So I was on a site called Quora and someone asked who were some of the most influential producers in Hip-Hop and why.
You know I had to answer that question straight up.
So below is the answer I wrote in the original post. Let me know what you think – agree/disagree? Got others you think should be on the list? Comment below
This is an obvious one for any Hip-Hop fan. He was a pioneer of the West Coast Hip Hop sound that was more funk-based than the East Coast sound. Soon after he started in the business he helped create N.W.A – one of the most influential hip-hop acts ever. He continues to produce and is one of the greatest of all time. His recent project “Compton” was a masterpiece that made the absence of his much anticipated album “Detox” all good.
Preemo is an absolute Legend when it comes to the East Coast Hip-Hop sound. His use of samples and scratching helped influence the style for a lot of artists in my opinion. He was a part of Gangstarr with Guru – a very celebrated MC in Hip-Hop. And nowadays if an artist has a DJ Premiere beat on a project, you know it’s a special thing.
Pete Rock is another legend when it comes to the East Coast sound. He worked with so many major emcees and helped kept the culture alive. He’s worked with Nas, one of the best lyricists in Hip-Hop but is probably best known for his song with rapper CL Smooth “They Reminisce Over You.” He’s still doing his thing and is an amazing producer.
Dilla is an incredible producer that is no longer with us but has influenced and moved the culture forward in many ways. His signature style of lazy (almost offbeat) drums and jazzy melodies came together to make instrumentals that were smooth as hell. He’s worked with tons of artists and is still very celebrated in Hip-Hop today.
My personal all time favorite is Timbo – he literally zagged when everyone else zigged. His sound was completely unique compared to traditional Hip-Hop that was East/West dominated. His VA-influenced sound brought a completely new rhythm to the dance floor. He worked with Missy Elliot and Aaliyah – two highly celebrated artists in R&B and Hip-Hop. Today’s Trap Hi-Hat patterns you hear everywhere can probably be traced to the way Timbaland arranged his percussion lines within his drum grooves.
Mannie Fresh is a producer from New Orleans (I think) that – in my opinion – was partly responsible for the explosion of the Dirty South sound with Cash Money Records – which birthed Lil Wayne, one of the biggest rappers in the game. I think Mannie Fresh beats were the first time I heard the super fast 16th/triplet note hi-hat style drum grooves with 808s, horns and other instruments that were signature of the Dirty South sound at the time.
Kanye, despite what all the haters out there say, is a musical genius that helped shape Hip-Hop. He is – in my opinion – responsible for popularizing the sped up vocal sample trend that was really prevalent in the mid 2000s. I don’t think he was the first one to do it, but i didn’t notice it a lot until his breakthrough single Through The Wire. He’s still pushing boundaries and making great music – despite the drama – with his latest album being the first streaming-only album that has gone Platinum.
I think 9th Wonder has been super influential to Hip-Hop in that during his prime he “brought back” the boom-bap, sampled hip-hop sound while the culture was starting to gravitate more and more towards synths and compositions from scratch (leading to more electronic sounding beats). He’s helping keep the roots of the culture alive and is probably one of the most soulful sample-based producers in the game, in my opinion.
I think Zaytoven (along with a few other producers like Lex Luger, etc) have been very influential to Hip-Hop’s sound. I could be wrong about this but I think Zaytoven is one of the originators of the Trap sound in Hip-Hop that came out of Atlanta. With the super-fast hi-hat grooves and rolls with spooky melodic sounds and heavy 808s, the sound was something new but a throwback to earlier styles (like Mannie Fresh and Timbaland). The trap sound is still super popular in the culture today.
Noah Shebib, Drake’s OVO super producer, has also been extremely influential to the culture. The “north coast” producer is responsible for popularizing the heavily filtered melodic pads over sparse drum grooves that make the track sound like floating in water/space. His style of using different percussion instruments as kicks and snares has also become more popular in modern production.
There’s a few producers who are making HITS but it might be too early to say they’ve influenced the culture. But hey maybe they already have. Their sound is being replicated all over the place. I’m talking about producers like Metro Boomin and Mike Will Made It. And there’s probably some earlier generations that created the culture and influenced it that I can’t speak on in detail like Marley Marl and Afrikaa Bambatta and of course the originators like Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash – whether people would call them producers rather than DJs, or not, I don’t know but that’s really just semantics.
Can’t believe I forgot to mention the greats listed below when I first wrote the post. These guys deserve just as much credit as the ones I mentioned above. Like I said in the original post, there’s just too many to list. So many dope ass producers have helped influence the culture.
Legendary producer who crafted the Wu-Tang sound, a grittier version of East Coast Hip-Hop. He went on to do amazing things musically for Film (including the Kill Bill soundtrack) and more.
The Piano Man helped shape the sound too with his keyboard skills. Him and TImbaland had a little beef back in the day, but this guys also got HITS under his belt.
Just Blaze is an incredible producer too. During the early and mid 2000s his run was wild. The live drums he’d employ (he’s a drummer) shaped the sound of Hip-Hop and it was truly an epic sound.
The creator of the Crunk sound in Hip-Hop had everybody wanting his beats with sharp synths over 808s and not much else. R&B Singers and Rappers alike wanted a beat from Lil Jon in the 2000s.
This was the production team behind Outkast which was Atlanta’s first real breakout superstars. That smooth, mellow Atlanta sound at the time was definitely influenced and created by these guys.
Warren G / DJ Quick
Another couple of my favorites responsible for the amazing G-Funk sound from the West Coast. Funky basslines and leads that just made the coast bounce. Probably still my favorite style of beats – brings me back to my Yute. I could bump Regulate…G Funk Era all day.
It’s Union Time! Swizz beats definitely helped shape the culture (and he married Alicia Keys). Swizz is responsible for the Ruff Ryder’s sound – an influential East Coast hip-hop crew that DMX was a part of. His use of the MPC always brought some of the hardest beats of the time and probably helped define the sounds of the era.
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