Finding The GOAT Producer: Noah “40” Shebib vs. Puff Daddy & The Hitmen. 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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Next up is a battle of the generations, with some of the signature soundmakers of the 1990s up against perhaps the “newest” producer in the competition. Puff Daddy and his in-house squad The Hitmen were responsible, in part, for making music by The Notorious B.I.G., Ma$e, Lil Kim, Total and many others, Pop Music. As the ’90s wore on, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Jay Z, and The LOX all worked with Sean Combs et al in the studio. As such, Puffy & the Hitmen created one of the most successful formulas in Rap history, and laid the foundation for generations of New York talent. Contrast that with Noah “40” Shebib, a Canadian producer whose first big splash came with Drake’s 2009 LP, So Far Gone. Eventually, he would begin working with major American acts, including  A$AP Rocky, Lil Wayne, DJ Khaled, Nas, and 2 Chainz, and has been at the forefront of mainstream Rap’s continued domination of crossover culture. But whose work is better?

Noah “40” Shebib

Superstar Hip-Hop artists tend to have their own sound in tow. That could not have been truer for Drake’s 2009 sonic boom. So Far Gone featured a rapper who broke the mold, and music attached that refused to conform. Noah “40” Shebib has cast his own tint on Hip-Hop sounds, pulling from the low-end bass of the Down South, the orchestration of the West Coast, and the Pop-savvy of ’90s New York City. The Toronto, Ontario native helped bring the mid-tempo beats into mainstream vogue. “Miss Me” featured an early punchy quality set against Drake’s dynamic delivery. By A$AP Rocky’s showy possé cut “Problems,” the aggression was harnessed in a way that was an upper-cut to the charts. As Drizzy has evolved, 40 as been at his side doing the same. The progression of Thank Me Later to Take Care is credit that both men can share. From Nas to Lil Wayne to Action Bronson (all co-productions), others have wanted in, and solicited enduring sounds from Noah. Meanwhile, like Dr. Dre, Mannie Fresh, or RZA, he is very much at the core of his OVO collective. Outside of his hits, the producer is skilled in giving jet-packs to artists to find themselves, and carve a lane right up the charts.

Puff Daddy & The Hitmen

When he launched Bad Boy Records, Puff Daddy needed music as colorful as his artists’ wardrobes and videos. The Hitmen were born, modeled after Motown’s Hit Factory, and similar teams at Stax, The Bomb Squad, and Trackmasters. Including its gregarious leader, no one producer would eclipse the team. Consisting of Deric “D Dot” Angelettie, Nashiem Myrick, Stevie J., Sean C., L.V., Carlos “6 July” Broady, Younglord, Ron “Amen Ra” Lawrence, Chucky Thompson, and a rotating cast of others, The Hitmen lived up to their name in the ’90s, 2000s, and present day. Aside from the in-house blockbuster trifecta of The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death, Puff and co.’s No Way Out, and Ma$e’s Harlem World, this team (in parts) produced hits for Jay Z, Scarface, MC Lyte, and Guerilla Black. Puff and The Hitmen made the dusty craft of sampling mainstream, as they took hits from the ’80s, and made ’em sound so crazy. From David Bowie to Diana Ross to sacred Led Zeppelin riffs, these producers found the epicenter of Pop, using Hip-Hop’s foundation. Simply beyond using source records, Puff and company knew how to keep the people (including themselves) dancing. Just when The Hitmen seemed formulaic, they evolved. Jay Z’s American Gangster comeback had a sound that was not a coke-rush, but a heroin high to go with its stylized approach. With a revolving roster, an evolving sound, and a litany of projects they laid hands upon, the one constant here is the hits.

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