They've Got the Beat: Nashville's Beat Kangz Delivers Cutting-Edge Technology to the Electronic Music Industry
Donaldson, Sonya A., Black Enterprise
WHEN IT COMES TO INNOVATION and creativity, hip-hop has had its share of converts and critics. From sampling, to beatboxing, to using Auto-Tune, technology has been central to the genre's evolution.
"Hip-hop has been innovating technology from the beginning," says Reavis Mitchell, 40, a vice president of Beat Kangz Electronics LL C. (www.beatkangz,com), a music technology startup in Nashville, Tennessee, that develops hardware and software. But when Mitchell and co-founder Aja Emmanuel, 29, took a serious look at the industry, they discovered something was off-key or, rather, offbeat: the MPC.
The MPC, or music production center, a powerful type of drum machine, provides sample beats to create the rhythms of hip-hop; it's been the standard in the genre for the last 30 years, though, as Mitchell says, "the MPC was never meant for hip-hop--it was created for rock."
Emmanuel, president of Beat Kangz, says at the core there's a disconnect between the developers of the technology and the artists. "The music equipment industry is run by older white men. They just don't understand hip-hop and they don't know how to speak to the market."
To address this gap, the team has developed the Beat Thang Music Production System ($999), a portable music production machine, which will be released later this year. "Beat Thang supplies not just synthesized drum sounds, but a full range of synth and acoustic instruments to create with--keys, strings, guitars, bells, special effects, vocal effects, etc.," notes Mitchell. "The MPC needs an outlet, but BT can be charged and then run on batteries like a laptop." The company has also created Beat Thang Virtual for the Macintosh and PC ($149), a software solution that ships with more than 3,000 original sounds. …