Best VST Plugins For Hip Hop – 2020 Picks

Almost 40 years ago, hip-hop artists had decided to do something completely different. The choices they took had changed the entire songwriting workflow, a complete music production approach, and affected the music hardware industry. Let’s see why hip hop producers should be considered as the pioneers of the modern project studios.

Our Top Picks For Hip Hop VST Plugins

  • 22 HQ mastering modules
  • Chain up to 16 modules
  • Handy Master Match feature
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  • Hybrid drum workstation
  • 16-channel mixer with FX
  • Sample import and editing
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  • 109 loops & 126 one shots
  • 27 sets, 14 Maschine kits
  • Chillout, urban, downtempo
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Comparison Chart of the Best VST Plugins For Hip Hop

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 22 high-quality mastering modules
  • Chain up to 16 processor in series or parallel
  • Handy Master Match feature
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  • Hybrid model-based drum workstation
  • 16-channel mixer with 2 insert and 2 send effects
  • Support sample import and editing
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  • 109 loops and 126 one shot samples
  • 27 patches for samplers and 14 NI Maschine kits
  • Perfect for chillout, urban, trip hop, downtempo
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  • Powerful and effective hip hop beat creator
  • 12-tracks sequencer with up to 64 steps
  • Dedicated 808 panel with 32 sounds
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  • Virtual analog and wavetable synthesizer
  • Over 900 factory presets
  • Arpeggiator and double stepper modules
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  • Extremely creative vocal editing tool
  • 6 modules and 7 stompbox effects
  • Natural and Hard Tune pitch correction
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  • All-around old school hip hop sample pack
  • Hundreds of one shot and loop samples
  • 22 rap vocals with explicit lyrics
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  • 300 sounds from 808, retro synths and real bass
  • Samples processed with a vintage Tube Equaliser
  • Ultra-low CPU usage and fast patch loading
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  • More than 120 styles and over 1,300 patterns in total
  • Patterns organized per song structure
  • Covers both modern and old-school hip hop genres
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  • 256 samples recorded at 24-bit
  • 16 production kits and 15 Massive presets
  • Nice solution for downtempo and RnB, too
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History of Hip Hop Music Production

Hip-hop derives from the 1970s but it got real mainstream attention in the 1980s thanks to the implementation of Roland TR-808 drum machines. It allowed many artists to express themselves without investing money into studio recordings or buying expensive hardware. 

In the ’90s, as the technology developed further, hip hop music switched to more advanced gear and Akai MPC workstations became an irreplaceable gear of every hip hop studio. Akai has applied a bunch of feedback coming from hip hop artists and redefined the MPC features in such a good way that many old-school hip hop producers tend to use them even today.

Somewhere around 2006, hip hop once again made an impact on audio effects and redefined how the to auto-tune effect was used. T-Pain and other artists have pushed the pitch correction to extreme values and that’s how the Hard Tune effect was born. They also brought back the TR-808 sound revival that once again became a part of mainstream music and created a completely new genre - trap music.

With all this being said it’s quite obvious what impact hip hop music had on certain hardware units and those features eventually evolved into software VST plugins we are using every day.

What Makes a VST Plugin Great For Hip Hop?

Here are some tips for choosing great hip hop VST plugin:

Audio Editing Quality

No matter what type of vocals you’re recording, in hip-hop they need to get in front of the mix. That’s why you need to get first cleaned up from any unwanted noises and then processed in the right way by applying proper compression, saturation, and other effects. VST plugins help a lot in such editing and can allow you to make your vocal recording studio at home.

Beat

Beats can be as important as vocals. They make the song flow, may inspire your rapping style in a certain way and VST plugins are simply the next chapter of drum machines and hardware samplers used in the ’80s and ’90s. Today you can pick thousands of grooves and replace the need for any kind of hardware equipment.

Vibe

The vibe is created based on the atmosphere and melodies. The most important part of those elements is sound quality. You can’t get the right vibe with cheap hardware synths so easily and this is where VST plugins stand on their own.

On top of that, audio possibilities and routing options are endless so you may go way beyond any hardware in a much shorter time.

