Beat Kangz, the upstart drum machine maker out of Nashville, has been cooking up a new device for some time. That creation, the Beat Thang, is finally nearing production. It may not have a nameplate like Akai or Roland, but I can testify that this independently-designed gadget may nonetheless be one to watch. The hardware feels fantastic, appears to have the right pieces falling into place, and promises release soon. The founding team behind it blends backgrounds in areas ranging from hip-hop to computer science, and even production legend Bob Ezrin (that’ll be the Pink Floyd: The Wall Bob Ezrin). I got a look at the hardware in a private meeting at a hotel in Anaheim last week.

But even those aren’t the reasons you should check out the Beat Kangz. Why was this a highlight of my NAMM trip, even when it wasn’t actually at NAMM?

  • It’s made out of ionized zinc.
  • It has buttons for “freak,” “bang,” and “blang.”
  • No ports get left off.
  • It lights up like something Tron would install in your car if he were hosting “Pimp My Ride.” (Look out, ENCOM.)

Sure, we’ll have more substantive, practical matters to consider once this thing actually ships, but at least it’s something interesting in music tech news.

More information, plus details on the virtual/software version that’s available now. (Not in the video, but also mentioned: they’ve got a simple iPhone app now, which should eventually allow you to play back loops you’ve created in the software.)

Rockwilder, a producer who’s worked with everyone from Aguilera to Xzibit, just happened to be hanging out in the hotel room banging away on the virtual edition on his Macbook Pro. He also shares his thoughts. The gentlemen of Beat Kangz say Rockwilder will be using their creation on an upcoming Method Man production.

Best of all, before I left, we got some trash talking going. It’s on, Akai and Roland. (Incidentally, it really is true that drum machines were noticeably invisible on the floor.) Correction: I am told Roland did have their MV8800 in their arena. At the risk of starting a war, I’ve included that full footage at the end of the Rockwilder video.

Note to manufacturers: this is how I’d like you all to start talking. Roland, you think your drum triggers can kick Yamaha’s sorry a**? Let’s hear it. I mean, diplomacy is good and all, but we do risk putting people to sleep.

Product tour at top, Rockwilder and a slap at the competition at bottom.