With so many choices in terms of plugins and sample banks, you’ll soon feel lost in your search for sounds. To save you time, we’ll take a look at a list of sample banks, loops and effects plugins that will allow you to quickly start composing and working on your Rap and Hip-Hop tracks.
Kontakt from Native Instruments, Omnisphere and Keyscape from Spectrasonics, Addictive Drums 2 from XLN Audio and Serum from Xfer Records are some of the instrument plugins among which you will find sample banks to compose Rap and Hip-Hop music. Waves, iZotope and DADALIFE offer effects plugins that will allow you to modify and mix the vocals of your tracks easily.
Well, now that we know the editors we’re interested in, let’s take a look at these sample banks and effects plugins. But before that, let’s just take a quick look back in time…
From Herbie Handcock to Kanye West to Grandmaster Flash, Rap or Hip-Hop producers have followed and participated in the adoption of new technologies in music production. Whether it’s DJ decks that allow you to scratch, drum machines that allow you to play loops and effects plugins like Auto-Tune or Vocoder, Rap music producers have never lacked imagination to innovate.
Some musical trends were born from the evolution of Hip-Hop in the 90’s, like Trap-Music, Cloud-Rap, Chill-Hop or Lo-fi. We will see that many of these technological advances have become commonplace in the modern music industry and are now accessible to all through plugins and sample banks.
Which instrument plugins should I use to produce Rap music?
First of all, it is important to differentiate between the different types of plugins. There are instrument plugins that allow you to play a virtual instrument such as a synth or guitar for example, and effect plugins, which allow you to modify the sound of your instruments and audio tracks.
Let’s start with a must-have :
“Kontakt” from Native Instruments
Kontakt (from Native Instruments) is like the grandfather 👴🏻, it is one of the plugins using samples and it is still a must-have. It has an impressive and very eclectic library of third party editor compatible sample banks.
Although some sample banks have aged badly (in terms of quality) or are no longer compatible with the latest versions of Kontakt, it is quite difficult not to find what you are looking for, because there is absolutely everything… So much so that it is even possible to find samples of fart noises 💨 !
Joking aside, Kontakt has become an almost indispensable tool for music production, so phenomenal is the sample selection.
A good part of the orchestras that you hear in modern TV series or movies come from sample banks (except for some big Hollywood productions). The reason is very simple, they save production studios a lot of money, avoiding the need to hire professional classical musicians (violinist, harpist, pianist, etc.), sound engineers and to rent a recording studio for a full orchestra.
In the case of Rap music production, even if it is not predominant, Kontakt remains a tool with which you can explore new sounds and be creative.
Important: To use the instruments listed below, you will need either the full version of Kontakt (Paid version) compatible with all banks, or the free version (named Kontakt Player) compatible with some sample banks. If you don't have Kontakt (the full version) and want to buy a third-party sample bank (not produced by Native Instruments), make sure it is compatible with Kontakt Player before buying it, otherwise you won't be able to use it!
Well, now that things are a bit clearer, let’s take a look at the best drum sample banks for Kontakt to make Rap:
Rap Drums for Kontakt
Whether you like classic drum machines like the 808, 909, Linn or the sound of 90’s drum loops or any other drums for Rap, you will certainly find something to your liking in the following list:
“Boom Bap Drummer” by StudioLinked (My favorite 😍)
Let’s start with “Boom Bap Drummer“, a pretty comprehensive retro drum library if you’re looking for a 90’s Hip-Hop sound. It incorporates high and low pass filters and some effects.
A very good choice for the nostalgic of the Hip-Hop years!
The downside is that you will need a full version of Kontakt to load the library (not compatible with Kontakt Player).
If you are interested in “Boom Bap Drummer”, you can download it at this address :
“Drum Mafia” by Modern Producers
Oriented for Trap, Hip-Hop and R&B, “Drum Mafia” is a library of drum samples with many 808, 909 drum machine presets, but also heavy and deep bass!
Requires the full version of Kontakt 5 or higher, not compatible with Kontakt Player 🙁
“Drum Mafia” can be downloaded at this address:
“Old Tape Drums” by Wavesfactory
If you like drum loops in the style of “Amen Break”, “Old Tape Drums” should appeal to you. It features retro drum samples (Ludwig type), with a customizable tape sound simulator (noise, speed, color, etc).
