Not that any of y’all asked me, but here my list of top producers in hip hop history. Criteria? Diversity of acts, impact on hip hop, and the all important head-bob-ability. And please comment; I know I’m missing some cats.
1994, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Rap artist Dr. Dre sits in front of recording equipment at his home in Los Angeles. --- Image by © Neal Preston/CORBIS
10 Hi Tek
Who can forget the collaborations of Hi Tek and Talib Kweli? All underground gems. Tek is another producer who’s had success in producing R&B as well. His album “Hi-Teknology” demonstrated his versatility.
#9 Lord Finesse
I almost missed this cat, but knowing that I shouldn't trust my brain on such important things, I smacked my forehead and said "how could I forget Lord Finesse?" Did he produce huge hits? Kinda. He had his hands on some of the greatest albums in hip hop history such as "Ready to Die" and "War Report".
#8 Puff Daddy
Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I'm still not convinced that Puff Daddy's (I refuse to call him "Diddy") body of work includes Biggie Smalls, Mase, Craig Mack and Mary J Blige. But if so, he brought that Brooklyn style of hip hop to the rest of the world.
#7 Marley Marl
Where would hip hop be without Marley Marl? Sampling as we know it would not exist. Marley Marl made his living from sampling James Brown's huge catalog of music. Only problem with that was when he tapped out the catalog, he tapped out too. But again, he jump started the entire game with his work.
#6 Pete Rock
The snares. The horns. The R&B undertones. All of these are Pete Rock specialties. He changed the game with his unique perspective and love for the game.
#5 Dr. Dre
One of the men praised (or gained noterity ) from the rise in gangsta rap, Dre has been doing it for years. Sometimes we forget, however, that he had produced a plethora of R&B acts, and was the catalyst for the first albums of 50Cent and Eminem. One thing that stands Dre out from the rest (besides Madlib) is that he composes on a keyboard; one of the few pure genuine musicians on this list.
Take one part RZA, one part Pete Premier, one part DJ Spooky, add a bad meth high, and voila! That's Madlib. One of the most creative cats in the game. Madlib will take a beat, add a soundtrack sample, and then add a drop from a 60's cartoon and make it sound incredible. Like is friend and 3 time partner J Dilla, his beats have unpredictable endings; most of which exemplify the elements of beauty in hip hop and music in general.
"When the MCs came to live out the name and to perform
Some had to snort cocaine to act insane before Pete rocked it on
Now on with the mental plane to spark the brain with the building to be born
Yo RZA flip the track with the what to cut..."
Sorry, I had to go there. This is a drop from "Liquid Swords" performed by GZA. Where to begin about RZA; possibly at the Wu Tang Clan. The marketing genius has branded himself as entertainment sage long after he added personal flair to each member of the Wu. He gave Old Dirty Bastard cartoonish beats, grimy beats for Method Man, technical beats for Inspecta Deck, blues samples for Cappadonna, Al Green derivatives for Ghostface Killah; shall I go on? No other producer has EVER given such personification to the individual artist he works for.
#2 DJ Premier
Probably one of the most prolific producers of all time. Primo has produced for a gaggle of emcees and a large amount of pop and R&B artists. Although formulaic in his approach, DJ Premier's unmistakable beats have rocked us for decades. It started with he and Guru as Gangstarr in the heyday of the 90s and continues today.
#1 J Dilla
J Dilla didn't have a large body of work, or the best emcees rapping to his beats, but his production was the closest thing in hip hop to production genius. Out of all of the producers on this list, Dilla had the cleanest, most complex production; and the hardest to describe. How about this; has there been any other hip hop producer who has actually (and transparently) had his work composed for classical, ensemble style music? Boom.