*6 min read*
Have you ever listened to your favourite artists and wondered how they create the sound. When you listened to Drake’s song Over and heard those strings playing in the background, did you ever stop thinking about who made it? How about when you listened to the flute play in Future’s Mask off? Or better yet, the vocals in Kendrick Lamar’s Alright. Producers make these sounds.
Producers are talented individuals who can take multiple sounds and piece them together to create one cohesive sound. The sounds that they make are very likeable and enjoyable, but there is a lot of work that goes into these sounds behind the scenes.
Although the artist takes most of the credit for the song because of the lyrics, it should be the Producer that takes the credit because, without the sound, there is no song. Some beats may take producers minutes to make while others may take hours. Let us look at some of the most memorable producers from the late ’90s early 2000s
(Notable productions: Pony – Ginuwine, Get Ur Freak On – Missy Elliot, Cry me a River – Justin Timberlake.)
Known for his work with Missy Elliot, Timbaland has made a tremendous impact on his music. Timbaland has made a name for himself in the genres of R&B and Hip Hop. He first came into the spotlight when he produced the song Pony on Ginuwine’s 1996 album, The Bachelor. Pony went onto dominate billboards worldwide, notably reaching number 1 on the U.S. Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Billboard.
Typically, Timbaland’s beats are straightforward. The patterns used in his production have a shift to it. The patterns tend to rise and fall continuously, giving the ear a fantastic feel. His beats have a melodic sound and are soft and pleasant.
Timbaland’s signature sound is his ability to incorporate his voice into his beats. He does this effectively, flowing with the rhythm as if he were the one recording on it. By 50 Cent and Justin Timberlake, produced by Timbaland, Ayo Technology is the perfect example of his style.
Throughout his career, he has been able to capture awards, including Producer of the year at the B.E.T. Hip Hop awards in 2008. Best hook up with Justin Timberlake’s Sexy-back at the MTV Australia awards in 2007 and as a songwriter for Beyonce’s Drunk in love at the Grammys in 2015.
Timbaland has forged a fine line in Hip Hop and R&B with diverse crossover tracks. He has renewed himself on numerous occasions keeping his sound fresh while retaining his unique sound at the same time.
In the late ’90s, Timbaland went onto produce a few songs on Aaliyah’s second album, One in a million in 1996. Missy Elliot’s Supa Dupa Fly in 1997 and later went onto produce multiple records for Mangoo, including Welcome to our world in 1997. All three of these albums went Platinum in the U.S. to see the Timbaland effect clearly on display here.
Towards the early 2000s, Timbaland began to work with other artists such as Rhianna, Jay Z and Drake. He would later create arguably his best beat on Justin Timberlake’s Cry me a River. An exceptional talent that has crafted iconic songs throughout the years, showing no signs of slowing down. Expect to hear more from the legendary Producer in the coming decade. Timbaland is far from finished and still has so much left to offer.
(Notable productions: Poppin’ Tags – Jay Z, Stay the Night – Mariah Carey, Drivin’ Me wild – Common)
Kanye’s personality may come off as odd to others, but he has impacted hip-hop as both an artist and a producer. Starting as a producer, Kayne experimented with orchestral strings and electric sounds. With these sounds, he combined them with his original 808 to create soothing melodic music.
Kayne West has always pushed the boundaries when creating music and has reinvented his sound on multiple occasions to touch fans’ hearts across different genres. He dubbed his signature style as the “chipmunk soul,” characterized by sped-up soul samples. The producing style of Kanye West is very versatile. He can hit you with Rap, Hip-hop, Pop or perhaps even R&B. No matter the genre, Kayne will always get the job done, and he will make it sound so smooth. There are no limitations to Kayne West’s work.
In the late ’90s, Kanye went onto produce Jermaine Dupri’s Turn it out in 1997 and Trina and Tamara’s Joanne in 1999. Kayne then took his talents to New York, where he would later collaborate with Jay Z, producing the hit Izzo (H.O.V.A.),which reached number 4 on the U.S. hot R&B/Hip-Hop songs billboard and number 7 on the U.S. Hot Rap songs billboard in 2001.
Following that song, Kayne cemented his reputation when he produced four songs on Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint. The Blueprint went Platinum twice in the U.S., Platinum in Canada and Gold in the U.K. The Blueprint is regarded as one of the greatest rap albums of all time and put Kanye on the map. Kayne always wanted to be seen as an artist, not just a producer, so he began writing his music and later dropped three memorable albums throughout the 2000s.
The College Dropout in 2004, which included the classics Jesus Walks and All Falls Down, sold 2.6 million copies and made him a star. The College Dropout peaked at number 2 on the billboard 200 chart, and West received awards, including Best rap song for Jesus Walks and best rap album. This release allowed Kayne to become the founder of his label titled GOOD music, where he would sign artists such as John Legend, Common and Pusha T.
Furthermore, Kanye released the albums Late registration in 2005 and Graduation in 2007. Each record going Platinum in both Canada and the U.S. On his sophomore album Late Registration, Kanye collaborated with composer Jon Biron got creative and attempted to expanded hip hop with a new style. Kanye received the best rap album for late registration and debuted at one on the billboard hot 200.
The album Graduation made hip hop more anthemic, drawing influence from Rock n Roll using electronic synthesizers. Graduation sold over 957,000 copies and went number 1 once again. On the album Graduation, Kanye’s ability to rap at the same calibre as his beats made it all the more exciting and fun to listen. His influence indeed had a significant impact on the genre of hip hop.
(Notable Productions: Drop It Like It’s Hot – Snoop Dogg, Gridin’- Clipse Hollaback Girl – Gwen Stefani)
The Neptunes consisting of the duo of Chad Hugo and Pharell Williams, were a very impactful group. Emerging from Virginia Beach, the pair mentored by Teddy Riley were first sought out at a talent show held by Teddy, and were recognized for their talents as producers. Once signed to Teddy’s label, The Neptunes were able to get hands-on experience with different instruments and build their skills as producers.
Under Teddy’s label, they produced the hit Rump Shaker which became the anthem for Summer 1992.
The hit Rump Shaker propelled them to take things further in their careers. They went onto produce Super thug by Norega, which put them on the map drawing the likes of other artists such as Ludacris, Jay Z and Snoop Dogg.
The Neptunes were the first to show that sound can cross all genres; their versatility enabled them to work with Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, who was signed to their label. No matter the style they were producing for the Neptunes were always able to make their sound a distinctly Neptune sound, so you knew it was them.
Very few producers have owned such a distinctive sound like Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. Their ’90s early 2000s future funk was a vibe that everyone liked and appreciated. The sound was ahead of its time and had a significant impact across all genres, notably in Hip-Hop and R&B. They changed the face of music, allowing Hip-hop to be accepted.
Throughout their careers, The Neptunes captured many awards, notably winning Producer of the year and Best pop vocal album for Justified at the 2004 Grammies.
Timbaland, Kanye and The Neptunes are very exceptional producers. Each of these producers is exceptionally talented, and each possesses its signature sound. Each has had their time but are still going strong as they have paved the way for new up and coming artists and producers. Many producers have come and gone to make hits across each genre; stay tuned for another story that will touch base upon more creative producers.