Ah, one important thing to know… It’s free! you just have to fill in the form on the following page with your email address (a real one to receive the download link) and your name and surname, and check the box at the end of the form. You will receive promotional emails from Wavesfactory but you can unsubscribe later if you wish.
You will need the full version of Kontakt to use it.
Download “Old Tape Drums” for free at this address :
If you wish, Wavesfactory offers other free sample banks at this address:
Unusual info ℹ : The Amen Break is a drum loop of about 5 seconds, sampled from a recording of the track "Amen, Brother"by the band "The Winstons" released in the late 60's. You can listen to the track HERE (the drum solo is at 01:26). This loop has been used by thousands of producers and musicians throughout time, without the band ever receiving any compensation (or even recognition). It has been so transformed, slowed down, sped up, cut up, altered, that it has become a classic in Hip-Hop, but also in electronic music, be it Jungle or even Techno. You can for example have already heard it in : -"Straight Outta Compton" from"N.W.A." -"Frisky" from"Tinie Tempah" -"Rockafeller Skank" from"Fatboy Slim - "Poison" from"Prodigy It's almost impossible that you haven't heard it before in a song!
“Amen Drums” by GumRoad
If you’re a fan of the “Amen Break” and want to use it, but don’t want to use a loop or make a drum kit yourself by cutting up the sample, “Amen Drums” offers a ready-made solution! It will already be mapped to the MIDI GM standard so you can use it via your piano or other MIDI instrument.
You will also need a full version of Kontakt 5 or higher to use this sample bank 😕 (Not compatible with Kontakt Player).
“Amen Drum” can be downloaded at this address:
Loops for Kontakt
“Vinyl Classics” from StudioLinked
If you like, for example, old Kanye West tracks, and are looking for the same sounds of old school vinyl, StudioLinked offers this sample bank with groups of loops taken from the same recordings, in order to keep the sound consistent.
You can change the pitch of the samples (but not their range) but also a Reverb, EQ, Delay and Lo-Fi effect in the effects control panel. It is also possible to trigger temporary effects from the KFX effects panel, offering effects like Dirt (saturation), Cabinet (amp simulation) or Panner (left/right panning).
This sample bank fits perfectly with the other sample bank of the same editor, StudioLinked, previously mentioned “Boom Bap Drums“.
Only compatible with the full version of Kontakt
You can download“Vinyl Classics” from their website at this address
Rap Bass for Kontakt
You like fat and nasty bass? Me too 😋 ! Let’s see what you can use for Kontakt:
“BASSGEN – 808 Bass Module” by Antonov Samples
This sample bank uses both the 808 drum machine Kick and synthesizer bass sounds.
Some of these presets will play the Kick and the Bass simultaneously, and are already mixed to avoid disturbing each other.
However, you will need a version of Kontakt 5 or higher, and will not be compatible with Kontakt Player 😕.
Here is a demonstration of different presets available in “BASSGEN” :
“BASSGEN” can be downloaded at this address :
“Substance” of Output
“Substance is a versatile tool for creating bass synth sounds, it allows you to mix three different types of sounds for a single sound ( clean, medium and sub-bass).
It has many parameters including the 4 main preset parameters via the volumes on the sides.
It will be possible to add additional extension banks to have even more samples and presets (Dystopian Bass, Base Bass, or Booty Bass).
“Substance” is compatible with the Kontakt versionsand the free Kontakt Player!
You can get “Substance” at the following address:
Keyboard and Rap Pad for Kontakt
“Cloud Supply from Native Instruments
If you’re a fan of Cloud Rap, there’s a bank of instruments produced by Native Instruments that should delight you. “Cloudy Supply ” includes atmospheric pads, bell sounds, synth leads and other sounds inspired by Cloud Rap style tracks.
It includes classic filters (high-pass, low-pass, cut-off, reverb, delay, etc) and a sequence editor.
“Cloud Supply” is compatible with Kontakt and the free version, Kontakt Player.
