Producers Are Now Producers
There are more rap artists and producers of Hip Hop music than ever before in history, all with access to put out music for a wider audience. As a result, rappers have their pick of beats to rap over. This competition to get the attention of artists you’d as a producer want to work with has led to exciting experimentation but it can be more difficult to get that attention. This I think has led many beat makers to actualize as producers in all sense of the term, honing in on their sound and the artists that work best with that sound.
Out of all the dictionaries I searched on the web, Urban Dictionary has the most comprehensive definition of a music producer: 1. (In the music industry)A person who has many roles, among them controlling the recording sessions, coaching and guiding the performers, and supervising the recording, mixing and mastering processes. There have always been those who met these standards, think Timbaland, Dr. Dre, The Neptunes, a slew of others. With the explosion of Hip Hop as an artform matched with the explosion of the internet and access to necessary equipment, many were compelled to make the music and did; and just like Rock & Roll before it, Hip Hop has gone through a rebellious punk phase, were the quality of recordings become subjective and open to debate. All this to say that today I believe some of the greatest rap being made now comes at the hand of the producer becoming a producer, not just sequencing drums, synths, and samples together to be rapped over.
Future’s DS2 was successful in large part due to the production being in the hands of very few, Metro Boomin, Southside, and Zaytoven handling every beat on the album. They did more than just make Future beats, they made atmospheres for him to feel comfortable in, worked with him to personalize the sound to fit the image of the music that the artist has in their head. This comes across clearly and concisely. Though you can distinguish a Metro Boomin beat from other producers sonically, the beats he makes for Future or distinctly different from the ones he makes for Young Thug or 21 Savage.
Fans and other artists take note of this attention to detail alike. Hip Hop is a new Golden Era because collaboration is more fruitful than it’s ever been. Cardo Got Wings’s work with G Perico or ScHoolboy Q sounds different than his work with Payroll Giovanni or Kendrick Lamar; JuneOnTheBeat’s work with Mozzy has helped the latter craft his sounds and flow even when working with other producers; Icytwat’s almost solitary work with Divine Council is a dominating factor in what makes their music some of the most interesting in music.
A shift has happened recently. Producers in rap music are the true focal point of the music. This is especially true with mumbly post-trap and leaned out rap where lyrics are secondary and the voice becomes an instrument more than a message, the environment is crucial to how the artist performers. I think this will keep breeding innovation in Hip Hop, challenging both artist and producer to be ahead of the curve and focus on how to make the music as good as it can possibly be.
Credit: Marcus Scott Williams