At first glance, this Rock The Bells lineup looks like it has some serious flaws. The fact that Kid Cudi and Wiz Khalifa sandwich Nas at the top is beyond ridiculous. Nas’ contributions to hip-hop are far and beyond the combined “charitable donations” of Kid Cudi and Wiz Khalifa.
Now, when Chang Weisburg and Guerilla Union created Rock The Bells back in 2004, there was a much different philosophy running through their sound waves. Honoring traditional hip-hop artists such as Rakim, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill and EPMD was a staple in creating a festival dedicated solely to classic rap. Over the past eight years and amidst some serious backlash from fans, Weisburg has re-invented Rock The Bells into what we see here today.
It is unfair for us to hate on Guerilla Union for bringing together artists like Nas, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Big Daddy Kane, Dipset and Ice Cube. Yet, where do artists that exemplify the ‘money making era” of hip-hop such as Big Sean, Tyga, 2 Chainz and Wiz Khalifa fit into the original plan.
It looks like Chaing is taking the route that we have seen many of our favorite emcees go. Into the mainstream comes Rock The Bells in 2012. It is not its morph into a lucrative endeavor that bothers true Rock The Bells fans. After all, most of us have an iTunes full of Khalifa and 2 Chainz. It is their lack of respect for the movements origins that gets us. It is only imaginable how the great Slick Rick (who sold his soul for rap music and hip-hop culture) feels having his name right about 2 Chainz. Guerilla Union is clearly trying to bridge the generational hip-hop gap here. I’m sorry but the teenagers who are listening to 2 Chainz have no appreciated for Slick Rick’s contributions.
Paying for top-level beats engineered by the game’s most sought-after producers is hardly a fresh concept—but in today’s hip-hop climate, where mainstream appeal tends to eclipse raw talent, heavy production has become all the more necessary. However, despite recurring radioplay, the producers behind the boards of hip-hop’s best beats aren’t being paid the dues they deserve. We’ve decided to breach protocol and illuminate the talents of the game’s finest, giving names to the genre’s anonymous sound manufacturers.
If there were ever an answer to New York’s recent drought in production creativity, it would be Harry Fraud. The Brooklynite’s journey into hip-hop, was as conventional as it was anti-climactic. He connected with French Montana through a mutual friend, and played him some beats over the course of a few studio sessions. Luckily for Montana, Fraud wasn’t one of the many wannabe trap producers looping synth and heavy bass beats-what French stumbled upon was a producer with a street-pop background, infatuation with sampling early ‘70s rock and ‘90s hip-hop, and affinity for what he deems “airy soundscapes” draped in his loops. Fraud broke into hip-hop’s mainstream with a distinctive sound that lets New York rap heads sigh and relax.
After gaining notoriety across the five boroughs, Fraud collaborated with Action Bronson on a number of beat burners, including his most recognized track, “Bird On A War.” His scattered sound has even made it into the arsenal of emerging D.C. trap-heavy star Fat Trel on his latest drop, Nightmare on E Street. His work on French’s “Shot Caller” exemplified his versatility and veiled penchant for early 90s tri-state area classics; sniping the trumpet off Lords of the Underground’s 1993 single, “Funky Child,” gives the modern track an old school jazz feel. Fraud’s climb to the mainstream starts and ends, however, with appearances on Juicy J’s “Stoner’s Night Pt. 2” and Wiz Khalifa’s “T.A.P.” Hopefully Fraud’s success will open the eyes of other New York producers to the too often forgotten concepts of creativity and originality.
It’s a rap anomaly that a once unsigned kid from Chester, PA was in the lab churning out beats for hip-hop’s most boisterous upstart. Twenty-three year-old Jahil Beats, who was recently signed to Roc Nation, teamed up with Maybach Music Group’s Meek Mill on just about every level over the past year, including acting as executive producer on his debut mixtape Dreamchaser and follow-up Dreamchasers 2 and producing hits like “Ima Boss,” “Burn,” and “Flexing.” Today, Jahil—or Jungle Beats, his production tag—is in rap’s limelight. He has emerged as the producer that has rappers across the genre fiending for his talents.
His musical style is no more unique than most mainstream hip-hop producers. Starting largely with piano heavy beats, Jahlil has grown with his sounds, and become more accustomed to using heavy synths and live Hi-hats. His style, which is full of introduction and bridge vacant freestyle beats, can be easily identified with other MMG producers, like Cardiak, Lex Luger and Lil’ Lody. Seemingly aware that producers of approach have quickly has fallen from rap’s good graces, Jungle Beats is constantly working on refining his skills. In 2012 alone, he has worked with a plethora of artists who cater to distinctive production needs. His synth-heavy production for Chris Brown’s “Holla At Me” is a far cry from his work on Diggy’s “Everybody Late,” featuring Hi-hat heavy banger, and Lloyd Bank’s snare-based “Jackpot.”
Roc Nation’s headmaster Jay-Z’s ear for quality production is going unquestioned as he is enlists Jahil for spots on Willow Smith’s debut, J. Cole’s sophomore release, and hopefully a Jay-Z album. In the meantime, expect to see him destroy beats on Meek Mill’s debut album Dreams & Nightmares, set for a summer release.
