Originating in the 1970s, Hip Hop was born in the Bronx, New York City. But before there were studio-bound Hip Hop producers; DJs such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash solely used Turntables to create loops, breaks, beats, and scratches. Then, innovative samplers and drum machines such as the Roland TR-808, Fairlight CMI, E-MU SP-12, SP-1200, and Akai Pro MPC series revolutionized the way Hip Hop Producers made beats.
But who are the best hip hop producers of all time? At the end of the day, it’s a matter of personal taste. We’ve put together this list of 20 Hip Hop producers who we think are the best or have had the most influence on the genre. Obviously, we’re only just “scratching” the surface, and there are a lot of producers unlucky not to make the cut. So let us know how this list compares to yours!
- DJ Premier
- Dr. Dre
- Pete Rock
- 9th Wonder
- J Dilla
- Kanye West
- DJ Stoupe
- Large Professor
- No I.D
- The Alchemist
- Just Blaze
- Marley Marl
- Rick Rubin
- DJ Muggs
- Nas – Nas Is Like
- Royce Da 5’9 – Boom
- Notorious B.I.G – Ten Crack Commandments
- Mos Def – Mathematics
- Gang Starr – Full Clip
Influenced by early pioneers such as Marley Marl and Jam Master Jay, DJ Premier epitomizes the classic New York Sound. Renowned for his unmistakable east coast boom-bap beats; DJ Premier’s production primarily consists of finely chopped up samples of Jazz, Funk, and Soul songs. As well as cutting & scratching in combinations of short vocal samples from other Hip Hop songs to create catchy new hooks. A famous user of the Akai Pro MPC, DJ Premier still uses the MPC as his instrument of choice for his production.
Half of the duo Gang Starr, DJ Premier and Guru had released a number of collaborations until Guru’s death in 2010. Including the 1992 classic “Daily Operation. Aside from that, DJ Premier’s influence on the Hip Hop genre is insurmountable; working with a number of respected artists in the industry, and continuing to grow his legacy today. As well as being the main driving force of inspiration for a number of up and coming producers!
Notable Artist Collaborations: AZ, Big Daddy Kane, Big L, Common, Christina Aguilera, Jay-Z, Notorious BIG, Lord Finesse, Rakim, Royce 5’9, Mobb Deep, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Nas, DITC, Afu Ra, Jeru The Damaja, and many more!
- Dr. Dre – Still Dre
- Snoop Dogg – Nuthin’ But A G Thang
- Eazy E – Boyz-n-the-hood
- 2Pac – California Love
- Eminem – My Name Is
Beginning his career as a DJ, and then a producer for the World Class Wreckin’ Cru; Dr. Dre rose to fame thanks to his work with gangsta rap group N.W.A. Starting out using the SP-1200 and then moving to the MPC; sampling was a key element in Dr. Dre’s Hip Hop production where he paved the way for the popular West Coast, G-Funk Style. Often consisting of multi-layered synthesizers, deep bass, and slow hypnotic-like grooves. His debut album, The Chronic became one of the most influential albums of the early 1990s, and since then; he’s continued to churn out a number of straight classics with notable artists. As well as playing a major part in launching the careers of decorated artists such as Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and more recently, Kendrick Lamar.
Notable Artist Collaborations: 2Pac, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent, The Game, Xzibit, Eazy E, The D.O.C, Nate Dogg, Kurupt.
- Pete Rock & CL Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (TROY)
- Nas – The World Is Yours
- AZ – Gimme Yours
- Rakim – The Saga Begins
- Raekwon – Sneakers
DJ, Producer, and Rapper; Pete Rock rose to fame during the early ’90s as one half of the renowned Hip Hop Duo Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Like DJ Premier, Pete Rock is a producer who focuses primarily on samples to create original, jazz-influenced beats. Again, beginning production on the SP-1200 before later moving on to the Akai Pro MPC. Often layering a number of different samples to create something completely original within the one song. As well as featuring gritty drums that often leave the hiss and crackle of the vinyl intact. As a result, whenever you hear one of Pete Rock’s hip hop productions you know exactly who made the beat!
Although not reaching as much mainstream notoriety as the previous two. Pete Rock earns his spot on this list after producing key tracks on a number of iconic hip hop albums. Including Illmatic, Doe or Die, and The 18th Letter.
Notable Artist Collaborations: CL Smooth, Nas, AZ, Rakim, Heavy D, Kanye West, Skyzoo, Smoke DZA, Camp Lo
- Masta Ace – Good Ol Love
- Jay Z – Threat
- Sean Price – Heartburn
- Wu Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
- GZA – Shadow Boxin
- Wu Tang Clan – Triumph
- GraveDiggaz – Gravel Pit
- Earl Sweatshirt – Molasses
Rapper, Producer, Actor, and Film Director; RZA made his claim to fame as a hip hop producer due to his role as the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan. Primarily relying on soul samples to form the basis for his rugged beats, RZA has produced much of the Wu-Tang Clan’s discography, as well as a number of projects for each member’s solo products. He’s also a founding member of The GraveDiggaz, pioneering the HorrorCore sub-genre.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Wu-Tang Clan (Method Man, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, Masta Killa, U-God, Cappadonna), GraveDiggaz, Kanye West, Earl Sweatshirt.
