Finding The GOAT Producer. Which 2 Should Join The Top 30?
“Finding the GOAT Producer,” 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 have been reserved for wild-card entries, including the possibility for write-in candidates, to ensure no deserving beat maker is neglected. The contest consists 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) are 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 has been editorial about each producer that contextualizes the match-up, as well as sample songs, to help voters in their consideration. There are plenty of producers that Ambrosia For Heads was not able to include among the 30 in the first 15 battles. Now is the chance to deliver the two (2) vote-getters. As a note, this does not include Dr. Dre or Mannie Fresh. The two elder statesmen will take on the two wild card winners later this week. Below, however, are more than 20 producers that span 35 years of Hip-Hop history. Included are hit-makers, cult heroes, Grammy winners, and true unsung legends of Rap music. Read the names below, sample some of their music, and make your voice heard by way of the vote (which also includes the ability to write-in candidates). As Round 2 approaches, it’s getting serious in this competition.
The 30 GOAT Producer contenders considered so far (and thus are not eligible for Wild Card voting) are Dr. Dre, Mannie Fresh, RZA, Havoc, Pete Rock, J. Dilla, MF DOOM, DJ Premier, Large Professor, Madlib, Just Blaze, Pharrell/The Neptunes, D.I.T.C., Puff Daddy & The Hitmen, Noah “40” Shebib, 9th Wonder, Marley Marl, Rick Rubin, The Bomb Squad, Timbaland, Organized Noize, Swizz Beatz, Q-Tip/A Tribe Called Quest, Erick Sermon, No I.D., Scott Storch, Kanye West, Warren G, Prince Paul, and DJ Quik.
Mark James, the 45 King made some spectacular Hip-Hop in the 1980s for Queen Latifah, Gang Starr, and the original Flavor Unit lineup. However, it’s his last 20 years, including Eminem’s “Stan” and Jay Z’s “Hard Knock Life” (each co-productions) that have made that New Jersey DJ/producer a GOAT contender.
After coming up around Mobb Deep and DJ Muggs (also listed below), Alchemist made plenty of gold on his own. Crafting hits for Cam’ron, Prodigy, Jadakiss, and ScHoolboy Q is part of it, but some of the Gangrene co-founder’s most beloved work lives in the underground that he has supplied since his beginnings.
For almost 20 years, Ant has been the sound supplier for Atmosphere. For the first 10, Anthony Davis kept one of the lowest profiles in Rap history. He has since climbed the charts with an evolving sound, in addition to cult-lauded albums with Brother Ali, and Vol. 2 of Slug & Murs’ Felt collaborations.
The Michigan producer nearly called it quits in Hip-Hop in the 2000s, after his music was not sustaining his dream. By the 2010s, thanks to Mello Music Group and full-length collaborations with O.C., The Left, Ras Kass, and Guilty Simpson, Apollo’s career has been in orbit, with a fearless sample style.
Boston’s Arthur Baker moved to New York City at just the right time. The DJ was hired to produce “Planet Rock” for Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force, one of Hip-Hop’s biggest records. Although New Wave would become his mainstay, Baker also contributed heavily to the Breakin’ soundtrack.
West Coast O.G. Battlecat had a litany of credits by the time he started making mid-’90s noise with Kam, WC, and Tha Eastsidaz. The accomplished DJ has remained tight with Snoop and Tha Dogg Pound, while cutting tracks with Kendrick Lamar, The Game, and Ty Dolla $ign.
Corona, Queens’ Juju and Psycho Les supplied themselves with some of their best work. However these Native Tongues double-threats have supplied lasting joints to Chi-Ali, Mos Def, Ghostface Killah, and Vinnie Paz.
Beats By The Pound
During No Limit Records’ late 1990s and early 2000s reign, they had an in-house team of Craig B., Odell, KLC, and Mo B. Dick (as well as Fiend) producing the bulk of the Bounce hits. Beats By The Pound, later known as the Medicine Men, were directly tied to tank tracks by Master P, Mystikal, TRU, Snoop Dogg, and a litany of others, before bouncing to help outsiders make anthems for hire.
One of the most exciting MCs of the 2010s has also recharged production with big bass and intricate instrumentation. As his own dedicated producer, Krizzle’s sound is also a part of key moments by Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y.
The Toronto-based OVO affiliate born Matthew Samuels has worked with Rap’s biggest to make sure his name is said “Forever.” Outside of his onslaught of hits with Drake, 1da has laced memorable moments for Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, and Slaughterhouse.
Core members Mr. Walt and Evil Dee laced Black Moon’s Enta da Stage and Smif-n-Wessun’s Dah Shinin’ (with Baby Paul and Rich Blak) in their entirety. Giving Boot Camp Clik and the Brooklyn underground a sound, the brothers Dewgarde also laced O.C. and Bahamadia in the ’90s, Apathy and Vinnie Paz in the 2010s.