To download “Cloud Supply“, go to the Native Intruments website:
“Lo-Fi Glow by Native Instruments
Another 90’s sample bank for Kontakt with “Lo-Fi Glow” from Native Instruments, with more than 150 presets of synths, basses, keyboards, guitars and organs.
You can use a series of built-in effects to enrich the sound. Many settings can be used to customize the basic presets and create your own sound. You will also be able to change the order of the effects chain, which makes sense, but is not always available in all plugins 🤷🏻♂️.
“Lo-Fi Glow is compatible with Kontakt and Kontakt Player.
This sample bank is available on the Native Instruments website at this address :
Kontakt / Kontakt PLAYER
As mentioned before, there are two versions of Kontakt that allow you to use the sample banks. You can find both versions on the Native Instruments website at the following addresses
Kontakt (Paid version) :
Kontakt PLAYER (Free version) :
Spectrasonics (one of Native Instrument‘s direct competitors) is not to be outdone with Omnisphere and Keyscape. Omnisphere is a hybrid between a synthesizer and a sample player in the same way as Kontakt.
Keyscape is another sample bank that uses the same internal engine and graphical interface as Omnisphere and can be used without the need to purchase Omnisphere. You can use Keyscape instruments directly in Omnisphere if Omnisphere is installed.
There are a number of third-party banks (from other vendors) that are compatible with Omnisphere, although the choice is not nearly as great as with Kontakt. The instruments in theOmnisphere library are among the most advanced, both in terms of quality and sound settings.
Its broad compatibility with hardware synths will delight synth geeks, allowing them to control parameters and call up presets directly from their control devices (a la Native Instruments controllers). You’ll be able to set up your Omnisphere instruments directly from your keyboard without touching your mouse or computer keyboard, which is pretty handy on stage.
It includes a number of basic effects (Reverb, Delay, Compression, Convolution Reverb, etc.) as well as more specific effects such as distortion pedal simulations, Wah-Wah, among others, but also an arpeggiator.
“Omnisphere” is available for $499 – €399 on the Spectrasonics website :
For Rhodes, Clavinet, Wurli or Electric Piano keyboard lovers, but also retro synths like the DX7 or MKS-20 and other retro keyboards (sometimes unusual), “Keyscape” is certainly part of the must-have sample banks. Of course pianos are not forgotten with a Yamaha C7 Grand Piano, but also an upright piano and a piano bar a little out of tune (like in the old Western 🤠).
To know the list of instruments sampled in “Keyscape“, visit this page :
Keyscape is a definite investment, but a great value for anyone who wants to have quality instruments with the most natural sound possible.
If you want to know what it sounds like, listen to this little demo of “Keyscape” by DOMi and Louis Colle:
Download “Keyscape ” from the Spectrasonics website at this address for $399 – €349:
Addictive Drums 2 by XLN Audio
With a wide range of sounds, types of drums and genres, Addictive Drums 2 has won over many production studios around the world. It has a large collection of presets with a pre-mixed sound, but you have full control over the drum mix parameters and can make your own presets.
You have the ability to mix your drums entirely within the plugin with a virtual mixer including compressors, equalizers, effects and other parameters.
You can also output all the tracks of each instrument separately (Bass drum, Snare drum, Cymbal, etc) in tracks of your sequencer in order to use your own effects plugins to mix the drums to your liking.
Addictive Drums 2 includes MIDI loops sorted by genre that you can drag from the plugin window to a MIDI track in your sequencer to create your song in minutes. Who needs a drummer? 🥁
The basic version ofAddictive Drums 2 includes several standard drum kits, but you can add more with additional (and paid) ADPACKs. Addictive Drums 2 uses samples from several major brands of drum instruments such as Zildjian or Ludwig.
Listen to the demo of the “Soul and R&B” add-on bank:
Addictive Drums 2 and the ADPACKs are available for download on the XNL Audio website at these addresses
Addictive Drums 2:
Additional ADPACKs :
Now let’s have a look at other editors, maybe a little less known, but producing instruments just as good, if not better.
ESX24 (included in “Logic PRO X”)
“EXS24” has been able to establish itself slowly and simply for one simple reason, that is because it comes standard with Logic PRO X which is one of the most widespread sequencers.
