Micro-Chopping The Roland SP-303, 404, and 555
Ever since Madlib identified himself as a Boss/Roland SP-303 power user in the early 2000s and J Dilla created the bulk of his iconic Donuts albums using a 303 in 2006, the modest sampler and its later 404/404sx and 555 iterations have developed a serious cult following. Spawning dedicated Facebook groups, message boards, and innovative beat subcultures all over the world, the sampler has become one of the more fetishized pieces of gear around.
With unique filters and sound effects to help producers manipulate, mangle, and alter the hell out of samples, the SP line helps worthy beatsmiths achieve a beautiful and distinct lo-fi sound.
And although the 303, 404, and 555 are too limited for some, many producers find that they offer a refreshing change of pace in the world of endless plugins and difficult to navigate interfaces. “Music has always been a by ear thing for me,” producer Samiyam told Fader in 2016 interview while explaining his affinity for the SP-303 and 404. “I don’t want to look at pictures of waveforms or navigate complex menus.”
With the freedom to mess around with the SP’s unique layout, everyone from Animal Collective to Madlib and MF Doom have used the sampler to their advantage. 16 years since the 303 first hit the market, the SP scene is still thriving and more vibrant than ever.
In light of the recent passing of Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi, this playlist was created to bring together an hour of beautiful SP music from a wide range of artists, both well-known and undiscovered by the general public. Please leave a response if you think a crucial song or artist was omitted.
If you’d like to read more about how different producers utilize the 303 and 404, check out my extensive conversations with Dibia$e and Nick Tha 1da. If you’d like to check out another Micro-Chop producer playlist, click the link below.