Production is a huge part of Hip Hop. Without the beats from the producers we probably wouldn’t like some of our favorite Hip Hop songs as much as we do. In this post, I want to celebrate MY favorite producers who I feel like have left and are still leaving their mark in the game.
10. Swizz Beatz
Swizz Beatz came into the game at the age of 16 through his work with the Ruff Ryders Entertainment label and showed the world his talent when he sold his first beat to Ruff Ryders artist DMX which became one of DMX’s best singles ever ‘Ruff Ryders Anthem’
He continued to produce beats in 1998 for artists such as Jay Z, Eve, and Noreaga. He also produced most of the songs on the Ruff Ryders compilation album Ryde or Die Vol. 1 Apart from being associated with Ruff Ryders and Roc-A-Fella Records, he has also produced for artists from labels such as Elektra, Def Jam, Bad Boy, Epic, and Atlantic.
By 2001 he established his own record label, Full Surface Records and signed Eve and his protege Cassidy. In 2007 he signed legendary group Bone Thugs n Harmony (one of my favorite groups ever) and they released their seventh album Strength & Loyalty which was executive produced by Swizz Beatz.
Since then he has continued to produce solid beats for many artists such Jadakiss, Ludacris , Drake , Chris Brown , Jay-Z, Kanye West, Maino etc.
Best Tracks: DMX – Ruff Ryders Anthem, DMX – Up In Here, DMX- Get It On The Floor, Cassidy – I’m A Hustla, Busta Rhymes – Touch It, Drake – Fancy, Eve – Tambourine, Jay Z ft DMX – Money, Cash Hoes, Bone Thugs N Harmony – Candy Paint.
9. DJ U-Neek
This guy right here deserves a spot on this list for bringing us the sound of the legendary Bone Thugs N Harmony. He was signed to Ruthless Records from 1993 along with Bone thugs and produced their debut EP ‘ Creepin On Ah Come Up’ which rose Bone Thugs N Harmony to fame with hit songs such as Thuggish Ruggish Bone and Foe Tha Love Of Money.
After the success of Creepin On Ah Come Up, DJ U-Neek also produced Bone Thugs’ second album E.1999 Eternal which was the group’s best-selling album, with over 5 million copies sold in the United States and 1o million worldwide. It also topped the Billboard 2oo for 2 weeks. With U-Neek’s dark G-funk beats and Bone thug’s melodies, this made E.1999 Eternal one of the best Hip Hop albums ever. The song ‘Tha Crossroads’ won him a Grammy.
He also produced the third album by Bone Thugs N Harmony ‘The Art Of War’ which was a major success, being certified quadruple platinum in June 1998. It had classics such as Look Into My Eyes which was on the Batman and Robin soundtrack, and Thug Luv ft legendary Tupac Shakur. Apart from producing classics for Bone Thugs N Harmony he has also produced for his fellow west coast natives Mack 10 and Yoyo.
Best Tracks: Every song on Creepin On Ah Come Up, Bone Thugs N Harmony – Look Into My Eyes, Crossroads, Body Rott, Eternal, It’s All Mo Thug, Clog Up Your Mind, Thug Luv, If I Could Teach The World, East 1999, Buddah Lovaz, 1st Of Tha Month.
8. Pharrell Williams/The Neptunes
Pharrell got his start when he formed a group with Chad Hugo called the Neptunes. By the early 90’s The Neptunes were signed to Teddy Riley and Pharrell helped write and produce the hit Rump Shaker by the group Wreckx-n-Effect.
The beginning of the Neptunes distinctive sound came with Noreaga’s Superthug in 1998 which reached number 36 on the Billboard 200, gaining the Neptunes widespread attention for the first time.
He has produced for many artists such as Clipse, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg , Kelis & Justin Timberlake and has earned international fame with songs such as Happy and Blurred Lines.
