VIDEO: Q-Tip shows Kanye West his “needle drop technique”

The technique Q-Tip does here is nothing new, especially for any of you who were raised on turntables and considered a record player your “most favorite toy”. It consists of Q-Tip holding the needle as a 45 rpm record plays and manually looping it without the use of digital samplers or computers. Kanye West is in the studio witnessing the event and he is obviously blown away by it. Should he be blown away? No, but Q-Tip is grinning as if to say “I’ve been doing this shit since I was 13!”

How is it done? It has to do with the simple science of the tempo of the recording and the 45 rpm record. When the band (artist and title of song is unknown) played the song, they simply played without thought about anything else. However, when it was pressed as a 45 rpm (for you young kids, that’s “revolutions per minute”), something unique is noticed. Every two bars, the label makes a full revolution. Every four bars, the label makes two revolutions. If you happen to hold the needle at the same spot without it naturally moving forward, you’ll go back to what happened two grooves before, and thus you create your own loop. Or you can casually move it five grooves forward or backward and create something else rhythmically. If this song is on an album pressed at 33 1/3 rpm, you would not be able to get the same effect because the amount of time of one complete revolution on an album would take is technically longer. Can it be done on a 12″, yes, as long as the music that’s playing fits the bars to revolution ratio, it has to be precise.

If you ever played a record that skips and/or has a scratch, it’s never rhythmic, meaning it will skip around and sound like a mess. But when a song fits perfectly, it sounds like it’s just a minor bump in the road, but you also end up something that can sound funky, or at least clever. Watch the video and you’ll notice a white spot on the turntable mat as he’s manipulating the 45. It hits the exact spot after every two bars. DJ’s often use tape on a label as cue’s to know where to cut, or for those who don’t use stickers, they look at the logo on the label. If someone sees a Capitol Records logo at the 9 o’clock position on a label, and that logo happens to reach the upper left hand corner of the turntable when the beat, bassline, or key sample begins, you’ll know exactly where to cue back for a precise cut. Holding a needle over a record is just a lo-fi analog way of looping. In the video, Q-Tip tells Kanye that perhaps they should make a track that sounds like that, complete with the “needle drops”.

So will a track using this song materialize? I’m not about to wait, I decided to take audio from this video and create my own rough edit/track. This is as good as the sound quality on the video, but if Q-Tip and Kanye were to release something right now, it may sound a bit like this (free MP3 download).