Finding The GOAT Producer: Pete Rock vs. 9th Wonder. 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.

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For fans of Soul-based production styles, 9th Wonder and Pete Rock are giants. Pete Rock has been beat-smithing since the late 1980s, working with Heavy D & The Boyz before entering a new decade collaborating with artists like Run-D.M.C., DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Nas, Slick Rick, and many others. 9th Wonder, who has cited Pete as a leading inspiration since his arrival, has produced classic material for around 15 years. He is revered as a contemporary giant, and rightfully so. With Little Brother, he changed the sound associated with southern Hip-Hop, and created a soul renaissance. Along the way, he’s worked with Jay Z, De La Soul, Sean Price, Murs, Royce 5’9″, and a host of other artists representing multi-generational ties to Hip-Hop. Both producers have garnered the utmost respect from die-hard Heads in multiple generations, but who advances in the competition to name the GOAT? Vote below to decide who moves to Round 2.

Pete Rock

To be called “Soul Brother #1,” one has to earn it. Since 1989, Peter Phillips has done just that. By virtue of producing his cousin (Heavy D) and then his own partner (C.L. Smooth), Pete Rock made the smoothest leap from radio to production, with the hardest drums and smoothest samples. Deliberately, Pete connected some of the most lyrically-innovative Hip-Hop ever made with sounds of the 1960s and early ’70s. Like Hip-Hop’s pioneering DJs, the Mount Vernon, New Yorker possesses an other-wordly knowledge of records. In turn, songs like his group’s own “They Reminisce Over You” and “Escape” as well as Nas’ “The World Is Yours” pack a portal to a deep musicality in Hip-Hop. The “Chocolate Boy Wonder” was all mellow moods though. Public Enemy’s “Shut ‘Em Down (Remix)” packed a punch that eclipsed the original, while Rahzel’s “All I Know” shuffles its sound in a manner as charismatic and quirky as the beat-box master. More than just an a la carte producer, Pete has thrived in the remix and taking on whole albums. Whether AZ or Bumpy Knuckles, Ghostface Killah or Rakim, Pete is a master of the boards.

9th Wonder

Beginning with 2003’s The Listening by Little Brother, 9th Wonder made a powerful impression at a critical time. With his own library of sounds, this audiophile changed opinions on what Hip-Hop south of the Mason-Dixon could, should, and would sound like. At the helm for two beloved L.B. albums, 9th proved to be massively prolific. He took his Soul serenades and redefined the Boot Camp Clik’s vibe. Then, 9th made key steps with two of the most prominent voices of the Underground by way of Jean Grae and Murs. In the era of a la carte production, the Winston-Salem, North Carolina native laced Jay Z’s revered Black Album, presented Lil Wayne in a fresh light, and brilliantly executed a concept with Ludacris and Spike Lee. Outside of his collaborations and beat submissions, 9th has been a trusted coach. From Rapsody to Skyzoo, Anderson .Paak to Torae, 9th has been at the vanguard of working with new talent. In an era where melody and swing are often trapped, 9th Wonder remains a guardian and deliverer of soulful Boom Bap.

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So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.