Finding The GOAT Producer (The Final Battle): DJ Premier vs. J Dilla. Who Is Better?
“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 will be 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 is editorial about each producer that contextualizes the match-up, as well as sample songs, to help voters in their consideration. There is also a poll in which votes are cast, and readers are 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 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.
After two months, the final battle for Finding The GOAT Producer is here. Since the competition was announced in early January, J Dilla and DJ Premier were two of the most regularly proclaimed names by Ambrosia For Heads readers on social media. Preemo won all of his four previous challenges by at least 65%, while Dilla Dog bested Dr. Dre by a margin of just less than 10% before arriving in the championship. These producers (both drummers as well) have different sounds. Both digging connoisseurs, these artists favor re-purposed elements, often accentuated by their own trademark brands of percussion. Preemo used his amazing DJ talents to punctuate his productions, while Dilla electrically charged many of his tracks, while also creating a loop renaissance in the late ’90s and beyond. Having worked on some of the same acclaimed albums (including back-to-back singles on Common’s Like Water For Chocolate), these men knew each other, and ran in the same industry circles. Since Dilla’s untimely death in 2006, “P-P-P-Premier” has waved the flag in his honor. While Preemo’s career stems back to the late ’80s, and remains highly prolific today, Dilla’s Tupac-esque studio regimen continues to raise eyebrows and volume levels today, with constant output more than a decade since he departed. This user-driven battle will be hard-fought, vocal among voters, and a testament to true originality in sound. Your vote may be the very ballot that seals the deal, in declaring the Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of all time. The winner will be announced on Thursday, March 7
Literally meaning “first in importance,” Premier is consistently touted as one of music’s preeminent producers, regardless of genre. Stretching back nearly 30 years, Premo’s production discography reads like a map for Rap’s sonic growth; from his 1990 work with Jazz great Branford Marsalis to his release with R&B singer Miguel just this month, DJ Premier has never shied away from pushing the limits of Hip-Hop beatsmithing. Of course, his work with Gang Starr reigns eternal, and the master sampler created groundbreaking records with Nas on Illmatic, The Notorious B.I.G. on Ready to Die and Life After Death, Bahamadia on Kollage, Jay Z on Reasonable Doubt, Rakim on The 18th Letter, and Mos Def on Black On Both Sides. In short, it’s difficult to find a year in the 1990s in which Premier did not have a formative role. Since 2000, he has produced hits for everyone from Common (“6th Sense”) to Anderson .Paak (“Animals”), not to mention collaboration projects with Royce 5’9 (as PRhyme) and countless remixes. Whether it’s his expert sense in looping, the uncut rawness of his groove, or the keen attention paid to background elements, there’s no question that DJ Premier is indeed one of the greatest of all time.
Arguably the most lionized producer in Hip-Hop history, the late J Dilla (aka Jay Dee) has only grown larger in the years since his passing. 11 years later, his music continues to live on and influence new generations of fans and creators. Emerging out of Detroit, Michigan’s bleak-yet-vibrant underbelly, Dilla put on for his city at home and elsewhere, spending the 1990s working with hometown crews as well as acts as far-ranging as The Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes. With his multi-layered sample chopping, prolific use of drum machines, and keen ear for blending multiple genres into a cohesive story, the one-time mentor of Amp Fiddler grew into his own and went on to create hallmarks for A Tribe Called Quest, Common, De La Soul, Erykah Badu, and many more. By the time Slum Village’s Fan-Tas-Tic (Vol. 1) dropped in ’97, Jay Dee was linking up behind the boards with the fledgling Ummah, a group of producers which included Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. However, he kept it unadulterated Dilla in his solo ventures like 2001’s Welcome To Detroit, 2003’s Ruff Draft, 2006’s Donuts and, to a lesser degree, 2003’s Champion Sound (recorded under the name Jaylib with Madlib); as well as in works found on releases by Chino XL, D12, Elzhi, Ghostface Killah, Royce 5’9, and Talib Kweli.
So who is the better producer? Make sure you vote above, as this is the Final Battle.