Is a Hip Hop VST Hard to Learn?

IK Multimedia T-Racks 5 Deluxe

It depends on your goals and ambitions. Let’s be honest - producing a hip hop is much easier than any rock or pop music because you will be working with either MIDI tracks or pre-produced samples so many things will come served. That’s why sound-wise you won’t have so much of a problem to learn how to get the tracks right.

But, making a right beat and getting the right sample is something completely different. It takes time to master it and the good thing is that you’ll get it right eventually. Luckily, there are so many useful tutorials and videos online that will feed you with tips and ideas.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best VST Plugins For Hip Hop

It was really hard to categorize all the good VSTs for hip-hop and try not to miss some, so here’s our choice

PROS

  • Can work standalone
  • Handy Master Match feature
  • Top-quality mastering suite
  • 22 high-quality mastering modules
  • Chain up to 16 modules in series or parallel

CONS

  • External side-chaining support is missing
  • Reverb and delays are available as an upgrade

Features and Specifications

T-Racks is actually a mastering plugin collection of dozens of FX modules such as EQ, vintage and multiband Compressor, Clipper, transparent and multiband Limiter, de-esser. Other models, available with MAX versions are available for individual purchases.

It also may come with some plugins useful for individual plugin usages such as Mic Room or spectral Metering. Besides, it also provides you with quite a handy and unique A.I. based Master Match.

These 22 modules can be stacked in any given order and you can link up to 16 modules in a chain in either parallel or serial mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Nothing will make your track pumping better than a decent mastering bundle. As T-Racks is one of the best mastering tools out there, it’s gotta be our favorite plugin for this list. It will provide you with all the equipment needed for optimizing your song level and the best part is that you can use all the plugins as an individual VST effect.

Using a White 2A on your vocals will make wonders while Black 76 can make your beat hit even harder and you can also apply some nice tape saturation on your basslines to keep them even smoother and warmer.

Runner-up:
Arturia Spark 2

PROS

  • Extremely small storage footprint
  • Support sample import and editing
  • Hybrid model-based drum workstation
  • Bunch of genre-specific presets and patterns
  • 16-channel mixer with 2 inserts and 2 send effects

CONS

  • Missing dedicated EQ per instrument
  • Patterns are not categorized by song part

Features and Specifications

Arturia Spark 2 is filled with various drum sounds. It’s model-based, so, compared to what you’re getting at such small storage, you would be amazed. The user interface is organized in several tabs that control specific segment of the software, so, for example, Mixer page controls 16-channel individual instrument level, pan, amount of dual Insert Effects

Besides basic controls, Arturia provides you with a very intuitive sequencer and there are hundreds of pre-made genre-specific groove patterns available to be used in DAW with the usual drag-and-drop option.

Why it Stands Out to Us


Arturia Spark may work for many genres, but, the reason it really stands out for hip-hop music is that its user interface comes handy for making and manipulating beats. With the provided REX loop, sample import support, and all the vintage (all relevant drum machines are included) and nice modeled acoustic drum sounds it delivers we can’t think of a more capable drum plugin on the market.

It’s also worth mentioning that Arturia didn’t just provide you with many presets and groove patterns ideal for hip-hop music, it also gives you additional content dedicated to hip-hop music specifically.

PROS

  • Tempo varies from 70 to 114 BPM
  • 109 loops and 126 one-shot samples
  • Drums, bass, atmospheric pads and effects inside
  • 27 patches for software samplers and 14 NI Maschine kits
  • Perfect for chillout, urban, trip-hop, downtempo hip-hop genres

CONS

  • May lack some lead theme content
  • Mid-tempo beats not so impressive

Features and Specifications

This sample pack contains more than a hundred loops of the drum, bass, atmospheric pad textures, and complete melodic phrases with tempo ranges from 70 to 114 BPM. Besides loops, one-shot samples are also included and there are also more than a hundred available mostly focusing on the drum sounds.

