This conversation arises among the dedicated heads of hip hop every single year. The reason for that is because there are always a couple of producers that seem to take the year by storm. Metro Boomin had a stranglehold on 2015 with his big run with Future and the year before that, Pharrell couldn’t be stopped. It’s not as definitive in 2016 so far but we’ve got a few producers on the tip of our tongue that have had a really strong output thus far.
It’s no secret that with VIEWS being released this year, Drake and his team have been in control of music and the charts that control the music. Noah “40” Shebib is the face that’s often most accredited for Drake’s sound but Nineteen85 is nearly as impactful these days. Undeniably, “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance” have been Drake’s two biggest hits in the last year, which were both produced by Nineteen85.
He hasn’t exactly carved out a signature sound for himself, something the producer brought up in his interview with theFADER. “In the back of my mind, I’m always incredibly scared that I don’t own anything,” he says in response to having a signature style, like most of rap’s major producers have. I almost refute this claim however because especially with the three songs he produced on VIEWS (One Dance, Too Good, Hotline Bling), there’s a very similar aesthetic. All three of the them are hit songs already not just on the rap charts but on top 40 as well. Nineteen85’s niche is in concocting pleasurable, not too ambitious instrumentals that fit well as the backdrop for pop songs.
And not to mention, Nineteen85 is one half of the R&B group dvsn. He provided all the production for Daniel Daley and the two released their debut album this year as well. It wasn’t a commercial success by any means but some of the production on the record, such as on “With Me” is purely beautiful.
Ben Billions is one of the least familiar names on this list but the DJ Khaled cohort has been having a real strong year thus far. He produced Belly‘s breakthrough record “Might Not” as well as Future’s latest hit song “Low Life”. He’s become a favorite producer of The Weeknd‘s as of late, working heavily on Beauty Behind The Madness and just simply having a presence on a lot of the Canadian singer’s recent work. It did all begin for the Delaware born producer with DJ Khaled in Miami.
Most of Ben Billions’ early work was with DJ Khaled and other Miami residents like Rick Ross and Ace Hood but recently, he’s really been able to branch out beyond that sect of the game and reach heights his never seen before.
Different from all the other representatives on this list, Kaytranada hasn’t exactly had the most commercially successful year thus far but in terms of critical acclaim, he tops the charts. Kaytranada is one of the most successful from a new school of Soundcloud bred producers. Kaytranada wasn’t out here relentlessly trying to move beats on Soundclick, he was very big on creating remixes and sharing them to the world for free. His remix of Janet Jackson’s “If” is what really put the Canadian producer onto a lot of peoples radars.
This year Kaytranada released his debut album, something that producers in the realm of hip hop don’t do very often. 99.9% received oodles of critical acclaim, notching an 8.0 rating from Pitchfork and Album of the Week from Stereogum. The album merges vocal performances from Craig David, Phonte, Goldlink, Little Dragon and more with instrumental numbers, making the album quite the cohesive whole. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even classify the album in the category of rap as there’s only a couple of rap features. It’s just a case of good vibrations.
In addition to his magnum opus that I just touched upon, he has also produced a few notable songs to see the light this year. He had a placement on the massive event that was Chance The Rapper‘s Coloring Book as well as work with Anderson Paak and Kali Uchis. He’s been prolific as could be and he’s crafted a funky, groovy electronic sound all his own in the process.
Noah “40” Shebib
His inclusion in this list, just like Nineteen85‘s can be mostly indebted to Drake. Noah has established quite a relationship and friendship with Drake over the years and he’s truly Mr. Aubrey Drake Graham’s right hand man. When Drake‘s successful, 40’s also successful. Noah’s lush sound is the scenary that outlines all of VIEWS, as he had a specific hand in production on over half the songs on the album and he also engineered the record.
Then Drake hopped on the lead single to DJ Khaled‘s forthcoming Major Key album and of course, Noah tagged along to tailor the production to that song as well which just debuted at 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Chart success isn’t everything and while J Gramm hasn’t had the big hits that most of his peers on this list have had, the budding producer has been as prolific as just about anybody. But what makes his work ethic so meritorious is how much quality his work has been laced with. It seems like every beat of his is the foundation for another heatrock of a song. J Gramm is the man responsible for the prestigious beat on D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty‘s internet smash “Broccoli” and that’s only the beginning.
He helped out DJ Mustard and Travis Scott out on “Whole Lotta Lovin'”, he produced Trinidad James‘ most notable song since “All Gold Everything” in “Just A Lil Thick” and he also produced a new smash for Kodak Black titled “Too Many Years”. But that’s really only the beginning for the 22 year old producer. Expect some of these songs that already available to the world to gain more leverage and attention and I’m sure the kid’s got some more heat cooking on the stove as we speak.
Last but not least, we couldn’t forget Boi-1da. He produced “Work”, which one can argue has been the hottest song of 2016 thus far and he continued to let his Caribbean heritage be known with “Controlla” which he produced for Drake. Besides his hits, Boi-1da can also be held responsible for “Summer Sixteen” and “Hype”. Maybe’s its an unfair advantage when your a go-to producer to the hottest rapper and arguably the hottest musician in the world but it can’t refuted that Drake handpicked his team awfully well. They’e a big reason why Drake has been so successful.