December 09, 2023 music technology feature

Let's dive into a fun beat-making trend and appreciation for my favorite beat-making software.

Speed Running

If you’re not familiar with its gaming definition, “speedrunning” is “the act of playing a video game, or section of a video game, with the goal of completing it as fast as possible”.

I learned that beat-makers had started speed running when I saw a viral clip of a producer recreating Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” in under 17 SECONDS.

To understand what I mean, check out his most recent 14-second run here:

@prodrobtmb Soulja Boy Crank Dat World Record Return #producer #producertok #flstudio #beats #beatmaker #rap ♬ original sound - robtmb

His original 17 second TikTok no longer has audio which is likely because “Crank Dat” was released by Interscope which is owned by Universal Music Group which recently started removing its music from TikTok.

If this trend intrigues you, you can learn more about the origin and spread of FL Studio speed running on Know Your Meme.

FL Studio

Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” is actually the perfect introduction to FL Studio.

Soulja Boy famously launched his career in 2007 as an independent artist with self-made beats. For those making beats at the time, it was well known that those beats were made using a “digital audio workstation” named FL Studio.

You can read more about the role technology played in Soulja Boy’s breakout here, including nostalgic throwbacks like MySpace and Limewire.

old school fl studio screenshot

FL Studio was originally known as Fruity Loops until 2003 (see the screenshot above). The “Loops” in its name refers to the looping patterns that users use to compose full beats or songs.

Although many associate FL Studio with “simple” beats like Soulja Boys, it’s used across all genres to make simple and complex music alike. Within hip-hop specifically, its uses can range from no-frills Soulja Boy beats, to banging Hit-Boy beats, to complex soulful sampled 9th Wonder beats.

In fact, 9th Wonder himself paid tribute to FL Studio on its 25-year anniversary last year:

His post captures the surprisingly uphill battle that computer-centered music production faced in some parts of the industry.

Shout out to my friend Mike Leisure for sending me 9th Wonder’s Instagram post. FL Studio is what Mike and I used when we were just getting started and it’s almost the only software I ever used.

Speaking of my friend Mike, checkout his new song “Good 4 You”, streaming everywhere now!

Also, if you’re a fan of 9th Wonder or beat breakdowns in general, check out this great breakdown of 9th Wonder’s techniques by one of my favorite creators Narokx.

Why FL Studio?

So why has FL Studio become the home of speedruns?

Besides the fact that Fl Studio contains all the “Crank Dat” sounds by default, I think FL Studio has become a playground for beat recreations because it literally feels like a playground.

Things like its kid’s cereal-inspired name, fun logo, and quirky start-up sound drop producers into a fun and creative environment. Its approachable front-and-center loop-based pattern interface reminds me of the video game saying:

All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master.

Making music is supposed to be fun and I think the same features that make it a perfect fit for speed runs are what also encouraged me to spend hours making beats years ago, digging deeper into the features beyond the “simple” grid.

Speaking of which, I've got something exciting coming in the next post…