Clams Casino has A$AP Rocky to thank for putting him on the hip-hop radar. While new wave fans deem him the hottest producer on the planet right now, the vast majority of hip-hop heads consider Clams a lame electronic crossover. He is primarily known in the genre for his work with pretty flacko, producing a number of jams off LiveLoveA$AP, including “Bass” and “Wassup.” Clams has been on the board for the likes of Lil B, Soulja Boy, and myriad other unique personalities in the rap spotlight. His musical background is primarily in electronic music, made evident in his bombastic Lil’ B instrumental, “Unchain Me,” as well as Soulja Boy’s earthy “All I Need.” If there was ever a time for an electro producer like Clams to shine, this is it—the American electronica craze is at a peak. Clams does not shy away from experimentalism: he features gorgeous, vocally distorted Adele and Bjork samples on his Soulja Boy beats, and an emotive instrumental on Max Miller’s “Angels.”
Recently, the New Jersey native stepped out of the shadows to release his own instrumental projects. The Instrumentals mixtape, falsely dubbed an instant classic by the pretentious folks at Pitchfork, grew the producer’s musical repertoire. Clams even used it to secure a record deal with Tri Angle Records. Those expecting more of the knotty, romantic R&B infusions that connected him to the Weekend won’t initially be pleased with the solo record’s style—but, ultimately, they’re learn to appreciate the abstract direction he has taken for the recently released Rainforest EP. Though disparaging to hip-hop purists, Clams’ style is a new benchmark in the hip-hop/electronic revolution.
It’s impossible to leave out the G.O.O.D. Music signee who gave us both “Niggas In Paris” and “Goldie” over the last 10 months. The only Grammy-nominated producer to make this list is enjoying his recurring radio royalty checks from Kanye West and A$AP Rocky, but it wasn’t always diamonds and gold for the Burbank, CA-based producer. Hit-Boy has come a long way from his failed Snoop Doog and Dom Kennedy production experiments. A quick listen to Dom’s “CDC” epitomizes his once shaky talent, but all it took was a few studio sessions with Kanye and the G.O.O.D. Music team to harness his skills—and let loose a number of Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Friday hits, such as the heart-warming, “Christmas In Harlem.” The keyboard-heavy producer has been working with G.O.O.D almost exclusively since becoming a label member a year ago. Crafting beats only with heavy-hitting keyboard synth kits, Hit-Boy has made a name for himself without garnering a lot of diversity for his sound.
With the G.O.O.D. Music compilation album and solo affair from Pusha T on the way, you know Hit-Boy is cooking up something filthy. In fact, he recently said that he plans to take a different approach to his production on these projects: to honor his sonic idol, Scott Storch, Hit Boy will infuse his production with a variety of genre-straddling sounds, from R&B to club-heavy rap hits. Maybe we’ll even get an improved version of his 2011 R&B production blunders on the G.O.O.D. Music Compilation—yes, Kelly Rowland, we’re talking about you. Oh, and apparently he raps, as well: be on the lookout for Hit-Boy’s debut single “Jay-Z Interview” coming this month. Speaking of producers-turned-rappers…
Building his brand with a steady stream of collaborations and solo projects for the past few years has paid off for Space Ghost Purrp (SGP). The producer-turned-rapper and back again claimed his MC moniker from ‘90s TV show Spaceghost Coast to Coast. Maintaining the ‘90s theme keeps SGP fresh, and appeals to rappers like Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and the ever-popular A$AP Rocky. His Pheel Tha Phonk 1990 features odd Mortal Kombat soundbites (and also happens to be the weapon of choice for the Miami native). It throws the listener off.
Primarily known for producing his own beats, SGP puts a modern spin on early ‘90s baby underground rap. He strategically retools hip-hop history by mixing southern bounce and trap elements with A Tribe Called Quest-style whistles, as evidenced by tracks like Wiz Khalifa’s “T.A.P.” and Juicy J’s “20 Zip Zags.” SGP’s most noteworthy beat belongs in the hands of modern day rock icon A$AP Rocky. Laying a variety bleeps over other bleeps creates a unique and lively loop. What separates SGP from the rest of this list is his lack of a chart-topping, mainstream hit. It’s not that his production style doesn’t call for it—he’s just waiting for a call from his hometown hero, Rick Ross.
The only respectable rapper in Young Money is set to drop a new album in 2012. Careless World is in stores January 24th. DeMar DeRozan, I mean Tyga should be touring these great United States shortly following the albums release.
Don’t you love tracks with sexual titles? Nothing beats the classic Ludacris jam, “What’s Your Fantasy” on the “Wow, this song really makes me want to bang someone” scale. Regardless, Game is releasing a 10-track follow-up mixtape to his recently released, Purp and Patron entitled, Purp and Patron: The Hangover. Here is the first leak. Download below.
The baby of Young Money recently spent some time in Europe last week. He checked in with Tim Westwood and of course joined the group of rappers who have spit a verse for Westwood. Tyga goes in over Kanye’s Runaway. Check it below.