Top Five Hip Hop Producers Who Shouldn’t Rap
5. Dr. Dre — Who was the spirit of NWA? Cube. (H/T: Topix, a Baltimore hip hop producer/rapper who can get it done on both sides of a track and a name you should know, for that link.) Who had the best bars on The Chronic? Snoop. Lyrically, Dre maybe is nice but he has enjoyed writers for his verses since he started rapping. He knows what a song and what an emcee’s verse should sound like, and he produces better than almost any other, but an emcee’s emcee writes his own rhymes. Who waited fourteen years to release Detox, never did, but released an album called Compton only available on Apple Music so that he could capitalize on his Beats by Dre connection with Apple and keep the Straight Outta Compton hype machine rolling? That was all Dre. To borrow from Jay Z, he’s a business, man. It is just challenging to say that Dre is great on both sides of a track when he can rap, but he cannot write.
4. Kanye West — Fashion references ad nauseum, lesbian jokes, rhyming “Special Ed” with “special ed.” Enough has been said about Yeezy on the mic. Yes, he is a brilliant musical mind and his skill on the mic has improved over time. No, he is not a top-level emcee.
3. Swizz Beats — Did you listen to One Man Band? His uncles were co-CEOs of the Ruff Ryders label and nepotism must be the only reason this guy got on a mic and some company was willing to expose its profit margins to his lack of microphone prowess. Swizz maybe should not produce, either, but that would be just mean to assert.
2. No I.D. — Connected to Common (recently, with Cocaine 80s and, historically, on just about every Common album) and Kanye West (including production credit on “Heartless” from 808s & Heartbreak), No I.D. is a fixture of any Chicago hip hop conversation. In 1997, he saw fit to release Accept Your Own and Be Yourself (The Black Album) which charted and went as high as #94. Valuable production work, historic footnote (and maybe footnote-to-a-footnote) mic work.
- Timbaland — Tim gets top honors because he enjoys so much success on the other side of the booth, so this is kind of an underhanded compliment to be the best producer who shouldn’t rap. From working with Justin Timberlake to enjoy a credible artistic solo career after ‘N*Sync, his work with Missy Elliott, Neptunes, Clipse, and even Jodeci and Ginuwine way back when, Timbaland eventually got it in his head he would release Shock Value and include a song called “The Way I Are”. Sure, it was platinum in sales, but Shock Value cannot hold a candle to Timbaland’s track record producing and bringing the best out of others.