10 Producers Behind The Hits: From Kanye to Phil Spector

This is a list of 10 insanely talented producers that I am a fan of; to say these guys are ‘influential’ would be an understatement. This is by no means an exhaustive list, it was inspired by the other blog I wrote, about Max Martin’s career.

  1. Timbaland, aside from making a name for himself as a front-man, has been behind an all-star selection of singles:
An iconic beat that is complex and interesting in itself, but isn’t overpowering.
Showcases Timbaland’s signature beat-box sampling, a favourite of his, especially for JT tracks.
The track behind JT’s massive come-back.
A simple, bold beat, with style. A classic summer jam that has lasted the test of time.
Amazing clip of Timbaland showing Jay-Z the beat for “Dirt Off Your Shoulder”

2. Kanye West, the visionary producer behind a selection of massive hits that are full of both musical creativity and Kanye attitude:

A beautiful latin guitar sample; plus the first song featuring the (at the time) brand new power couple… who knew?
Could not think of a non-Kayne song more dripping with Kanye attitude.
Except maybe this one.
Kanye at his best, musically. Catchy, retro, soulful, all in one. Sampling Creative Source, below:
One of my favourite beats in Kanye’s list, because it’s not only beautiful and creative, but it also perfectly encapsulates both the song’s lyrics and Common’s serious, critical, and yet hopeful take on the world.

3. Swizz Beatz, behind so many timeless hiphop classics of the 2000’s.

Recognizable at the first note — absolutely iconic for both DMX and that era of rap as a whole.
Truly a masterpiece, and minimal in the best way. One of those deceptively simple beats that you come to appreciate more and more overtime. Cool, simple, and room to breathe — perfect for Busta’s complex style.
A beat that grabs you right off that bat. So much attitude — Single Ladies before there was Single Ladies.
This is a great song in general, but this live version is incredible. Glad I found this.
Minimalist drums in the style of “Touch It”, but with a melody that is big and bold and very Beyonce.

4. Sir George Martin has far too many credits to include but I’ll list a few of his more notable contributions as a producer:

John Lennon asked Martin to play something on the piano “bach-esque”, and so Martin wrote the piano solo in the bridge, which he’d later speed up to sound more like a harpsichord.
Encouraging the Beatles to incorporate strings, most notably in “Yesterday”. What a song.
Making the decision to speed up “Penny Lane” in post-production.
Martin encouraged songs to start off with a catchy hook to grab the listener. He provided the line: “Can’t Buy Me Love”.

5. Phil Spector, the tragically flawed genius behind the Wall of Sound’s downward personal resulted in a murder conviction for which he is still serving time. His credits are some of the most globally known sing-a-longs.

A must-have in any Christmas playlist.
An incredible triumph. Spector was brought in to produce the entire album. Unfortunately, he almost always left on bad terms with each artist he worked with, and the Beatles were no exception (to put it mildly).

6. Shane Lindstrom aka Murdabeatz (s/o fellow Toronto native Cory Litwin). One of the most in-demand producers in hip-hop right now.

7. The legendary Scott Storch (born in Halifax), whose keyboard and strings style has produced some of the most recognizable beats in history.

One of the hardest hitting Roots tracks out there, and one of my favourites.

8. Dr. Dre: the man himself — what a career in music, and pushing so many influential artists to the top. Not a lot that needs to be said.

Some great footage featuring Dre & Em talking about their chemistry together.

9. Pharrell Williams, one of the coolest producers whose career spans many genres. You can always tell it’s a Pharell touch.

This is a masterpiece of a beat. Sounds like something out of a Tarantino movie.

10. Last but not least, Rick Rubin. An incredible array of hits, in everything from hiphop to death metal, and a career spanning over 20 years and the founding of Def Jam records.

There are so many talented producers out there, and it’s amazing to follow the trajectory of people who have influenced so many different, varied songs that we all know and love. These are just honourable mentions because Martin has so many hits, but music isn’t something — in my opinion — that is worth ranking or saying “this person is the best and better than so and so.” I just love learning about who’s behind the hits, nothing more.

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