Barry Jones | Staff Writer
Photo Credit: Unsplash User Saso Tusar
It’s been virtually impossible to not see the amount of hip-hop-oriented lists that have floated around the internet for the past four months. Lists comprised of hip-hop fans’ opinions of the “Top 50” rappers of all time have been the catalyst for an age-old debate among younger hip-hop fans.
The Brew Podcast started the mayhem back in August when they released their list of the top 50 rappers alive. The list stirred up tons of controversy and started a conversation about the top 50 emcees.
It’s quite interesting how the conversation about hip-hop and other forms of predominantly black music such as jazz, funk and R&B seem to be centered around the artist. The conversation completely omitted music producers.
“Music producers are essential to every genre because they formulate the structure of the songs,” said Hampton University student Suliman Foster, a junior political science major from Hartford, Connecticut. “That’s what separates a producer from an ordinary artist.”
The Hampton Script surveyed 177 Hampton University students about who they think are the top music producers of all time, and the top 10 are …
10. J Dilla – 26.8%
J Dilla’s catalog is one of the more impeccable and highly respected in hip-hop history. He’s the cornerstone of the famed hip-hop group Slum Village and has collaborated with Kanye West, Common, A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu and The Roots. Originating from Detroit, J Dilla had an incredibly impactful run from the early 1990s until his untimely passing in 2006. Though he is no longer alive, his influence will be forever felt.
9. Babyface – 37.5%
Babyface’s accomplishments within the R&B genre go without saying. As much as he is known for his vocal and songwriting contributions, his production contributions are just as revered. He has collaborated with the likes of Faith Evans, Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige. He also has produced records such as “Rock Steady” by The Whispers, “Ready or Not” by After 7 and “Best Thing I Never Had” by Beyonce. Babyface is most notable for his hit-making ability.
8. Jermaine Dupri – 39.3%
Jermaine Dupri is the epitome of versatility. The founder of So So Def has produced for everyone from Mariah Carey to Usher to Cam’ron and Jay-Z. Dupri is largely responsible for the huge commercial success of Atlanta’s untapped R&B scene in the early 2000s by catapulting the career of Usher. He also founded and produced for the largely successful R&B group Xscape in the mid-’90s. Some of Jermaine Dupri’s most popular records that he has produced include “My Boo” by Usher and “My Life” by TLC.
7. Swizz Beatz – 55.4%
Absolutely one of the coldest producers ever, Swizz Beatz brought a new sound to the rap game that it needed. Coming around during the Ruff Ryders era in the early 2000s, Swizz produced some of the hardest anthems in hip-hop. If you’ve heard a DMX record or Ruff Ryders record in the early 2000s, chances are Swizz produced it. Although he’s most notably known for his hard-hitting snares, bass lines and kicks, Swizz also has extensive production credits in the R&B genre as well. He flipped the famous “Backstabbers” record by The O’Jays into Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You.” Some of the most popular Swizz produced records are “Ruff Ryders Anthem” by The Ruff Ryders, “Dr. Carter” by Lil Wayne, and “Tambourine” by Eve.
6. Timbaland – 56.1%
Ever heard of Aaliyah? Missy Elliott? Ginuwine? Jay-Z? Timbo has produced for them all. He is responsible for the careers of Aaliyah and Missy Elliott. His contributions to R&B are impossible to count. He’s produced for Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Janet Jackson, Destiny’s Child; the list goes on and on. On the hip-hop side of things, he’s produced for Drake, Jay-Z and Pusha T. Timbaland is known for a more electric approach to hip-hop, infusing interesting synthesizers and other electronic sounds that were not as common in hip-hop before him. These elements can be heard in some of his more popular hip-hop hits: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” by Jay-Z, “Stronger” by Kanye West and “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z & UGK.