Best Tracks: Pharrell ft Jay Z – Frontin. Pharrell ft Gwen Stefani – Can I Have It Like That. Snoop Dogg – Drop It Like It’s Hot, Let’s Get Blown, Beautiful, Signs. Justin Timberlake ft Clipse – Like I Love You. Jay Z – I Just Wanna Love U.
7. Jermaine Dupri
JD has brought us many dope artists such as Kriss Kross, Da Brat, and Xscape. He’s produced for Mariah Carey, Bow Wow, Lil Kim, Usher, Destiny’s Child, Monica, TLC & many more.
One of the first albums he produced was Kriss Kross’s first album Totally Krossed Out which went platinum and reached number 1 on the Billboard 200 and the top RnB/Hip Hop chart. After the success of Kriss Kross and all the praise he received for his production on the album, he established his own record label ‘So So Def Recordings’ & signed the group Xscape. Their first album ‘Hummin Comin At Cha’ also went platinum, as well as Da Brat’s first album ‘Funkdafied’ which JD produced.
JD produced many tracks on Usher’s album My Way, like You Make Me Wanna, Nice & Slow and My Way, which all went platinum. He produced Mariah Carey’s song We Belong Together, which won him a Grammy.
I think it’s safe to say this guy has produced many classics.
Best Tracks: Kriss Kross – Jump, Warm It Up. Da Brat – Give It To You. Usher – You Make Me Wanna, Nice & Slow, Confessions Part II. Xscape – Just Kickin tI. Lil Bow Wow – Bounce With Me, Basketball. Mariah Carey – Shake It Off, We Belong Together.
Timbaland started out by producing a few tracks for the R&B group Jodeci. He gained mainstream success when he produced Aaliyah’s One In A Million album and Ginuwine’s debut album The Bachelor. Even though he was producing for R&B artists, his sound was very much Hip Hop and he was taking that sound and applying it to R&B, he is one of the few that could do this and make it sound good.
Finally in 1997, he produced a whole Hip Hop album, which was Missy Elliot’s debut album Supa Dupa Fly and his electronic production sound became a trademark. He also produced his own Hip Hop album with Magoo ‘Welcome To Our World’.
By the late 90’s he produced for many more major artists including Nas, The LOX and Jay Z and also continued producing for Aaliyah, Missy Elliot and Ginuwine. He ended up scoring a major hit when he Produced Jay Z ft UGK ‘Big Pimpin’.
In the early 2000’s he produced songs for Ludacris, Lil Kim, LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake and many more.
Best Tracks: Aaliyah – One In A Million, If Your Girl Only Knew, Are You That Somebody, Hot Like Fire, More Than A Woman. Missy Elliot – The Rain, Sock It To Me ft Da Brat, Get Ya Freak On, One Minute Man. Ginuwine – Pony, Tell Me Do U Wanna. Jay Z ft UGK – Big Pimpin. Ludacris – Roll Out. Drake ft Timbaland – Say Something. Justin Timberlake – Your Love. 50 Cent ft Justin Timberlake & Timbaland – Ayo Technology. Timbaland & Magoo ft Aaliyah & Missy Elliot – Up Jumps Da Boogie
5. DJ Premier
This guy is just legendary, you can’t have a discussion about producers without up bringing up DJ Premier. We know him as half of the duo Gang Starr with Guru and he produced all of their songs. In 1989 Gang Starr got signed to the London-based label called Chrysalis, the label offered the duo unlimited artistic license and major label distribution worldwide which helped them to become one of the most influential Hip Hop acts ever.
Premier has produced for basically everyone from Nas, The Notorious BIG, KRS One, Jay Z, Janet Jackon, D’Angelo, Big Daddy Kane, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg, Rakim, The Lady of Rage, Biz Markie, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera and so many more.
DJ Premier’s production is very New York, he often samples jazz,funk and soul artists. He is also known for sampling an artist’s past work when creating a new track for that same artist. Gang Starr also helped pioneer that hardcore New York Hip Hop sound.
He has stated that he doesn’t want to be attached to just Hip Hop, he wants to be attached to music from country, rap, soul, jazz, blues, gospel etc. I must say he always takes the beats to the next level no matter what genre.