All samples were recorded at the 24-bit quality and they take 816MB of your storage space and they are organized in 14 NI Maschine Construction Kit Programs or 27 soft-sampler patches such as Kontakt, Reason or Halion.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like how raw this sample pack sounds, almost pure underground in a positive way. Drums are unprocessed and snare sounds really phat with a nice vintage decay. Apart from drums, pad textures are very soothing and may inspire your lyrics towards a certain vibe.

Samples are captured at the pristine quality so they can be easily time-stretched to match probably any relevant project tempo. However, they would work the best for chillout, urban, trip-hop, downtempo hip-hop genres.

In case you like what you are hearing, you may check out volume 1 as well.

Best Hip Hop Drum VST:
Big Fish Audio Sequence

PROS

  • 12-tracks sequencer with up to 64 steps
  • 16-track mixer page with 14 insert effects
  • Powerful and effective hip hop beat creator
  • Over 4,000 drum samples in 62 drum banks
  • Dedicated 808 interface tab with 32 sounds

CONS

  • Sample loop support is missing
  • Patterns or sequence randomizer would be an awesome add-on

Features and Specifications

Sequence interface contains several tabs - Sequencer, Mixer, Roll Creator, Menus, and 808.

Sequencer is made in 12-track and supports up to 64 steps. It can store up to 12 scenes. Every track has individual mixing controls.

The mixer is made of 16 channels and 14 effects. Every channel can stack up to 8 effects.

Roll creator allows you to utilize speed rolls. You can choose from 13 different time divisions on the fly.

The menu page will allow you to audition the complete soundbank and assign picked samples directly to the Sequencer or Roll Creator tab.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Even if “hip hop beat creator” wasn’t emphasized on the promo images, you could tell just by looking at that dedicated 808 tabs in the bottom-right corner. This module is also fed with compressor, saturation, and drive effect per sample to keep it as modern as possible.

But, it doesn’t come with 808 sounds only. Beside usual drum sounds, there are also many effects, claps, snaps, and even beatbox sounds. All samples are of studio-grade quality so the only thing that is left from you is to pick one out 4,000 sounds.

And trust us, it’s going to be real fun.

Best Hip Hop Synth VST:
Reveal Sound Spire Synth

PROS

  • Over 900 factory presets
  • 9x unison voices on each oscillator
  • 4 multimode polymorphing oscillators
  • Arpeggiator and double stepper modules
  • Polyphonic virtual analog and wavetable synthesizer

CONS

  • Basic effect section
  • Sequencer is missing

Features and Specifications

Spire is a virtual analog synth and its sound is built with up to 4 oscillators and very powerful optional unison mode that can stack up to 9 voices per oscillator. Its core sound is built upon several modes, where Classic represents an advanced combination of saw and square waveforms and wavetable synthesis.

The effect section is made of basic reverb, delay, distortion, and modulation units and there are a built-in compressor and 3-band semi-parametric EQ available in single knob form at the master out section.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Smooth synth leads and punchy synth bass lines always had their place in good old hip-hop. But, modern hip-hop tends to use synth sounds from other genres as well and that’s why Spire seems to be an ideal all-around product for every hip-hop producer out there.

While it sounds vintage on its own, it can also be very modern thanks to the stacking up to 9 unison voices on every oscillator so that even creating Roland’s famous supersaw is very easy. Add that X­-Comp module to your sound and you can get some incredibly fat sounds out from any source.

Best Hip Hop Vocal VST:
iZotope Vocal Synth 2

PROS

  • Interactive Auto-Mode feature
  • Beautiful modern user interface
  • 6 modules and 7 stompbox effects
  • Extremely creative vocal editing tool
  • Natural and Hard Tune pitch correction

CONS

  • Reverb module is missing
  • Pitch voicing would really benefit from adjusting delay per voice

Features and Specifications

Vocal Synth is made in the form of several modules that can be easily turned on and off from a very graphical modern front panel. They include Pitch & Voicing correction, shifting and harmonizing, Biovox formant editor, Vocoder, bit-crushing Compuvox, infamous Talkbox, and Polyvox harmonizer. All the modules level can be re-adjusted by simple dragging from a unified Anemone meter display which is based on some scientific display calculations.