- Slum Village – Reunion
- Guru – Certified
- Pharcyde – Runnin
- Common – E=MC2
- Slum Village – Let’s
9th Wonder is a producer out of California who began his career as the producer for hip hop group Little Brother. His style prominently features hard-hitting drums and punchy snares. Usually layered over smooth and soulful samples from artists such as Al Green and Curtis Mayfield. He’s also a renowned user of both AKAI’s MPC, and Image Line’s FL Studio.
Following the debut little brother release, 9th Wonder garnered even more attention after remixing Nas’ God’s Son album. As well as producing the track Threat on Jay-Z’s The Black Album. Since then, 9th Wonder has collaborated with a number of well-respected artists. As well as becoming a professor of the artform and lecturing at several well-established universities across the US.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Murs, Talib Kweli, Sean Price, Erykah Badu, Jay Z, Buckshot, Jean Grae, Destiny’s Child, Mary J Blige, Masta Ace
J Dilla was a Hip Hop Producer and one-third of the group Slum Village. Another famous MPC user, J Dilla is renowned for producing smooth hip hop beats that encompassed his own original style. Pushing the boundaries of conventional instrumentals by doing things such as having the drums a little off time, and speeding up the snares. Resulting in an original sound that is immediately associated with J Dilla. Quest Love describes his style by saying “Questlove: “If you could look at the glass and say it’s half-full or half-empty, Dilla would find a third way to look at it.”
Laying on his deathbed, J Dilla found a way to produce his “Donuts” album, which has since become a classic masterpiece.
Notable Artist Collaborations: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, The Roots, The Pharcyde, Madlib, Common.
- Talib Kweli – Get By
- Kanye West – Jesus Walks
- Kanye West – Gold Digger
- Jay Z – H.O.V.A
- Rhianna – Run This Town
Through his hip hop production, Kanye West has largely influenced Hip Hop over the years. Beginning by focusing on sped-up soul samples, before experimenting with orchestral strings, electronic sounds, then going back to the roots of his original 808. Above all, Kanye West continues to push boundaries and reinvent Hip Hop. So although his personality may not be everyone’s cup of tea. There’s no denying the influence his music has had on the genre.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Jay Z, Drake, Rhianna, Talib Kweli, Common, Mos Def, Slum Village
- Nujabes & Shing02 – Luv(sic) Part 1 – Part 6
- CYNE & Nujabes – Feather
- Nujabes – Aruarian Dance
- Nujabes & Cise Starr – D.T.F.N
Nujabes was a Japanese Hip Hop producer renowned for producing atmospheric, and jazz-infused hip hop instrumentals. He collaborated with several fellow Japanese artists such as Uyama Hiroto, Shing02 and L-Universe. As well as several American hip hop artists including CYNE, CL Smooth, Funky DL, and Substantial. Since Nujabes death, we’ve seen countless tribute records released in the name of him. Inspiring a whole new style of jazz-inspired instrumentals, and sub-genres such as Jazz-Hop and LoFi.
Notable Artist Collaborations: CYNE (Cise Starr & Akin, Funky DL, CL Smooth, Substantial, Shing02
Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind
- Jedi Mind Tricks – I Against I
- Ill Bill & Jedi Mind Tricks – Heavy Metal Kings
- Sean Price & Jedi Mind Tricks – Blood Runs Cold
Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind is a hip hop producer and member of the underground hip hop group “Jedi Mind Tricks”. A lesser-known producer, Stoupe instrumentals are renowned for hard-hitting drums with an aggressive sound. Although only working with a few artists outside the Jedi Mind Tricks group, Stoupe’s sound has inspired a number of upcoming producers that take influence from his distinctive sound, including C-Lance.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Jedi Mind Tricks, Canibus, Guru, 7l & Esoteric, Virtuoso
Ant of Atmosphere
- Atmosphere – God Loves Ugly
- Brother Ali – Uncle Sam Goddamn
- Atmosphere – Puppets
- Atmosphere – Yesterday
Ant is a Hip Hop producer and one half of the duo Atmosphere. Not to mention the man at the forefront of almost all hip hop production coming out of Minneapolis. Producing 8 albums with Atmosphere, as well as being the go-to producer for Brother Ali, Felt (Slug & Murs), Sage Francis, and MF Doom. He’s a versatile hip hop producer that has a sound for every style of track!
Notable Artist Collaborations: Atmosphere, Brother Ali, Felt, Sage Francis, MF Doom.
- Main Source – Looking at the front door
- Big L – Unexpected Flava
- Nas – Halftime
- Nas – It Aint Hard To Tell
Large Professor is an influential hip hop producer who was a member of the group Main Source; as well as the original mentor for Nas, featuring his very first released appearance on “Live at the BBQ”. Producing a number of tracks for Nas, Large Professor also worked with names such as Busta Rhymes, Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, & A Tribe Called Quest.
