that you’ll discover within the keyboard. You even have the ability to store samples on your keyboard and extend the available flash memory using your standard memory drives.
Of course, this feature is only helpful because this keyboard is easily one of the most portable Yamaha keyboards, meaning you can take it with you wherever you go to perform and captivate your audiences around the world.
What’s more, this legendary keyboard comes with a coveted performance mode, seamless integration with Cubase AI 7, compatibility with a range of leading DAW software, and an easy to use control interface, ensuring you have the best MIDI experience during your hip hop styled productions.
- Integrated Cubase AI 7 and other DAW software
- Built-in Motif XF sound quality which is outstanding
- Highly portable and incredibly durable build
- 88-keys for the best opportunities to create music your way
- The premium, high-end price tag
- Does not include a travel or storage bag
Midiplus AKM320 midiplus MIDI Keyboard Controller
To finish off this list of MIDI keyboard controllers for your hip-hop productions, we’ve chosen the Midiplus AKM320. This is another wildly popular MIDI controller that’s been designed to be more suitable for budget-conscious musicians who want all the features, but without having to spend more than they can afford.
This is a mid-sized keyboard that comes with 32-notes, each one of which is velocity sensitive, so you have more control over the depth of the sounds that you’re creating. This is then accompanied by a pitch wheel, octave buttons (up & down variations) and even transpose buttons for top control.
While this keyboard doesn’t come with its own sustain pedal, there is the ability to plug one into the dedicated input port, which can then be controlled by the integrated Sustain Switch Interface.
The Midiplus is controlled and powered via a standard USB B connection and is compatible with all your favorite DAW software platforms.
- Mid-sized 32-note keyboard for portable design yet powerful features
- A wealth of sound control options, buttons, and dials
- Operates on a standard USB B connection
- Sustain pedal input with sustain switch interface
- May require adjustments when using it (such as bringing octave register down)
- Doesn’t work with some DAWs, such as Studio Tools
As you can see, when it comes to creating your hip-hop productions, there are plenty of MIDI keyboard controllers out there that can help you to create an awesome production and have full control over the sounds you’re producing.
Any of the four keyboard controllers we’ve listed above will make the ideal choice when it comes to a MIDI controller for you, just consider the budget you’re willing to spend and the features you personally want access to!