Welcome back to #ListWeek. Time to rank the top ten producers of this past year. The boardsmen, the beatmakers, the curators of sound and bounce. 2018 saw a wave of incredible production and the culture owes a lot to these artists. Today, like any other day, we must #RespectTheProducer! To the list!
– Benny P
Since his days working with mixtape Wiz to today, Cardo has brought the heat. But, in 2018 he brought it unlike ever before. His work on ‘God’s Plan’ is self-explanatory – don’t think the song would have the same success if it wasn’t for that gorgeous instrumental. Add placements on albums such as Black Panther, Swimming, REDEMPTION, Championships and others and you have quite the resume. Cardo ain’t going anywhere next year – expect more of the same.
Notable Feats: Scorpion, Black Panther, Swimming, ASTROWORLD, REDEMPTION, Championships, Culture II, Mudboy, ‘Programs,’ ‘Girl’s Best Friend’
9) Kanye West
It’s no question that Kanye was one of the most prolific producers of the entire year. He proved to me again that he is a production genius, putting out five albums in less than two months. That’s absolutely nuts, and I was impressed by the feat. DAYTONA is almost a perfectly produced rap album to me. Ye had it’s beautiful moments sonically, as well. The pacing on ‘Violent Crimes’ alone. KIDS SEE GHOSTS was also a production masterpiece, K.T.S.E. brought Teyana to a new level and I dug some beats on the Nas album too. Kanye is definitely in his element as a producer right now.
I do hope Mr. West informs himself a lot more in 2019 though and stops endorsing the wrong stuff…but that’s for another day. Props to Yeezy – on the boards at least. Never too late to change your thinking.
Notable Feats: DAYTONA, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, K.T.S.E., YE, NASIR, Culture II, Liberation
8) Mike Dean
Speaking of G.O.O.D. Music….truly can’t believe the label put out all those albums the way they did. And, if I’m being honest, I don’t think Kanye West could have done it without Mike Dean by his side. A master of mixing and producing, Dean had his fingerprints all over Kanye’s multiple ‘Wyoming’ releases. When you combine that with his undoubtable excellence and direction on ASTROWORLD, plus a spot on the Jay-Z/Beyoncé album, he absolutely spazzed this past year. Over 30 years in the game…Dean is seemingly unstoppable at this point.
Notable Feats: ASTROWORLD, DAYTONA, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, K.T.S.E., EVERYTHING IS LOVE, YE, NASIR, Culture II, L.O.D., Liberation
God.Damn.Chan made beats in a place void of space and time last year. All that existed when I heard his music was sweet, sultry bounce. His supremely polished debut album Slush stands as one of the most-well produced projects to drop all year, and the VEIB collab album he did with Shane Reis also was stellar behind the boards. Consistency would be an understatement for Chan’s 2018 output – simply one of the East Coast’s best on the track.
Notable Feats: Slush, VEIB, ‘Masamune,’ playing some of the final Low End Theory shows
6) Kenny Segal
If your album title references Bob Ross, then you’re already cool with me. Kenny Segal shined bright from the underground in 2018, largely due in part to his album happy little trees. That project is filled with illustrious, vivid instrumentals and honestly gets better upon every listen. Segal also contributed to Milo’s budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies, Pink Navels’ Born on the Stairs, The Jefferson Park Boys album and other quite notable projects. All in all, this might have been Kenny Segal’s best year yet.
Notable Feats: happy little trees, Kenstrumentals Vol. 3: Travelog, budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies, Born on the Stairs, (((echo chamber))), Buried at Sea, Casual Horns Dog, ‘Air (Slowed & Speed Remix),’ Electricity is on Our Side
5) Jansport J
If you’ve heard the Low album by now you can probably understand why Jansport J is bringing us into the top five. When it comes to a high-quality instrumental album J had the blueprint in 2018. Some of my favorite beats and loops were on his project – I think masterful would be the word. To be honest, I was slipping on this dude. First time I heard of him was due to Low so you know I’ll be steady watching in 2019. A true talent.
