i hope you like this, its a free compressor plug-in that is actually pretty impressive. although i use a bunch of hardware compressors (more on that in a second) and the industry standard Wave plugins (C1, C4 etc) i still use this free compressor a lot!
its very "blatant" in its results and as such great for hiphop.
as for hardware, well ive got your typical mid-range semi-pro rig, and i dont plan to upgrade any time soon. heres the units i use and why:
Focusrite PENTA: its a 2RU hardware compressor and pretty sturdy. i bought one after hearing how good it was in a previous band i was in. its interesting because it has a row of presets on the top right and that are actually quite good! i record instruments and all sorts of stuff for my job so this is useful, though of course you cant rely on presets all the time. sounds great.
RNC compressor: i cant believe this thing. its a tiny half rack compressor with an analog signal path, but digital control of such. im always at a loss when someone asks me why i like it because i cant work it out. its not very "blantant" with its sound but it just works.
and ive got some behringer composer **** that i never use because it sounds horrible. its good to take out live if i dont trust the venues compressor setting or if there will be a live instrument or mic... because everything on stage goes through my mixer before the in-house limiters i have to keep the transients from the mics from f**king up my mix.
anyway, thats some pretty common gear on my level. i dont even have any good pre-amps yet, though some friends have real C1's and other neve type stuff so its nice to hire that. in the end its not ESSENTIAL.
i was just listening to Aesop Rock, El-P, Ugly Duckling.... to be honest i like hiphop and breaks because they dont dissapear up their own asses like say, trance and house music does you know? you can still have great creative stuff without being a total production wanker...
ps, i agree on the call about sampling records for dope beats already treated by massive studios etc. i have a friend who is a top selling hard house producer and nearly ALL his drums and hoovers are sampled off other records... cracks me up.