Finding The GOAT Producer: Madlib vs. Prince Paul. Who Is Better?
“Finding the GOAT Producer” begins. The third installment of Ambrosia For Heads’s annual battle series features Hip-Hop’s greatest producers vying for the #1 spot. Thirty producers were pre-selected by a panel of experts, and two slots will be reserved for wild-card entries, including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving beat maker is neglected. The contest will consist of six rounds, NCAA basketball-tournament style, commencing with the Top 32, then the Sweet 16 and so on, until one winner is determined. For each battle, two producers (or collective of producers, e.g. The Neptunes) will be pitted against one another to determine which one advances to the next round.
Similar to the presentations in “Finding the GOAT MC” and “Finding the GOAT Album,” for each battle there will be an editorial about each producer that contextualizes the match-up, as well as sample songs, to help voters in their consideration. There also will be a poll in which votes will be cast, and readers will be able to see the % differential in votes, real-time. Though there also will be an enormous amount of debate in comments, on social media, in barbershops and back rooms, which we encourage, only votes cast in the official ballot will count. In prior “Finding the GOAT” battles, just a handful of votes often decided the results, in early and late rounds. So while we want everybody to talk about it, be about it too, with that vote that counts.
Today (January 12), two producers who share quirky and esoteric ears for music will go head-to-head. Prince Paul is the unofficial fourth member of De La Soul, with 3 Feet High and Rising serving as his magnum opus in the hearts of many, though he got his start with Stetsasonic. As a formative presence in Hip-Hop’s era of self-exploration, Prince Paul went on to work with giants like Big Daddy Kane, Boogie Down Productions, Slick Rick, and even Chris Rock. Madlib represents the idiosyncratic sound of an entirely new Hip-Hop generation, one which began to really take shape in the 2000s. Equal parts musical genius and recluse, the man behind Quasimoto has lent his distinctive style to records from DOOM, Talib Kweli, Freddie Gibbs, and De La Soul – just to name a few. So, which of these master mad scientists is the better producer? You decide in the poll below.
Madlib is the master of quirk. A true original, the “loop-digga” blew his smoke at the trends in Hip-Hop in the late 1990s, and returned the culture to its dustiest roots. The Oxnard, California native born Otis Jackson, Jr. has extracted sounds that crawled up from the underground sounds of Lootpack, his Quasimoto alter-ego, and the Alkaholiks. By the early 2000s, thanks to intersections with J Dilla and DOOM, Madlib’s genius was manifested across Hip-Hop. In turn, artists like Kanye West, Erykah Badu, and Talib Kweli spotlit Madlib Invazions. ‘Lib tracks are deliberately intoxicating, from the artist who famously made his music “blunted in the bomb-shelter” of suburban L.A. From honing in on the perfect arrangements straight off of overlooked sources, to recreating entire musical movements, Da Konducta works a baton when he sits at the turntable, drum machine, and samplers. A onetime mainstay at Stones Throw, Madlib helped produce a number of artists at a macro-level. From Strong Arm Steady’s finest hour to patiently-waiting Bronx “rhyme inspector” Percee P, ‘Lib creates a sound for all. The Cali’ king was able to push many of the artists he believed in towards professional careers, and does so still. Moreover, artists perhaps thought to be outside of the traditional Hip-Hop circle like Freddie Gibbs are able to find their essence through Madlib Funk. Thanks to Yesterday’s New Quintet, and tireless series Beat Konducta and Medicine Show, Jackson made Instrumental Hip-Hop commercially viable and critically acclaimed outside of the “Trip Hop” box. The same way artists on the East Coast have traveled to DJ Premier or Pete Rock to refocus their skills, for 20 years, Madlib has been that to the Bear Republic.
At a time when Hip-Hop production seemed to live in a loop, Prince Paul made it linear. The onetime DJ/producer of Stetsasonic largely stayed in the background of a dominant 1980s group. In time for the ’90s, he would queue up a three-album run arguably as exceptional as any in Hip-Hop, with his friends and pupils, De La Soul. There, beginning in 1988, Paul would essentially pioneer the Rap skit, enhance the medium of Hip-Hop albums to a lean-back experience, and make sampling a spectator sport. Paul, a Long Island, New Yorker, would use his talents giving Rap album’s personality, humor, and whimsicality to win Grammy Awards with Chris Rock. Outside of his most famous associations, Paul’s commanding vision would yield fully-formed acts like Gravediggaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and BROOKZILL!. Paul refuses any box that critics and peers have put him in, and he treats his art the same way. In the era of “slangin’ beats,” Prince Paul has planted the flag of Hip-Hop production. From MC Paul Barman to eventually-released materials by The Dix, Last Emperor, or fringe act Justin Warfield, Paul Huston is fundamental to the craft. More than throwing catchy tracks at the masses, Paul made Rap records a balanced, two-way conversation between the lyrics and the music. Whether it was playing within a band care of Stet’ or BROOKZILL, or delivering “a Da.I.S.Y. Age” to some of Hip-Hop’s jazziest steps, Prince Paul is true royalty for more than 30 years. This producer can make the song cry, the listener laugh, and the artist use many more tools at their disposal than just kicks, snares, and scratches.
So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.