Once an understudy to Dr. Dre, Dat Nigga Daz came alive as a producer on Tha Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food and Tupac’s All Eyez On Me and made classics like “Ambitionz Az A Ridah,” “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,” and DPG’s own “What Would U Do?.” This Long Beach representative has been deeply prolific, well after his decorated Death Row days.
DJ Jazzy Jeff
For more than 30 years, Jeffrey Townes gave Hip-Hop beats a “Brand New Funk.” Jazzy Jeff has been responsible for the sounds for handfuls of gold and platinum albums with his rhyme partner Will Smith, while also producing for Method Man, Rhymefest, and others.
For Cypress Hill’s legendary catalog, it’s almost always been Muggs behind the boards on the classic tracks. The veteran (who co-founded) The 7A3 also made House Of Pain “Jump Around” on the charts, in addition to his celebrated work with GZA, Ice Cube, and his Soul Assassins squadron.
By way of Tyga and YG, Los Angeles, California’s DJ Mustard was able to garnish the charts with electrifying sounds that maintained street grit with dance musicality. Gifted at chorus-making, this producer has been key to Jeezy, Ty Dolla $ign, Kid Ink, and a new wave of spitters who can keep up with his excitement.
DJ Paul/Three 6 Mafia
While Three 6 Mafia gets credit for tearing the club up, they have done so for nearly 25 years with a soulful backbone. In addition to a litany of ’90s and 2000s hits from within Hypnotize Minds, DJ Paul and Juicy J laced UGK & Outkast (“International Players Anthem”), as well as Lil’ Flip, Ludacris, and others.
This veteran of Bass music (including pivotal work with MC Shy D) helped pilot T.I. from the beginning of his career to the “What You Know” takeover point. He has since laced Jay Z, assisted Kanye on three Graduation jewels, and become part of Rick Ross’ album team.
Easy Mo Bee
The Brooklyn native made unforgettable songs with both Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. The DJ and onetime MC in his own right also scored hits with Craig Mack, The Lost Boyz, and continues to work with Lil Fame, Cormega, and Foxy Brown today.
Twenty years before he was the sound provider for Run The Jewels, Brooklyn’s El-P supplied innovative, futuristic beats. His work tied to Cannibal Ox, Company Flow, Mr. Lif, and others, as well as his own incredible catalog has been nothing short of amazing, given its original flare.
While Eminem is forever associated with Dr. Dre, he has produced many more of his own hits. From “Guilty Conscience” to “Purple Pills” to “Lose Yourself,” that was Em’s name in the credits, in addition to key tracks for Jay Z, 50 Cent, Obie Trice, and a posthumous Tupac and Biggie remix.
Herby “Luv Bug” Azor
The Haitian-born Herby discovered Salt-n-Pepa, and gave them a track that still hits at parties and in Geico ads. Working closely with that mainstream-savvy group, Azor discovered another 1980s crossover Rap juggernaut in Kid n’ Play.
The production half of Reflection Eternal made hits for Black Star, 50 Cent, Common, Ghostface Killah, and The Game. Like his roster of collaborations, Cincinnati’s Tony Cottrell is versatile, and knows how to put soul on the charts.
Hitman Howie Tee lived up to his name, when it came to delivering lyrical MCs like Chubb Rock, Special Ed, and U.T.F.O. to the MTV music video era. Hard drums and exciting basslines paved the way for charismatic rappers to impress upon the culture.
Before he founded Murda Inc., Lorenzo “Irv” Gotti produced heat rocks for Jay Z, DMX, Mic Geronimo, and others. From “Can I Live?” to “What’s My Name?” to “Can I Get A…” this Queens, New Yorker makes songs that ask questions, but silence the critics.
This 2010s double-threat is deeply gifted at the boards. In addition to a heavy hand in his tallest work, Jermaine Cole made “HiiiPower” heat for Kendrick Lamar, and helped along a crop of peers that also includes X.V. and Lute.
A true mentor to artists, JD branded Kris Kross, Da Brat, and Bow Wow with strings of hit singles. Moreover, Dupri ensured that the party don’t stop, thanks to memorable moments with Jay Z and Ludacris, and a host of Rap-savvy remixes.
Rook, Barto, and Colione entered the ring with Jeezy and CTE, making versatile hits that matched the booming vocals. Ever since, they have become critical to Rick Ross’ music, and worked with a who’s who of artists across Hip-Hop, even said to be Wu-Tang Clan’s next producer.
Naughty By Nature co-founder Kay Gee has a sprawling discography back to the late 1980s. Outside of his Grammy-winning, platinum-plus work with Treach and Vin Rock, Keir Gist made meaningful joints for The Notorious B.I.G., Queen Latifah, Miilkbone, and Eazy-E.