Apart from the main modules, there are 7 stompbox effects located beneath so you can add Distortion, Filter, Ring Modulator, Chorus, Delay, speaker simulation Transform, or step-based sequencer Shred.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Vocal Synth 2 is one of the most creative VST plugins we have found recently. It can manipulate your vocals in so many ways that you will have so much fun working on them.

Apart from being experimental, you can also apply typical pitch correction in both natural and hard tune mode. Auto Mode will help you do it properly in case you don’t have so much music production skills at the moment.

Pitch shifting to any interval is also available and you can layer up to four vocals coming right from your single vocal track.

Best Sample Pack for Hip Hop:
 Loopmasters Classic Hip Hop

PROS

  • 440 One-Shot samples
  • Hundreds of beats and melodic loops
  • 22 one-shot rap vocals with explicit lyrics
  • All-around old school hip hop sample pack
  • DAW specific files and Maschine kits included

CONS

  • Vocal samples are hit and miss
  • Some 808 samples would be a nice add-on

Features and Specifications

This sample pack contains 1 GB of .wav format files recorded at 24-bit resolution. There are 440 one-shot samples, hundreds of raw loop samples of drum and bass loops including dozens of Maschine format projects, loops, melody kits, and drum kits.

All loops are recorded at 95 BPM and they support Ableton, Apple Loops and Reason Refill formats. Speaking of DAW-specific files, there are 180 REX2 files for Reason, 10 Ableton drum racks, and 8 patches for samplers such as Kontakt.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We like that this collection includes not just drum loops and groove but also put some nice drum fills that can make your beat different. Also, vinyl noise loops will get that lo-fi vibe everyone likes while included rap vocals may be nice for backing track purposes or if you’re creating some kind of demo track reference for your bandmates.

Samples provided sound really vintage and will work great for either typical good old hip hop or downtempo songs. Melody tunes are very inspiring and you may have a lot of interesting results if you slice them and mix around.

Best Hip Hop Bass VST:
DopeSONIX Bass Engine 2

PROS

  • Hybrid synth bass plugin
  • Mono, Poly and Legato modes
  • Ultra-low CPU usage and fast patch loading
  • Samples processed with a vintage Tube Equaliser
  • 300 bass sounds from 808, analog synths and bass guitars

CONS

  • Pre-made patterns would be wonderful
  • May lack some detailed features for experienced users

Features and Specifications

This synth has bass sounds of all kinds starting from analog synths to live bass guitars. It works like a usual synth. You can switch between Mono, Legato, or Poly playing mode with adjustable portamento (glide) for the first two options. Basic editing parameters such as the ADSR envelope and filter are also included.

It provides you with 300 bass sounds which were processed with Drawmer 1961 Dual Vacuum Tube Equaliser for additional low-end warmth and mid punch. 808 and sub-bass sound collection has been revisited so that new presets are included.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Bass is an essential part of the beat. Without it, your song won’t get the groove that makes everyone nod. That’s why you will appreciate DopeSONIX's decision to put all the samples through vintage Vacuum Tube Equalizer for additional warmth.

Bass Engine 2 provides you with all the bass sounds any hip hop producer might need including the much-wanted sub-bass section and the infamous 808 bass that goes way beyond the typical library preset sounds.

And just in case you may find yourself composing in a different, more funk-like vibe, some real electric and acoustic basses are there at your disposal.

Best Hip-Hop Plugin for Beginners:
 UJAM Hip Hop Bundle 2

PROS

  • Decent Mastering effects
  • Patterns organized per song structure
  • Pack of two hip-hop oriented grooveboxes
  • More than 120 styles, over 1300 patterns in total
  • Covers both modern and old-school hip hop genres

CONS

  • Effects not available for individual instruments
  • Limited value for experienced music producers

Features and Specifications

UJAM Hip Hop Bundle 2 gives you Dope and Hustle drum groove boxes at a lower price. While they have a visually different graphical interface, the user interface is the same.

