Sometime in 2021… it all started when Detroit music producer and audio equipment aficionado, Justin Merritt aka Killa Smuv showcased his Roland 808 themed, custom Akai MPC 2000XL on Facebook.

Justin has been making beats for rap artists in the Detroit area since way back. His passion for studio gear and audio engineering lead to the creation of a music studio for Killa Smuv Productions LLC. He has been collecting and restoring audio gear for the last decade or so.

I connected with Justin on eBay when he inquired about our SCSI SD card readers. After that he purchased custom MPC parts from our online store, creating his own Roland 808 style, custom Akai MPC 2000XL.

He sent his motherboard to California, and we updated the audio path caps to audiophile components, and the op-amps to “discrete op-amp” components. This is the unit he posted on Facebook.

Nicholas Marcell Speed aka “Nick Speed”, a record producer and disc jockey from Detroit, Michigan, noticed the post on Facebook and reached out to Justin. They had a conversation that lead to a conversation between myself and Nick Speed.

It was amazing to learn Nick’s drum machine had been owned by 50 Cent and Sha Money XL under the G-Unit organization. Gifted to Nick Speed after he was hired to make beats for 50 Cent and G-Unit.

What… this is a machine with authentic history! I agreed to customize Nick’s classic 90’s Akai workstation without hesitation. This was an opportunity to realize the new ideas I had been thinking about.

Justin Merritt jumped in with all ten toes on the logistics. He got the “studio blue” MPC 2000XL shipped to California for customization in the Big Noise shop. It arrived well packed and ready for it’s face lift.

It had been well used and suffered a dent on the top left corner after taking a spill, one night when Nick was doing a show. Toot “white star” refrigerator magnet still on top of the MPC.

After fussing around with a few ideas, the yellow LCD display window had my attention. A few more visuals lead to the Killa Bee MPC theme, and the rest was history. The bamboo wrist rest made sense, relevant to the 36 Chambers of Shaolin affiliation defined by the iconic Wu Tang Clan.

I had been talking to the owner of a local powder coat shop, and was excited about getting a few of the aluminum panels and bezel done in a beautiful deep yellow.

Countless hours of attention to detail, hand crafting and endless polishing… the results of course making it all worth while. Each project an extension of the creative journey, taking on a life of its own.

The details of the restoration and build included auto-body metal work to fix the dent in the “top panel case.” This consisted of building a fixture to support the case while hammering the metal back into shape.

Then many coats of high-build primer to achieve a smooth finish. Followed by several coats of baked semi-gloss black automotive paint, to finish the back edges of the case. The bottom panel was powder coated mat-black and adorned with custom decals, giving the machine a really cool look from the bottom.

The custom graphics on the powder coated yellow panels are cut vinyl, and are available in silkscreen paint as well. Nick Speed wanted to keep the audio upgrades simple, so we updated the audio path capacitors to audiophile units and kept it at that.

Naturally we installed the Big Noise pad-damping system and ferrite noise filters on the AC and DC power lines. On this unit we replaced the plastic push button AC power switch with a metal toggle switch, and added beautiful knurled aluminum switch guards.

The unboxing video was sponsored by Nick Speed Entertainment and hosted in Justin Merritt’s private recording studio.

Filmed by Detroit filmmaker DymonBack, the excitement in the air was visible in the video, it had taken about a year to get everything together… Nick finally got his machine back in his hands, he explains the history behind the MPC and his music production work with the legendary 50 Cent / G-Unit crew.

Nick puts a beat together for the first time on his new custom Akai MPC 2000XL.

Nick Speed – Instagram
Article: Big Noise
Editor: Noiseman aka Danny
Image: Big Noise MPC