Of course, it is not the most popular tool for producers. But it is not useless and it is even possible to find small banks of samples that are excellent! There are indeed sample packs proposed by independent creators and musicians.
Even if EXS24 is getting old and the big editors are not rushing to publish new compatible sample banks, a community of musicians has been able to participate to keep this instrument relevant by proposing their own sample banks.
Let’s have a look at what you can find interesting on the Samplephonics website for EXS24:
- Cybernetic Hip-Hop (240 loops and 150 unique samples)
- Vintage Soul (251 loops and 150 unique samples)
- Meta Beats (155 loops and 150 unique samples)
- Live Jungle Break (270 loops and 285 unique samples)
- Cosmic Hip-Hop (244 loops and 180 unique samples)
- Trap Bundle (1056 loops and 924 unique samples)
However, one problem is that you’ll need not only to be on a Mac, but also to use Logic PRO X since it’s only available on this sequencer. So this list will only concern Apple computer fans!
Download“Logic PRO X” on the Mac AppStore or by clicking on this link :
“Serum” by Xfer Records
Although it is made to make electronic music, “Serum” can be useful in a musical universe other than Techno or House, even excel if you give it the means. In fact, just like EXS24 or other instrument plugins, the editors have released many banks of presets for Serum, including presets for Rap or Trap.
Before exploring additional preset banks from third party editors, let’s listen to the basic presets of the plugin:
Here are some suggested preset banks for “Serum”:
- Cloud Rap Serum Presets (64 Presets)
- Fresh Trap For Serum (64 Presets)
- Trap ForSerum (150 Presets)
- Trap Serum Presets (64 Presets)
- LoFi Hip-Hop – Serum Presets (64 Presets)
Download “Serum ” on the XFER Records website at this address :
Unusual info ℹ: In 2016, Deadmau5 reviled Kanye West after catching him being hacked a version of Serum on 𝕻𝖎𝖗𝖆𝖙𝖊𝕭𝖆𝖞 🏴☠️ in a screenshot from Ye (Kanye). As a reminder, Kanye West was already a multi-millionaire and could afford Xfer Records (a label started by Deadmau5) if he wanted to... See Deadmau5's Tweet HERE.
“Scratch Machine” by UVI
For those who would have liked to make Scratch, but have neither the time nor the equipment to do so, UVI offers here a sample bank with pre-recorded and ready to use Scratch effects.
You will still have access to some parameters like speed, an equalizer and effects like a Phaser or a Reverb and a Delay.
Listen to the examples below:
Download “Scratch Machine” from the UVI website at this address:
What effects plugins should I use to produce Rap music?
Most rap producers will agree that it’s important to have a heavy, punchy sound, and this is even more true today with very (sometimes too) compressed tracks.
The most famous, but also among the best producers of effects plugins, Waves does not leave indifferent as for the quality of their effects and their inventiveness. Since 1992, they have produced a lot of audio plugins for sound and film professionals. So much so that it is now quite easy to get lost, as their catalog is so large!
So here we will see the most used and useful Waves plugins for Rap production.
If like me, you like things simple, fast and efficient, Waves offers us here a series of plugins with just a potentiometer… and that’s it!
The OneKnob (for “1 button”) series is declined in eight different plugins for a specific use:
- OneKnob Brighter (to brighten mixes or instruments without distorting them)
- OneKnob Driver (to add some saturation)
- OneKnob Filter (to make a high cut effect)
- OneKnob Louder (to compress a track, give it more volume)
- OneKnob Phatter (to enrich the bass and low frequencies)
- OneKnob Pressure (to add a sound pressure effect)
- OneKnob Pumper (to give a pump effect, often used in Techno)
- OneKnob Wetter (to add reverb)
Some effects have an additional setting to control the effect, like the “OneKnob Pumpeer“, “OneKnob Filter“ or “OneKnob Pressure“ for example.
Note that it can be interesting to take Bundles to save on the price of plugins, especially if you take those of the same series like the OneKnob.
The OneKnob plugins from Waves can be downloaded at this address for the complete bundle or as individual plugins (at the end of the page):
“OVOX Vocal ReSynthesis” by Waves
Want to sound like a robot? OVOX Vocal ReSynthesis will give you the ability to transform your voice to make your mixes more creative and original.