Best Tracks: Gang Starr – No More Mr Nice Guy, Who’s Gonna Take The Weight. Nas – N.Y. State Of Mind, Represent. Mobb Deep – Peer Pressure. D’Angelo – Lady. Jay-Z – Bring It On. The Lady of Rage – Some Shit. Notorious BIG – Ten Crack Commandments. Rakim – When I Be On The Mic.
4. Pete Rock
Pete Rock played a major role in merging elements of jazz into Hip Hop. He got recognized for his talent as a DJ working with Marley Marl. By then he had gained popularity and formed a duo with CL Smooth and began producing.
They released an EP All Souled Out in 1991, which was met with a lot of positive reviews. In 1992 they released their full-length debut album Mecca And The Soul Brother, which gave us one of the greatest Hip Hop songs ever They Reminisce Over You (TROY). The saxophone and bass sample in this track is just so soulful it really brings back those memories of loved ones and just gives you goosebumps. The song reached number 58 on the Billboard 200.
Pete Rock went on to produce their next album and began producing for Run DMC, Nas, Lost Boyz, Raekwon, Keith Murray, Busta Rhymes and many more. Safe to say he definitely left his mark in the game.
Best Tracks: Pete Rock & CL Smooth – TROY, The Creator, Take You There, Lots Of Lovin. Nas – The World Is Yours. Run DMC – Down With The King. Lost Boyz – The Yearn.
3. Q Tip/ Ali Shaheed
These two were responsible for bringing us classics from their group A Tribe Called Quest. When they released their first album People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths of Rhythm it was met with mixed reviews, but it still got 5 mics in the Source Magazine and it built ATCQ a fanbase.
By the time they released the second album The Low End Theory they grew their loyal fanbase. Their production style was very low key & smooth which was a huge difference to other Hip Hop albums around that time, which had more rough beats and fast tempos. In 1993 they released the third album Midnight Marauders which became their most successful album and it charted on the US Top Ten as well as going platinum.
With the success of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip went on to produce for other artists such as Nas, Cypress Hill and Mobb Deep. Ali Shaheed produced for artists like D’Angelo, Shaquille O’ Neal and Gil Scott Heron. They also produced two more albums as a group.
Best Tracks: A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario, Award Tour, Oh My God, Check The Rhime, Electric Relaxation, Can I Kick It, I left My Wallet In El Segundo. Nas – One Love. Craig Mack – Get Down (Remix).
This legend right here, often looked at as the leader of Wu-Tang Clan, is responsible for creating that hardcore raw Wu-Tang style. When Wu-Tang Clan dropped Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) it helped bring New York Hip Hop back and created a new blueprint for hardcore Hip Hop, especially at a time when West Coast gangsta rap was dominating.
With the lyrics and production the album paved the way for a lot of East Coast Hip Hop artists and it became hugely influential. RZA’s sound on this album was based on clips from martial art movies and soul music samples. The album was recorded in a small studio on a limited budget and at times you could tell, but that’s what made the album so great – it was just real and had that street quality.
After the success of Enter the Wu Tang, RZA produced every debut solo album by the Wu Tang members. Method Man’s Tical , GZA’s Liquid Swords, Ol’Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, Ghostface Killah’s Ironman etc.
He then went on to produce the next Wu Tang album Wu Tang Forever which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 in the first week and was certified platinum, becoming the groups highest selling album. The third album The W was also successful debuting at number 5 on the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.
He has also worked with artists such as Big Pun, AZ, Charli Baltimore and Kanye West.
Best Tracks: Wu-Tang Clan – Entire Enter The Wu-Tang album, Triumph, Gravel Pit, Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off). Method Man – Tical, Bring the Pain, All I Need ft Mary J Blige, Release Yo Delf, Meth vs Chef. Raekwon – Ice Cream, Criminology, Rainy Dayz. GZA – Liquid Swords. ODB – Shimmy Shimmy Ya, Brooklyn Zoo.