Combined they provide you with more than 120 styles, over 1300 patterns in total that can be triggered directly from a MIDI keyboard.

There is an option to edit basic sound parameters for individual instruments such as decay, filter, and pitch while the mastering section provides you with the Sweep, Saturate, Maximize, Multi-band EQ, and Ambience effects.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you’re just starting as a music producer, you will need all kinds of help you may find. UJAM products may not be professional first-choice but that doesn’t mean it can’t provide you with great results.

While it lacks certain in-depth options, it compensates those flaws by providing you many useful patterns that will help you build your songs much faster.

And the best part of this bundle is the fact that it will cover you with not just the typical hip-hop beats but it will also cover some trap essentials found at the Hustle as well.

PROS

  • 16 production kits
  • 256 samples recorded at 24-bit
  • 56 Instrument Racks in Ableton Live
  • Nice solution for downtempo and RnB, too
  • Maschine projects and Massive presets included

CONS

  • Too chill regarding tempo in general
  • Feels kinda too saturated at some moments

Features and Specifications

This sample pack contains 256 royalty-free one-shot samples recorded at 24-bit and 44.1 kHz. Bunch of project dedicated MIDI patterns is included with the special attention of humanizing the grooves with micro shifts.

They provide you with the full file integration for either Maschine and Ableton Live DAWs. There are fully color-coded and tagged 16 production kits for Maschine and 56 Ableton Live instrument racks and 16 Drum Racks provided in 16 Starter Projects. Massive is also supported and you can pick one of 15 presets.

Why it Stands Out to Us

It’s all about creativity with this product and you can be sure that you’re getting a studio-ready sound straight from the pack.

Drums and basslines provided are really warm and punchy, while melodies provided can provide you with that vibe necessary for either downtempo Lo-Fi or Future RnB tracks. Pad layers are smooth with some interesting chord choices that could make your tracks unique.

It gives you a lot of headstart ideas and is generally oriented towards authentic funky tunes and grooves. They can be a true inspiration for any writing block you may encounter.

Cautious Considerations to Keep in Mind

Here are some reminders to prevent you from being disappointed with the current purchase:

Professional Tools

Most VST plugins have features made for true professionals and anyone can utilize all of them. But, getting there is not an easy road and it may require you to devote some serious time to learn how it works. 

The Sound Quality

If your computer or sound system isn’t on par, you can’t utilize all the quality you’re getting from them. As modern computers are mostly good enough for audio production, this remark will be addressed mostly for audio equipment and we would strongly recommend upgrading it.

Buy a proper audio interface, condenser microphone, stretch a little bit more for better speakers and you will notice a significant improvement in not just your song qualities but songwriting abilities as well.

Be Careful With the Sample Packs

When working with sample packs, be careful how much of pitch shifting and time stretching you will apply. Some values may change the original content a lot in a bad way, so think twice if that’s exactly what you need. 

Other Audio Equipment You May Need

Getting the right VST is just one part of the equation. The rest of the equipment is also an important part of the music production formula so here’s a list of gear that can significantly improve your workflow.

MIDI Keyboards

MIDI keyboard can speed up your songwriting process a lot. Instead of clicking with the mouse, you can either play the keys, lay out beats using the MIDI pads, or apply an automation process by turning sliders and knobs instead.

Microphone Equipment

Since hip hop is all about vocals, buying a proper condenser microphone with a pop filter and mobile vocal booth can make wonders for your vocal recordings. And luckily, you don’t have to spend a fortune today to get a professional sound quality.

But, if you want to go further, you can get some dedicated mic preamps as well.

Headphones

Nowadays, most people listen to music using headphones. That’s why buying a proper set of studio headphones may be a good call as you will have a better idea of what’s going on with your track in such an environment. It may be a cheaper solution than buying a proper nearfield audio monitor for your studio, too, especially regarding getting that sub-bass spectrum right.

Conclusion

No matter what ambitions you have as a hip-hop artist and what style you prefer, VST plugins will be an essential tool to get your tracks done these days. We know they may look really complicated, but don’t you worry, once you set it up, the first big results will come really fast.