Download “OVOX Vocal ReSynthesis” from the Waves website at this address:
“Auto-Tune PRO X” by Antares
TheAuto-Tune is a pitch correction device that corrects the notes of a singer or instrument (monophonic) live or in post-production.
The interest of this effect is to prevent artists from singing out of tune during live events (Concert, TV, etc.) and which can be caused by a technical problem or a bad feedback of the voice (not allowing them to hear themselves correctly).
It is not noticeable to most people if it is properly configured. And of course, in order to save time, many producers have used it in the studio to correct the sound recording. And that’s what caused a lot of controversy, because some world-acclaimed singers turned out to be poor singers 🤮 without Auto-Tune.
ButAuto-Tune (which some people confuse with a Vocoder) can be overdone and used as a vocal effect. To do this, you just need to correct the notes in the plugin, but mostly by reducing the transition time between notes to the minimum, making any singer or rapper sound like a robot 🤖.
Unusual info ℹ : From rapper T-Pain to singer Cher, there's only one Auto-Tune! These two artists have in common to have usedAuto-Tune, not as a simple note corrector, but as a voice effect. But contrary to what you might think, it's not the rapper T-Pain who has familiarized the use ofAuto-Tune as an effect, but the singer Cher, as she explains in an interview. In her song "Believe" released in 1998, people were surprised by the sound of her voice and this contributed to the success of the song and the popularization ofAuto-Tune. Since then, many artists (especially rappers) have used this effect to sing a chorus... until the overdose. More and more people consider today the effect as old-fashioned and outdated.
To download Auto-Tune, click on the link below:
“Vocal Bender” by Waves
If you want to make your voice deeper or higher, you will need to use a transpose effect. Although there are many of these effects (including those included in sequencers), their rendering is not always authentic and only changes the pitch.
“Vocal Bender” will allow you to change the pitch, but also the “formant” of your voice and make you sound like a monster 👺 or a squirrel 🐿.
Downloadable at this address:
“Nectar Elements” from iZotope
If you record your voice or that of a rapper, you have certainly already spent some time equalizing and compressing your voice and not necessarily being satisfied with the result. Nectar Elements offers you to take charge of mixing your voices.
It is a plugin specially designed to mix voices in a simple and intuitive way, without advanced knowledge in mixing. You will have a wizard that will suggest settings and will take care of compressing, equalizing, reducing sibilants, adding reverb and even correcting pitches if necessary.
An affordable and fast solution to mix your voices without being a sound engineer.
“Nectar Elements” is available for download from theiZotope website at this address:
“Sausage Fattener” by DADALIFE
For the most pissed off of you 🤬, here is a fat and very brutal compression (or destruction?), used a lot in Techno or DubStep music for bass, vocals or groups of tracks.
Importantly, it will (intentionally) add saturation to your sound that you can control! Sausage Fattener has a minimal interface, but it’s deadly effective if you want to create a monster sound 🤯 !
It has a “Fatness” ratio knob that will control the compression (and other hidden parameters) and another knob to change the color, which will change the balance between the highs and lows when compressing.
As with the Waves“OneKnob” series of plugins, the interface is kept to a minimum and the settings for compression ratio, threshold and other parameters are dynamically and automatically managed via the buttons. Ideal if you’re not the kind of person who likes to mess around when mixing.
Of course, you will be extremely limited by the lack of available parameters, but it is still very effective when used in conjunction with other plugins. 10 years after its release, Sausage Fattener remains a classic.
You can download “Sausage Fattener” at this address on the DADALIFE website:
We have seen that there are many plugins and sample banks to make Rap or Hip-Hop music. Some of them are specially designed to find the Rap sound of the 90’s or others for a much more modern sound.
Obviously, when it comes to Scratch or Rap samples, nothing will replace a real professional with real equipment and real skills, but if you are just looking to add some texture to your tracks, this will be quite sufficient.
The many third-party presets for the instruments mentioned above will be more than enough to produce just about any style of rap. Now it’s up to you to explore the musical possibilities and be original in your search for sound and beat.