1. Dr Dre
The number 1 spot goes to the Doctor himself. One of the key figures of West Coast Hip Hop & G-Funk. He has produced albums and is responsible for many careers of rappers such as Snoop Dogg, The Lady of Rage, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, Daz Dilinger, Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game, Kendrick Lamar and much more.
Dr Dre first started as a DJ and joined the musical group World Class Wreckin Cru in the early 80’s, with fellow NWA member DJ Yella. The group became stars of the electro hop scene that dominated early 80’s West Coast Hip Hop. In 1986 he met Ice Cube and they both began making records for Eazy E’s label ruthless records and then joined up to form the group NWA.
NWA‘s debut album Straight Outta Compton was released in 1988, with its explicit lyrics and Dre’s production the album is often viewed as THE pioneering album of gangsta rap. The album was highly successful despite there being no major airplay.
After the success of the first album, Dre produced for the group’s second album Niggaz4life as well as Eazy E‘s solo debut Eazy Duz It. He also produced for other Ruthless records artists like Michel’le , The Doc, Above The Law and JJ Fad.
When Dr Dre eventually left Ruthless Records after disputes with Eazy E, he founded Death Row Records. I feel like this is when as fans we got to hear Dr Dre at his best. He was good on Ruthless Records but he was GREAT on Death Row.
Deep Cover gave everybody a sneak peak at his debut album The Chronic, which till this day is one of the greatest Hip Hop albums ever. That G funk sound dominated Hip Hop in the 90’s and by 93′ the album was certified triple platinum and it won Dr Dre a Grammy for best rap solo performance.
After producing his own successful album, he went on to produce Snoop Dogg‘s debut album Doggystyle, which became the first debut album to enter the Billboard 200 chart at number one. Dre also produced songs for soundtracks to films Above the Rim , Murder Was The Case and Friday.
When he left Death Row and started his own label Aftermath Entertainment, he developed a sound that was moving away from the gangsta rap style with his solo track Been There Done That. At this time he also produced for East Coast artists such as Nas, LL Cool J and Jay Z.
By 1998 he signed Eminem and produced three songs on his major label debut album The Slim Shady LP. Dr Dre produced the lead single My Name Is, which brought Eminem to public attention, and with the success of the album it reached number 2 on the billboard 200.
Dr Dre released his second solo album 2001 and in a way went back to his gangsta rap roots but this time mixed with more soulful vocals. The album was sucessful peaking at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified 6 times platinum. It also won him a Grammy for producer of the year.
What I can say about Dr Dre is that his style has always stayed relevant and his production has always fit in each era without him changing it too much – because lets be honest we all know a ‘Dre’ Beat when we hear it. Not many producers have the ability to do that, which is why Dr Dre is legendary!
Best Tracks: Dr Dre – Nuthin But A G thang, Fuck With Dre Day, Let Me Ride, Bitches Ain’t Shit, Still DRE, Forgot About Dre, The Next Episode, Keep Their Heads Ringin. NWA – Straight Outta Compton, Fuck Tha Police, Boyz N The Hood, Express Yourself. Snoop Dogg – Whats My Name, Gin And Juice, Murder Was The Case, Ain’t No Fun, Doggy Dogg World. Lady Of Rage – Afro Puffs. Eminem – Real Slim Shady. 50 Cent -In Da Club, Outta Control ft Mobb Deep. The Game -Hate It Or Love It, How We Do. Mary J Blige – Family Affair. Eve ft Gwen Stefani – Let Me Blow Ya Mind.
- Marley Marl
- DJ Quik
- Johnny J
- Daz Dillinger
- J Dilla
- Erick Sermon
- Just Blaze
- Large Professor
- Mannie Fresh
- Chuck D
- Rick Rubin
- Easy Mo Bee
- Kanye West
- Prince Paul
- MF DOOM
- The Alchemist
Well, that’s my list guys, let me know your own personal list in the comments. Until next time!