Finding The GOAT Producer: No I.D. vs. A Tribe Called Quest. 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.
Together, A Tribe Called Quest and No I.D. played pivotal roles in creating a wave in 1990s Hip-Hop that would come to be known to many as part of the “golden era” in the music. Of course, the former is responsible for much of A Tribe Called Quest’s iconic body of work, with collective members Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad taking on much of the heavy lifting. No I.D. (aka Immenslope) solidified his signature production style first as lead producer for Common Sense (who would eventually be, simply, Common), but has extended his reach to include hits for artists well into the 2000s and beyond. Producing Com’s first two albums in near entirety, including classics like “I Used to Love H.E.R,” he went on to work alongside artists like G-Unit (“Smile”), Kanye West (“Heartless”), Jay Z (“Run This Town”), and more. But whose contributions better stand the test of time?
No I.D.’s trajectory in Hip-Hop is the producer’s ideal path. Ernest Dion Wilson entered the game with a fellow unknown in Common, with whom he has worked on five out of his 10 solo albums. The Chicago, Illinois sound-crafter is known for using lush samples that allow an artist’s words to shine and keep the track moving, and the listener’s head nodding. Nearly 15 years into his career, No I.D. started making songs that were as aggressive to the listener as the vocalist. Bow Wow’s “Let Me Hold You,” Ghostface Killah and The LOX’s “Metal Lungies,” and Jay Z’s “D.O.A.” are prime examples. For a producer who lacked identity in the era of tags on tracks, No I.D.’s 2000s power moves throughout Def Jam Records were comforting to the people who hold Resurrection and One Day It’ll All Make Sense as exceptional LPs. Moreover, No I.D. has a rich pedigree of developing artists to last. From Shawnna (by way of Infamous Syndicate) to Kid Cudi to Vince Staples, this is a producer who is one of the few capable of making numerous entire albums with a variety of artists, all sounding unique. Thanks to songs like Nas’ “Daughters,” Killer Mike’s “Ready Set Go,” and Staples’ “Hands Up,” No I.D. balances his ARTium label, EVP post at Def Jam by making some of his best, most interesting records to date.
A Tribe Called Quest
A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm was not just an awakening in lyrics, it achieved the same in sounds. Credited as a group production, it was Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad largely behind the boards. That formation would hold through the next five years, making some of the biggest leaps in Hip-Hop sound theory, sampling, and overall direction. Tip and Ali took Rap back to its Jazz influence in a way that refused to compromise its current flavors or modern groove. Vibraphones, horns, and upright bass thrives on these works, with the turntable cuts never far away. In turn, Tip, who was the band leader, would be recruited to lend his ears and hands to other works. Apache’s “Gangsta Bitch,” Crooklyn Dodgers’ debut track, and Nas’ “One Love” are just some of the out-sourced magic from Kamaal and company. By 1996, as Tribe was evolving, so were the sounds. The Ummah was born, pairing Ali and Tip with Slum Village’s J Dilla. With Raphael Saadiq and D’Angelo also sometimes members of the ensemble, this group imprinted its mark on Beats, Rhymes, and Life and The Love Movement. There was a gentleness in some of the arrangements not found on early ’90s works, but a pulsating, crisp percussion section previously unavailable too. Further, The Ummah laced Busta Rhymes, made a collabo cult classic with Janet Jackson, and activated Da Bush Babees.
So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above.