5. Sean “Diddy” Combs – 57.1%
When discussing hip-hop producers, Puffy’s name rarely comes up. Why is that? Because he isn’t a traditional beat-maker. Many confuse beat-makers with music producers. Diddy is a producer in the traditional sense. He has played important roles in organizing hit records, pioneering sound and signing elite talent. He has executive produced some of the more classic albums in both hip-hop and R&B, including Mary J. Blige’s debut album What’s the 411?, Biggie’s famed album Ready to Die and Ma$e’s Harlem World.
4.The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams & Chad Hugo) – 62.5%
The Neptunes’ contributions to music are far beyond one can comprehend. According to DJ Booth, at their height in 2003, The Neptunes were responsible for 43% of all music being played on the radio. Pharrell and Chad’s sound took over an entire era of music, from hip-hop to R&B, to pop and even reggae. The Neptunes’ sound was so distinct and different. They are most notably known for their insanely futuristic chords. When thinking about their production credits, it’s evident in exactly how different their sound was. Their most popular records are “Grindin’” by the Clipse, “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg, “Girls Dem Sugar” by Beenie Man and “Change Clothes” by Jay-Z.
3. Quincy Jones – 67.9%
There cannot be a discussion about music producers without talking about the great Quincy Jones. A true musician through and through, Quincy Jones was the mastermind behind three Michael Jackson albums: Thriller, Off the Wall and Bad. If that doesn’t say enough about his contributions to music, he has also produced for the Beatles, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Brothers Johnson and Lena Horne. Quincy Jones epitomizes what it is to be a music producer. He has been at the cutting edge of sound innovation and is largely responsible for the structure of songs today concerning the implementation of spectacularly long outros (as seen in “Thriller”) an element that he is widely regarded as the pioneer of. Throughout Quincy Jones’ 70-year career in music, he has managed to continuously remain at the helm of artistic and cultural curation.
2. Dr. Dre – 69.6%
Responsible for bringing gangsta rap to the mainstream in 1988, Dr. Dre’s debut showing on N.W.A’s Straight Out of Compton still stands as one of the most prolific hip-hop albums of all time. Dr. Dre pioneered the G-Funk sound of the West Coast by utilizing funk samples from the 1970s. The best example of this is the way that he flipped the synth run on the hook of the Ohio Players record “Ecstasy” into the main sample on “Gangsta Gangsta,” as well as including a sample from William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You Got” on the reprise of “Gangsta Gangsta” as well. The use of funk samples was not utilized until Dr. Dre started the practice in the 1980s. It is a practice that still dominates hip-hop today. In addition to his contributions to N.W.A, Dr. Dre also produced Snoop Dogg’s debut album Doggystyle, which is also considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Dre has had his hand in the pot for quite a few classics. He also produced for Tupac, 50 Cent, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. Dr. Dre has one of the more impeccable catalogs in hip-hop. It truly speaks for itself. Some of his most popular records are “California Love” by Tupac, “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg, and “Still D.R.E” by Dr. Dre himself.
1. Kanye West – 85.7%
Shocked to see this name at number 1? Love him or hate him, West has cemented himself as one of the greatest producers to ever do it. To call Kanye West a pioneer of sound would be a gross understatement. He is the master of reinvention. As seen with the progression of sound over his 20-year career. Kanye came out the gate soul-choppin’— sampling soul artists and flipping the vocals in a new and distinct way. As well as producing all of his music, from his first album to his most recent showing Jesus is King, his unique sound is evident in records like Jay-Z’s “Izzo,” Cam’ron’s “Down and Out” and his very own “Through the Wire.” Ye’s sound is definitely not confined to that of soul-choppin’, but there are very few people who can work an MPC the way Kanye does. Kanye has produced all kinds of sounds in several genres over the past 20 years, and it doesn’t look like he’s stopping. He has produced for Lil Wayne, The Game, Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross, Slum Village, Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Fabolous, Teyana Taylor and Pusha T. Ever heard of “You Don’t Know My Name” by Alicia Keys? Produced by Kanye. “Let the Beat Build” by Lil Wayne? Produced by Kanye. “Find Your Love” by Drake? Produced by Kanye. As polarizing as he may be, when it comes to producing music, Kanye has it figured out.