Notable Feats: Low, Move Me II: The Present, It’s a Wonderful Beat Tape, ‘Windows Remix’
GRISELDA! The camp that keeps on giving. GxFR only grew in stature last year, and I gotta give mad credit to the in-house beat genius Daringer. He appeared on almost every release from the camp which is absolutely commendable. Conway, Gunn, Benny – Daringer was there at the helm. Crafting grimy and fly shit along the way. Praise is due.
Notable Feats: Supreme Blientele, Tana Talk 3, Everybody is F.O.O.D., White Bronco, Hitler Wears Hermes 6, Blakk Tape, Bad Decisions, Son of G Rap
3) Kenny Beats
Another lock for the year-end producers list. It just felt like Kenny Beats was everywhere I looked in 2018. He’s working with some of the most notable voices in the come up scene right now – ranging from JPEGMAFIA to Rico Nasty. Banger after the banger and the dude doesn’t stop. This past year felt like only the beginning, which is more than exciting. Who knows where the game will take him. Woah Kenny!!!
Notable Feats: FM!, DiCaprio 2, 777, Freddie, Nasty, ‘Puff Daddy,’ ‘Square Up,’ 777 (Deluxe), ‘Win,’ 2 Minute Drills, Stokeley, Free Andy, ‘Zeus,’ all that dope shit he made with Greedo
You gotta give it to Knxw. Everything he drops is top-tier. His Bandcamp is a treasure chest filled with hip hop gold – I mean Knxwledge seriously dropped ELEVEN tapes in 2018 alone. Plus other credits. One thing that I really love about his work too is that he often puts out his tapes in continuing series. Theres’s the WT series or HX series, for instance. And how about those ones he did for Meek too? So ill. Knxwledge can take anything and make it into his own seamlessly, which is far from an easy feat if we’re talking sampling. Year after year his craft matures deeper and deeper into legend status. Thank you, Knw. You are appreciated.
Notable Feats: MEEK.VOL2_, dntaskmefrshit., 2PK.4TRK.B.SiDE., WT.PRT_13, Sun Go Nova, MEEK.VOL3, Gladwemet, HEX.PRT12, White Bronco, GT.2, WT.13.8_, HX.12.8, ボビーとボビーのボリュー1, ‘yesindeed_’
1) The Alchemist
2018: The Year of The Alchemist. Fetti. That has to be said first and foremost. The collab EP between Al, Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y might be one of the illest projects Alchemist has ever released. 10/10 from a productions standpoint. I’ll stand by that. Then you have his stacked EPs Bread and Lunch Meat. Those two alone featured Black Thought, Conway, Roc Marciano, Earl Sweatshirt, Westside Gunn, Action Bronson and Benny the Butcher. Up there as two of the best EPs from the entire year. Production on those is beyond timeless. He also helped craft one of 2018’s top projects on Evidence’s Weather or Not, with four production credits on that album. Sprinkle hits with Wiz Khalifa and ScHoolboy Q and it’s over.
Serious question though – how does Alchemist keep getting better? Any time I saw the “[prod. Alchemist]” tag on a song my day took a break and my ears took a listen. Instrumentals come straight from outer space. Uncle Al is top dog. And I think few can disagree.
Notable Feats: Fetti, ‘Universal Studios,’ Bread EP, Weather or Not, Lunch Meat EP, Supreme Blientele, ‘Budz,’ ‘In Case You Forgot,’ Behold a Dark Horse, Hitler Wears Hermes 6, Tana Talk 3, ‘Fork in the Pot,’ ”94 Ghost Shit,’ ‘Tommy Vercetti’
Honorable Mention (more possibly to come)
Chase The Money
Ol’ Burger Beats
Erick the Architect
Mike Will Made It
images via Kenny Beats, Aris Chatman, Cardo, Julian Berman, Kanye West, Clint Brewer/Splash News, Mike Dean, God.Damn.Chan, Kenny Segal, Jansport J, Daringer, Kenny Beats, Knxwledge, The Alchemist, Red Bull & All rightful photographers/directors
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– Benny P