Everybody is familiar with all the rappers out there, but what about the unsung heroes of the hip-hop industry? Here’s a list with brief summaries of six amazing producers whose work behind the scenes deserve some recognition.
Of all the things to do in hip-hop production, Madlib’s done it all. He’s worked with high-profile artists such as Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, and De La Soul. He’s collaborated with ridiculously talented rappers such as MF Doom and Blu. To top it all off, he’s released entire jazz-influenced albums of his work under the alias of “Yesterdays New Quintet” and as part of the series Madlib Medicine Show. Check out his full album Shades of Blue where he remixes jazz recordings from the famous Blue Note Records.
Like Madvillain, this guy’s heavily jazz-influenced. And just like other jazz-influenced producers and musicians (DJ Premier, Chance the Rapper) his music really grooves. What separates him from Madvillain is that he focuses more on incorporating jazz elements into his music rather than remixing jazz itself. In the end, it makes the music more accessible to the hip-hop fan and perfect music to chill out to. The albums Soul Survivor II, NY’s Finest, and even his instrumental album PeteStrumentals are a must for any avid hip-hop fan.
J Dilla is probably one of the most universally revered producers on this list. Though he was in many of the same circles as Madlib (working with Erykah Badu, De La Soul, etc.), his work has left a mark on producers around the world. The cult following that he has amassed after his death is still growing larger as many regard his beats, production work, and original songs as some of the genre’s best to date. Here’s “So Far To Go,” feat. Common and D’Angelo off of his posthumously released album, The Shining.
Not only is 9th Wonder immensely talented, but the amount of music he is able to produce is astounding. He’s produced for Drake, Chris Brown, and De La Soul to name a few and in addition, he puts out at least two albums a year. Even though he puts out albums almost too frequently, you can still pick any one of these albums and find something new and refreshing. Try to keep up to date with his music, because everything he touches turns to gold. His collaboration with Murs a few years is worth a listening, check it out.
I probably shouldn’t be relegating Danger Mouse’s work to “hip-hop producer” since he has done work in all realms of music. We all know he’s worked with CeeLo Green in Gnarls Barkley, but he’s done a lot more than that. He’s a drummer for the indie rock band “Broken Bells,” he’s written songs for pop-folk-jazz musician Norah Jones, and the Black Keys, and he’s even producing U2’s newest album. Whether or not you enjoy any of the other genre’s he’s been getting into, you have to give the man some credit for being one of the most versatile people in the music industry.
Believe it or not, Pharrell is actually part of a production duo known as The Neptunes. Like Danger Mouse, these guys transcend the boundary of hip-hop and start to get into pop music with projects like Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Beyoncé. In the hip-hop world they’ve worked with Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Mos Def, Jay-Z, and many others. These guys have even had 12 Grammy nominations and 4 Grammy wins. Oh, did I mention they’re worth about $155 million? Yeah, these guys are a big deal.
Written by Cory Tripathy