If Rakim 'gave birth' to Nas (lyrically that is), then Kanye West is J Dilla's sonic offspring. Before he succumbed to lupus related complications on February 10, 2006, Dilla was well known as the man who pioneered the soul-hip-hop fusion that has popularized Kanye West and others. He tweaked, turned and transformed soul, funk, and blues samples into a realm that no produer could envision.
Choice Production: The Pharcyde - Runnin' | Listen |
Choice Album: Donuts
2. MF Doom
Metal Fingers Doom is another soul-jacking predecessor of Kanye West's. His beat-making style ranges from dark and nostalgic to stouthearted and gritty. Like Kanye, Doom works the mic as effectively as the boards, but his lyrics may come appear esoteric to new fans. Doom, hip-hop's favorite multiple personality disorder patient, has also dropped gems as Zev Luv X, King Geedorah, Viktor Vaughn, and DangerDoom.
Choice Track: MF Doom - Deep Fried Frenz | Listen |
Choice Album: Mm...Food
Producer/DJ RjD2 is one of the most effective at amalgamating soul, funk, and rock 'n' roll into one sound template. The Ohio native raised eyebrows with his stellar debut, 2002's Deadringer, before following it up with the solid Since We Last Spoke two years later. The alt-rap beat maestro recently teamed up with his Soul Position partner, emcee Blueprint, for their sophomore LP, Things Go Better With Rj and Al.
Choice Track: RjD2 - "Smoke & Mirrors" | Listen |
Choice Album: Deadringer
4. Wale Oyejide
There's no simpler way to put it: no artist has been able to fuse afrobeat with hip-hop better than Wale Oyejide. Formerly producing under the moniker Science Fiction, Wale recently stepped behind the mike to give the world a dose of his soulful reality. His 2004 opus, One Day...Everything Changed features collaboration with MF Doom and J Dilla.
Choice Album: One Day...Everything Changed
When Oddisee joined Halftooth Records as a producer/MC, one of his first tasks was to breathe some soul into labelmate Wordsworth's already poignant album, Mirror Music. Oddisee's version of the album yielded a superb ten-track CD, forcing Halftooth to re-package Mirror Music as a 2-disc album. Production-wise, he's probably the closest to Kanye West on this list.
Choice Track: Wordsworth - "Gotta Pay" | Listen |
Choice Album: Mirror Music: The Deluxe Edition
Hip-hop has always been universal, transcending time and space with minimal restraints by the day, and Dutch producer Nicolay is a testament to this. Mainly recognized for his internet-stanchioned collaboration with Phonte (of Little Brother), Connected, Nic often employs plush piano loops and booming basslines to create melodious soundtracks.
Choice Track: Foreign Exchange - "Sincere" | Listen |
Choice Album: Connected
7. 9th Wonder
Even if you've never heard of Little Brother producer 9th Wonder, you've probably heard his boardwork on Destiny Child's "Girl" and Jay-Z's "Threat." 9th has a signature sample-infested and bass-laden production style that has garnered him collaborations with the likes of Pete Rock, M.O.P., Buckshot, Murs, Memphis Bleek, and even Kanye West.
Choice Track: "Still Lives Through" | Listen |
Choice Album: The Minstrel Show