Production is often overlooked in rap music. In my opinion the beat is just as important if not more than important to the song than the lyrics. Many hip-hop producers have a "signature sound" that makes it easy to identify their tracks. Below I have listed my favorite producers, in no particular order.
5. Swizz Beatz- No one gets the club hype like Swizzy. His fast tempo and high energy beats make for great club bangers. Swizzy has produced for hip-hop heavyweights like DMX, T.I., Jay-Z and Cassidy just to name a few. Swizz Beatz shows his versatility with collaboration with Coldplay and Beyonce.
Favorite Beats: "On To The Next One"- Jay-Z, "Money, Cash, Hoes"- Jay-Z, "Ruff Ryders Anthem"- Ruff Ryders, "Good Times"- Styles P, "Bring Em Out"- T.I., "Im A Hustla"- Cassidy, "Its Me Bitches"- Swizz Beatz.
4. Mannie Fresh- Mannie Fresh put the South on the map in the late 90's and early 2000's. Cash Money's in house producer produced platinum selling albums for Juvenile, B.G., The Hot Boys, Lil' Wayne and The Big Tymers. Thats damn near the whole label! Mannie Fresh has a very distinct sound using heavy drums. Mannie Fresh is responsible for majority of the success Cash Money Records has had as a whole in my opinion. I also believe that Cash Money's most successful artist, Lil' Wayne, had his best albums produced by Mannie Fresh (Lights Out and Tha Carter) Just imagine Wayne rapping on Mannie Fresh beats today, SMH. Didn't he make Birdman sound like a decent rapper on those old Big Tymers albums? Lol.
Favorite Beats: "Back That Ass Up"- Juvenile, "Set It Off"- Juvenile, "Big Things Poppin'"- T.I., "Project Bitch"- Cash Money Millionaires, "Still Fly"- Big Tymers, "Shine"- Lil' Wayne, "Get Your Roll On"- Big Tymers, "I Need A Hot Girl"- The Hot Boys.
3. Timbaland- By far the most consistent and versatile producer on the list. Timbo has one of the coolest signature sounds in music. Timbaland, like Mannie Fresh is responsible for the careers of many of the artists he produced for (Ginuwine, Aaliyah, Missy Elliot, the new Justin Timberlake and more). Timbaland is one of the artists that Jay-Z gets to produce a track on every album he can. Timbaland says that he's "been done producing rap records years ago" and now focuses his attention to other artists like Justin Timberlake, Nelly Fertado and One Republic. If you haven't already, check out Jay-Z's documentary "Fade To Black" and see Jay's reaction to the track that would become "Dirt Off You Shoulder".
Favorite Beats: "Try Again"- Aaliyah, "My Love"- Justin Timberlake Feat. T.I., "Raise Up"- Petey Pablo, "Big Pimpin'"- Jay-Z, "Nigga What, Nigga Who"- Jay-Z, "One In A Million"- Aaliyah, "Get Your Freak On"- Missy Elliot, "Pony"- Ginuwine, "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"- Missy Elliot, "Are You That Somebody"- Aaliyah.
2. The Neptunes- Mainly recognized as just Pharrell, The Neptunes have made some of the most unforgettable rap tracks of all time. I know you remember everybody in the cafeteria beating "Grindin'" in middle school. Pharrell and Chad Hugo have worked with everyone from Snoop to Jay to Brittany Spears and beyond. The Neptunes have a very smooth sound. They use a keyboard with real instruments programmed into it, giving it a live feel (For example the horns on "So Ambitious"). The Neptunes may have more hits on the charts than anyone else on the list. These guys are a very, very creative duo who will probably go on to make music for the rest of their lives.
Favorite Beats: "I Just Wanna Love You (Give It To Me)"- Jay-Z, "So Ambitious"- Jay-Z, "Grindin'"- The Clipse, "Southern Hospitality"- Ludacris, "Shake Ya Ass"- Mystikal, "Excuse Me Miss"- Jay-Z, "Beautiful"- Snoop Dogg, "Drop It Like Its Hot"- Snoop Dogg, Both Clipse albums, all of Kelis albums.
1. Kanye West- Hands down my favorite rap producer of all time. Kanye's sound consists of old soul and R&B songs, changing the tempo and add some bass and drums and create a "new classic". On top of the sampler he has musicians play live instruments over the track to give it a more "real" sound. Kanye sampled some of the most popular songs from earlier decades and makes them sound refreshingly new. Kanye West has an incredible ear when it comes to selecting songs to sample. More recently he has switched his style from sampling soul songs to sampling futuristic 80's sounds and tribal drums (808's and Heartbreaks). There was a period in time where if you wanted a top 10 rap hit you needed Kanye West on the production. Without 'Ye on the beats, Jay-Z's "The Blueprint" wouldn't have been the same.
Favorite Beats: "This Can't Be Life"- Jay-Z, "Heart Of The City"- Jay-Z, "Down And Out"- Cam'Ron, "Guess Who's Back"- Scarface, "Amazing"- Kanye West Feat. Young Jeezy, "Touch The Sky"- Kanye West, "Through The Wire"- Kanye West, "Poppin' Tags"- Jay-Z, "Get By"- Talib Kweli, "Bittersweet"- Kanye West Feat. John Mayer, "You Don't Know My Name"- Alicia Keys, "Slow Jamz"- Kanye West Feat. Twista and Jamie Foxx, "I Try"- Talib Kweli, "Dipset Forever"- Cam'Ron, "Number One"- John Legend, "Be"- Common, "Heard Em Say"- Kanye West, "Grammy Family"- Consquence, "Break My Heart"- Common, "Say You Will"- Kanye West, "Dreams"- Game, "Young Forever"- Jay-Z, "Already Home"- Jay-Z, EVERY OTHER KANYE WEST BEAT EVER PRODUCED.
Honorable Mention: Ski Beatz, DJ Premier, J Dilla, Jermaine Dupri, Pimp C, JUST BLAZE (I wanted him in my top 5, couldn't do it), 9th Wonder.
Let the discussion begin...