Tough question. Made even more difficult by the fact that many rapper’s have made beats for themselves, but aren’t necessarily classed as ‘producers’. KRS-One was credited as having produced most the early BDP records, but he also had DJ Doc and D-Nice helping out with the programming – so does he qualify here? Not really, because otherwise this could take for forever. To keep **** simple, I’m only including dudes who were known for their beats before they rapped or are more widely recognized for their MC status, which excludes people like Schoolly-D, Biz Markie and Lord Finesse.
The driving force behind the Ultramagnetic sound who also assisted Kool Keith in holding down MC duties. Started off strong on Critical Beatdown, but by the time The Four Horsemen dropped he was rapping like a malfunctioning android.
Based on his first album alone, Diamond is a strong contender. Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop showcased a straight-forward and amusing vocal technique, matched with some of the most diverse examples of the crate digging beat science ever. Having introduced Fat Joe to the world and worked on the Fu-Gee’s hugely successful The Score, D proved to be more than an underground sensation, but his later solo work has lacked that spark that made his earlier work so timeless.
As the musical backbone of Mobb Deep, Havoc provided lyrical support for lead MC Prodigy during their ‘classic period’, and helped define the Queensbridge sound in the mid-90’s with his brand of anti-social, bleak beats. Recent solo projects have been far from inspiring though.
Before he was producing Jay-Z millionaire rap, No ID put Common on the map and released Accept Your Own & Be Yourself (The Black Album), which was a refreshingly heartfelt example of the Chi-Town sound that proved to be a pre-cursor to the blueprint that his student Kanye West would later work from.
When he’s not acting like a massive douchebag, ‘Ye has been known to bang out a quality beat or two. His lyrical technique on his early work was pretty painful, but if you’re a fan of how he puts it down you might say that he’s improved a lot over time. He’s also become more of a ass-hat.
During his time with The Lootpack, Madlib The Bad Kid wasted some great music with the shitty raps that he and Wildchild unleashed. The first Quasimoto project was out there enough for his raps to work in the context of the record, but I can’t really rate him too highly in the regular rapper dude stakes.
Zone has great taste in ignorant rap and the uncanny ability to make dope beats out of French accordion samples. His rhymes are usually good for a laugh, but as with most comedy records it’s only really funny the first couple of listens.
Jay Dee aka J-Dilla
According to ?uestlove, Dilla is the greatest producer-on-the-mic of all time. I’m not sure if I want to take his word for it though, since for ever good move he’s made (getting Sasha Grey to star in a video for The Roots) he then counters it by getting the guy from Fall-Out Boy to sing on the same track. But back to James Yancey – as influential as he was behind the boards, I’m not sure if many would consider that his rapping was of quite the same pedigree.
Much like Jay Dee before him, Black Milk is far more accomplished as a beat creator than as a rapper. While he gets by on the mic, it’s a mere distraction to the superior sounds he pieces together in the lab.
Sorry, but Dre’s rapping has never been good. He was crappy on Niggaz4Life and it was only thanks to D.O.C. that he was half-decent on The Chronic. Nevertheless, he was a producer-on-the-mic pioneer, and for that he deserves a mention.
Technically he qualifies, but who’s gonna vote for him? That being said, ‘The Benjamins’ beat >>>>>>.
Legendary beat-smith who went from kicking verses penned by Grand Puba to handling his own lyrics. While not exactly mind-blowing in terms of content, the Chocolate Boy Wonder is blessed with a dope voice and better beats than most.
The first two KMD albums and Operation Doomsday are genius, demonstrating some of the most original examples of sampling ever put to tape. He also evolved from being an idealistic young MC to a drunken, mumbling mess on the mic, although without falling-off. Born To This was a superb return to form after one too many Danger Mouse sessions, making it clear that Zev Love X is in it for the long haul.
Large Paul is about as close as we’re ever gonna see to hip-hop personified. Breaking Atoms is one of the purest rap albums of all time, and not always delivering his best on his solo projects, you’re guaranteed that every time he does a beat, hook or guest verse for someone, The Live Guy With Glasses with have **** sewn-up.
Although he began his career as Prince Rakeem, RZA certainly left a permanent stamp on the sound of rap with the rec-room sound he introduced with the Wu-Tang Clan. As an MC, he tends to be hit and miss, but it’s hard to ignore his influence as the leader of the Wu. The less said about Bobby Digital, the better.
For years I thought that Ali Shaheed Muhammad provided the classic beats for Tribe Called Quest. I was wrong. The Abstract also laced some Mobb Deep tracks, Nas’ ‘One Love’ and Apache’s ‘Gangsta Bitch’.
One of the most underrated duo’s out there, Psycho Les and Ju Ju spat some hilarious **** over strictly top shelf breaks and loops. Who can front on a group that declared they ‘wanna ****, drink and smoke some shit’?
Punchline rap pioneer who produced ‘Suicidal Thoughts’ for Biggie and discovered Big L. What’s fucking with that?
Mr. Slow Flow has been hampered by his under-performing rhyme partner Rakka for years, but his solo work proved that you’d have to be a moron to ignore this dude’s killer combo of dope beats and stoner rhymes.
Easily one of rap’s greatest current producers, ALC used to kicks raps in his days of The Whooliganz and has been known to let off a couple on some of his more recent solo work. Does his thing but doesn’t stand out as a memorable vocalist.
Gore rap specialist who’s so nice on the boards that Raekwon reached out to him for a cut for Linx 2. Love him or hate him, you’ve gotta give it up for his classic cover of LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’, which he recreated as ‘I Need Drugs’.
The 45 King
Didn’t write his own rhymes but his delivery and voice sealed the deal.
With a lyrical technique that evolved from ‘fast rap’ to ‘abstract underground’ to an almost Biggie-influenced sound, Don really stood out with his eerie underground chops and loops.
Most DITC fans were disappointed when Show stopped trading verses with AG, but I guess he just wanted to focus on making banging tracks. Truth of the matter is, I’d rather hear Show rap than half the people on this list.
Don’t sleep on PMD’s contributions to the EPMD sound. They both deserve a mention but PMD was always the stand-out as far as bringing that hardcore edge to the crew.
CHOP IT UP!!