Before KRS-One welcomed DJ Premier, D.I.T.C., and other artists to his cipher, Blastmasta was supplying his own boom-bap sounds. Following the death of Scott La Rock, many of those Boogie Down Productions and early KRS moments were completely in-house, as were tracks for Channel Live and Mad Lion.
The late Larry Smith helped make Rap production a thing. The musician on early Rap hits would eventually take the producer’s chair on hits by Whodini, Run-D.M.C., and Jimmy Spicer. This is the producer that so many others after him cannot stop sampling.
At the turn of the 2010s, Lex was superman behind the boards. In addition to pivotal tracks for Rick Ross, Waka Flocka Flame, and Watch The Throne, the Atlanta-based producer was able to dominate the charts with an array of artists, several genres, all at the same time.
Atlanta’s “King of Crunk” injected an aggression into Hip-Hop for more than 20 years. From the strip clubs to the dance floors, Jonathan Smith has made Ying Yang Twins’ “Get Low,” E-40’s “Tell Me When To Go,” and so many of Pitbull’s staples.
One of the most celebrated producers in today’s Rap music coincided with Future’s ascent to super-stardom. He stays connected to branding the future with catchy records, from 21 Savage and Migos to Lil Uzi Vert.
From Rap-A-Lot to G.O.O.D. Music, this musician, mixer, and engineer has been in the credits of dozens of seminal Rap albums. From co-productions on “Mercy” and “The Good Life” to running the boards on Kurupt and Nate Dogg’s “Behind The Wall” single, Mike is a Dean’s List-level producer in his class.
Mike WiLL Made It
One of the most exciting producers of the 2010s has been paramount to Kanye West, Future, Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Juicy J, and even some of his own work. Now, thanks to Rae Sremmurd, Mike is cultivating his latest artist that has sounds built to last.
While Missy is often associated with Timbaland, she too, made many of those hits from V-A for herself and others. ” Trina’s “No Panties” was a standout solo, while so many of those hits were credits to Missy and Timb’ sitting side-by-side at the board.
The Virginia producer/MC is nicknamed “Nottz Raw” for a reason. In addition to two decades of celebrated basslines with Busta Rhymes, Nottz turned up the heat on tracks for Little Brother, Scarface, and Snoop Dogg.
Paul C. McKasty was killed when he was just 24 years old. However, throughout the late ’80s, the Queens, New Yorker (who mentored Large Professor) engineered and mixed a plethora of classic songs, with work by Ultramagnetic MC’s, Eric B. & Rakim, and Grandmaster Caz.
The late Chad Butler kept early UGK records so unique that the sub-genre was coined as “Slab Music.” Using Blues, Funk, and Rock, Pimp C would also lend his services to Big Mike, Master P, and Young Bleed were just as charismatic as the double-threat’s vocals.
The New Jersey producer and Gilla House member elevated Hip-Hop from its shiny suit era with charged tracks for Redman & Method Man, De La Soul, Jay Z, and others. A deeper look back into the last 23 years shows that Dana Stinson has been hooking up dope beats long before they named one of his biggest hits after him.
This New Yorker has been behind the boards for a host of records that resonate in the streets and the mainstream. Nas’ “Made You Look” and The Fugees’ “Fu-Gee-La” are two shining examples of his two closest Rap associations.
Whether credited as the Grand Wizzards, the Soulquarians, to the simply “The Roots,” Questlove, Black Thought, James Poyser and company stacked a catalog over the last 25 years. Songs like “You Got Me,” “The Next Movement,” and “The Seed 2.0” were chart-climbers that rarely relied on samples. Outside the Illadelph, this collective produced for Common and Slum Village.
Compton’s own Mark Spears has been closely attached to the Black Hippy sound as a member of Digi+Phonics. From “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” to “Maad City” to “John MUir,” this in-house producer is versatile and very exclusive to his TDE family.
Lawrence, Massachusetts’ Statik Selektah cut his teeth as a DJ and engineer. Thanks to his cleverly-arranged assembly line of albums, always featuring his own sounds, this purist has been recruited by Eminem, M.O.P., and AZ, while making crucial work with Joey Bada$$ and REKS.
Especially the nucleus of Poke & Tone have lived up to their name. This outfit made classics with Kool G Rap, Method Man, LL Cool J, and Will Smith, among countless others.
In addition to 20-plus years with Black Eyed Peas, will.i.am freaked the Funk for Nas, Common, The Game, Too Short, and others. Working across genre, the veteran was one of the dominant music forces of the mid-to-late 2000s, and achieved a run as strong as anybody’s.
One of Rap’s most prolific veterans started out producing Mob music for the Bay area. It was through Gucci Mane that his career exploded. Now a Grammy-winner, Zay’ is highly involved with Migos, Future, and others.
So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.