From Kanye West and Jay-Z's "Ni**as in Paris" (produced by Hit-Boy) to Chief Keef's "I Don't Like" (produced by Young Chop), countless hits have originated from a little music-making program called Fruity Loops. Created by a developer called Didier Dambrin for a Belgian software company 15 years ago, Fruity Loops began as a MIDI drum sequencer and has evolved into the equivalent of a portable, easy-to-use recording studio, with synths, drum machines, and the ability to record vocals or live instruments all in one place.
What differentiates Fruity Loops from similar programs is its simplicity, allowing for the prioritization of actually making music over fine-tuning every little thing about its construction. People have typically adopted Fruity Loops—which now goes by the more pro-sounding FL Studio—because of its accessibility. Admirers say its simple interface and easily attained demo version helped democratize music. But lots of professionals stick with it over other options because of how direct and fun it is to use. We talked to 10 star producers—Hit-Boy, Lex Luger, Metro Boomin, Vinylz, Young Chop, Sonny Digital, Sir Michael Rocks, Ikonika, Visionist, and E.M.M.A.—about why they love Fruity Loops, and what they all have in common.
"A close friend downloaded FL 3.0 off Kazaa back in 2002 and used to make beats for me to rap on," Hit-Boy told TheFADER. "Around 2003 I met another friend who taught me how to program simple drums on the program and from there I've been on it just about every day." Similarly, Lex Luger used Cake Walk and Acid Pro until a friend suggest FL. "He was like, 'Man, you ain't gotta do all that shit," Luger said. "Fruity Loops is just boom boom bat. It's so easy to compress shit and do this and that."
"I had followed Soulja Boy, and I knew that's what he was using. I knew 9th Wonder had used it too, and that a lot of EDM and dubstep was being done through it," Metro Boomin told us. When Ikonika first tried FL, she said she "felt reassured that other producers [like] Skream and 9th Wonder were already using it."
Ikonika got her first demo version on download.com. "I'm forever grateful for grabbing that first demo," she said. Metro Boomin echoed that it was easy access that initially drew him to the program: "I could just download it on the computer."
Sir Michael Rocks remembers how helpful it was when he was starting The Cool Kids with Chuck Inglish. "I had the free stolen version like everybody else had. Me and Chuck were in 6th or 7th grade fucking around rapping. Back then, if you didn't work in a major recording studio, you couldn't just be a kid that liked making beats, it didn't work like that. Then Fruity Loops came and the internet started cracking where you could get shit for free. Once you could download it, it was like, Let's go."
"You can quickly put in a sample, chop it up, and then make whatever section of the sample you want a unique sample," Visionist explained. "With the sampler on Logic, you had to open it up in the ESX24 to load the sample and then save the sample, and then you have to say the whole key range of the sample—it was too many steps." Hit-Boy couldn't agree more: "Fruity Slicer is one of the greatest samplers on earth. Being able to grab a sample and throw it in slicer makes catching an interesting groove easier than having to sit and listen to each part through the whole song."
"Out of all the interfaces, Fruity Loops has the best way to edit and sequence and lay out shit," Metro Boomin told us. When UK bass producer E.M.M.A. was working on her song "Dream Phone," she decided mid-way through that she "wanted to make something in 3/4." FL made it easy for her to do that. "I just literally went into the project and changed it to 3/4 and then made it," she said. "It was so easy to throw down my ideas when I had all this motivation to create a tune that would break down a genre."
"You can see all the parts of the music and move them around easily," said Hit-Boy. "Some of my most interesting programming comes from trying things out on FL and stumbling upon timings that it makes it easy for you to see." Vinylz likes that "it's just a bunch of squares and patterns." For Ikonika, using FL is a lot like gaming: "I always saw FL as a computer game," she said.
"I tried Reason, Logic, all that, but I was still using Fruity Loops," Young Chop said. "FL Studio was more everything in your face. I ain't have to go search for nothin really that hard. On Logic it's hard to find sounds, you gotta go click another button. On Fruity Loops, it's everything on the side, everything is right there."
"The way I write tunes, it's quite quick. Something has to happen within the first ten minutes," Visionist explained. "If I'm spending too much time trying to work things out then I'm just going to give up. That's why I haven't moved from Fruity Loops to other programs, because the process of writing the tunes just takes too long and I just lose inspiration and the desire to even do it."
Sonny Digital agreed: "It's really just an easy-ass layout. Once you start clickin' around and shit you kinda get what's goin' on in it. I taught myself everything that I know on that program, it wasn't like I had to read the manual."
"When you're adding too many instruments it slows up," Vinylz explained. "So like when I'm playing a key it takes a while until you can hear it. It's annoying."
"I've had the demo version," Lex Luger said, "so I wasn't able to save work."
Young Chop had the same experience. "On the demo version, you had to track the beat out every time to save it," he explained. "This was so crazy to me. You had to go buy a hard drive, track every sound out, throw it in the mixer, cause after that it's no mo beat. That was fucked up. But now I got a little check and some shit, so I don't use that version."
As did Sonny Digital. "Shit, that's just the way to go get some money to get the real copy."
"You really couldn't close it," Metro Boomin added. "When you were done you would just have to export the MP3 cause you knew you couldn't go back and do nothin. You just had to bounce it like it is, have an MP3 version of a beat. Shit, I used to record straight into Fruity Loops. Like, raps. I used to do full songs in that shit."
"It crashes sometimes" said Vinylz. "It makes you wanna throw your laptop somewhere."
"I'm lazy, so I just like getting straight to the point," Vinylz said. "It's simple." E.M.M.A. says its the simplicity of Fruity Loops that helped her develop a polished sound. "If you've got an idea of the kind of track you want to make, just keep your tools limited, especially for new producers," she said. "People are like, 'Wow, she's really developed a concept here. She's really got a sound which is like a pretty solid, well-rounded, and individual.' Well that's basically because I know what I like and I stick to it and I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel I suppose."
"There are certain things I want to do that I can't do on Fruity Loops," Lex Luger explained. "That's good in a way because I can make 10 beats in a day, but it's like those 10 beats can only go but so far."
"In music production, you get some people that come from a technical background and use really sophisticated tools and get obsessed with finding really high quality samples," E.M.M.A. said. "Whereas if you're like me and don't fit into that mold, Fruity Loops is a really easy outlet."
"You can make whatever you want if you just sit there," Lex Luger said. "It's amazing what you can create. You can take old songs and flip em and make em sound like fuckin whatever you want. Back in the day they had analog shit, and you really had to sit on a machine and work hard to create this sound, and now it's a mouse and a click away."