- A Tribe Called Quest – Bonita Applebum
- Nas – One Love
- A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour
Q-Tip is a Hip Hop producer and founding member of A Tribe Called Quest. Emerging in the late 80s, ATCQ was renowned for its smooth, jazzy beats. Often using groovy keyboard riffs and basslines that Q-Tip had sampled from jazz, funk, and classic records. Although all members of the Tribe contributed to their production, it’s widely acknowledged that Q-Tip was the leader and main driver within the group.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Nas, Mobb Deep, Janet Jackson, A Tribe Called Quest.
- Common – I Used to Love H.E.R
- Jay – Z – All Around The World
- Kanye West – Heartless
No I.D is a hip hop producer who started out as the go-to beatmaker for Common. Best known for producing soulful tracks with an emotional punch, No I.D has a prolific discography. Producing tracks for names such as Beanie Siegel, Jay-Z, G-Unit. As well as being coined as a mentor by Kanye West. He’s also the executive vice-president A&R for Def Jam Records.
- Nas – Book Of Rhymes
- Prodigy – Keep it Thoro
- Schoolboy Q – Break The Bank
The Alchemist is a hip hop producer inspired by the sinister sound of Havoc and Mobb Deep. As a result, his beats often resemble a scene from a horror movie. Although originating from the west-coast, his sound is comparable to east-coast boom-bap. Producing a number of east coast classics including Nas’ – Book of Rhymes.
Also worth noting, The Alchemist includes somewhat of a musical signature that he puts in the majority of songs he produces. A distorted voice recording of rapper Prodigy usually at the start of a song sounding like “A-A-A-A-A-Alchemist.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Action Bronson, Mobb Deep, Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Dilated Peoples, Roc Marciano, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Ghostface Killah
- Kanye West & Lupe Fiasco – Touch The Sky
- Ghostface Killah – The Champ
- Jay-Z – The Blueprint Album
Just Blaze is an American Hip Hop producer most known for his production work on Jay-Z’s albums “The Blueprint”, “The Blueprint 2”, and “The Black Album”. His sound is renowned for delivering hard-hitting, anthem-like tracks that are guaranteed to stand out on any album.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Talib Kweli, Eminem, Jay-Z, Royce Da 5’9, Saigon, Snoop Dogg, Ghostface Killah
- LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
- Roxanne Shante – Roxanne’s Revenge
One of Hip Hops original producers, Marley Marl definitely deserves a place on this list. Responsible for producing some classic hits, as well as inspiring a plethora of young talent that would then become some of Hip Hops greats including RZA, Pete Rock, and DJ Premier.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Eric B & Rakim, Kool G Rap, LL Cool J, Juice Crew
- LL Cool J – I Need A Beat
- Public Enemy – Public Enemy No. 1
- Jay-Z – 99 Problems
Renowned Hip Hop Producer as well as the founder of Def Jam Records; Rick Rubin would have to be one of the most influential names in Hip Hop music. His style is renowned for its “stripped-down” sound, keeping vocals raw over a beat with nothing much more than a classic drum break.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Run DMC, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jay-Z
- Mobb Deep – Shook Ones Pt: II
- Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest
- Nas – Shoot ‘Em Up
Havoc is a Hip Hop producer and most notably, one half of the duo Mobb Deep. Along with Prodigy, Mobb Deep is renowned for a long list of classic hits. Regarding his style, Havoc was largely inspired by RZA; as a result, his beats are hard-hitting and often stripped down and simple.
Notable Artist Collaborations: Nas, Eminem, Notorious B.I.G, Onyx, LL Cool J, Method Man, The Game
- MadVillain – Accordion
- Freddie Gibbs – Fake Names
- Quasimoto – Catchin’ The Vibe
Madlib is one of the most prolific Hip Hop producers of the 2000s. Renowned for going under a variety of pseudonyms when collaborating with other artists including Madvillain, Jaylib, MadGibbs, The Loop Digga, and even more. He’s also famous for creating the character/alter ego “Quasimoto”. Conceived after Madlib one day decided to rap on his own beats, speeding up the vocals to give it a unique twist!
Notable Artist Collaborations: Freddie Gibbs, Talib Kweli, J Dilla, MF Doom, Blu
- Cypress Hill – Insane In The Brain
- House of Pain – Jump Around
- Ice Cube – Check Yo Self
DJ Muggs is a Hip Hop producer renowned for his work with Cypress Hill & House of Pain. Although he’s contributed to a number of classic hits, with several hip hop legends. His style is known for combining the west coast groove with an incredible amount of energy. Hence, his biggest hits include the wildly popular “Jump Around” and “Insane In The Brain”
Notable Artist Collaborations: Cypress Hill, House of Pain, Ice Cube, GZA, KRS-One
The Final Say
There you have it, our top 20 Hip Hop Producers of all time. Who did we miss? Is there anyone else you think deserves a spot here? Or maybe someone you think was lucky to get a mention? Be sure to let us know!