While the rest of the world focuses on the top 11 left for American Idol I thought it was about time we focused on the top 11 producers to watch for this year. 2010 in many ways was the year of the producer, we saw Boi 1da take the industry by storm, Kane Beatz managed to surpass his 09 success, Lex Luger provided the back drop for bangers all summer, and DJ Khalil took his career to a completely new level producing a quarter of the songs on Eminem’s “Recovery” album while bringing home the Gramophone. Allow me to shift your focus to this year with the top 11 to watch. There’s a few things you can be sure of with my 011 list, for starters, you’ll see a repeat of these names mentioned some where near the top, after all how could they be left off after having such a stellar 2010? You won’t agree with all the names or where I place them. Last but not least there will be no boom bap (no disrespect) as I’ve based this list on billboard charts, soundscan sales, and what I perceive the expectations to be and I’ve added in a couple dark horses for good measure. So, without further ado, I present to you The Top 11 to Watch for 011!
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#1 Alex Da Kid
Many would argue that 1da should be in this spot over Alex, after all he put out far more music in 2010. If quantity was the deciding factor then I’d agree but when considering the artists that were paired, his singles were far more ground breaking (see Eminem & Rihanna, B.O.B. & Haley Williams) and in my opinion at this stage in their young careers he is the superior talent. He also has the lead single to one of, if not the most anticipated album in history, Dr. Dre’s “Detox“. I Need a Doctor features the lead artist from his Wonderland Music imprint, Skylar Grey, and with Alex on the boards the potential for her seems to be endless. The one blemish to his remarkable 2010 was Nicki Minaj’s “Massive Attack” which to many observers appeared to be a massive failure, but any production credit with a high profile artist is a feather in the cap.
#2 DJ Khalil
The producers favorite producer made his biggest splash in terms of mainstream music in 2010, winning a grammy after producing 25% of Eminem’s “come back” album, Recovery. The leak of Dr. Dre’s “Kush” not only gave proof to Detox’s existence, it also served as the icing on the cake, solidifying what many have known DJ Khalil is one of the best producers in the industry. If you check his time line he’s shown significant growth in terms of placements from year to year. Not only has the # steadily increased, but the names have became more legendary as well. He has plaques, he has awards, and he certainly has his peers respect, as it stands right now the only thing missing from DJ Khalil’s impressive resume is a clear cut hit single, maybe that box will be checked off in 2011.
#3 The Smeezingtons
Fact, their 2010 rivals anyone else’s. They majorly impacted the charts with hit singles like “Fuck You”, “Grenade” and “Rocketeer”. Their basis for production is mostly pop but within the past year they have teamed with urban producers such as Needlz, No I.D., and Emile for an edgier, more gritty sound. Topping charts is one thing, having the ability to cross over and expand into other genre’s is another. As anyone knows in business a truly successful person is able to regonize their short comings and find the appropriate person(s) to fill in those gaps, it’s the same with producing. If you are unable to craft a sound that appeals to all genre’s and target audiences then it is your duty to find someone that can. Up until last year they had only collaborated with the Stereotypes, now that they have expanded their creative process, watch out! It was evident that The Smeezingtons would be a force on the charts for year’s to come, that hasn’t changed, now it appears though that they will be covering all the charts, and that certainly would be a problem for you producers!
In 2009 he dropped worlds, at the end of twenty ten he brought then together. “Christmas in Harlem” was one of the most talked about tracks as soon as it was released, pairing together the newly reunited Dip Set along with G.O.O.D. Music stars Kanye, Big Sean, & Pusha T. His placement on this list is justified as he followed up that big 4th quarter release by producing the first leak from Pusha T’s highly anticipated Fear of God mixtape. “My God” quickly spread all over the internet as it seemed to match “Christmas In Harlem” in terms of impact. Word on the beats is that Kanye is so enamored with Hit-Boy’s production that he flew him to Dubai so the two could work together exclusively. Need I say more?
#5 Boi 1da
Why is a producer who is responsible for two lead singles from two of hip hop’s most anticipated albums number four on the list? Well it’s simple, that feat most likely won’t be repeated again. To place those type of lofty expectations on him would be unfair. It’s not that 1da is incapable of delivering those type of hits again, the fact is, as it stands now there aren’t two projects to get as hyped over. He will once again play a major part in determining Drake’s success
#6 DJ Frank-E
Since he first appeared on the scene in 2008 DJ Frank E has produced nine songs that have charted internationally. Did you catch what I just wrote? I said nine songs have charted internationally in under three years. Three of those songs came in 2010 amongst those was the hit single “Airplanes“. Many don’t know that Frank E produced that song along with Alex Da Kid and that simple fact is why DJ Frank E is one to watch in 2011. He makes hits, his track record thus far proves that, and he does it while floating under the radar. Maybe he doesn’t get enough credit, maybe he needs stronger brand management, but one thing is clear, DJ Frank E is a dangerous and he’s the most likely candidate on this list to produce your favorite song of 2011.
He ended the year on a high note producing the T.I. feat Drake single “Poppin Bottles“. If you checked out our 2010 favs you’ll know that I was very high on that track, and if “How Low” was the placement that raised eyebrows, “Poppin Bottles” was the one that pushed him over the edge. He’s the most unheralded of all the Canadian producers but imo he has the highest ceiling. The talent is there, he has well connected management, everything is in place for him to impact 2011 like no other.
#8 Lex Luger
B.M.F./Hard In Da Paint/H.A.M. having that list of credits in his short career should certainly have him placed higher up on this list, no? Normally I’d have to agree but the question many want to know, myself included is what else can he do? Critics draw comparisons with each body of work he releases. If it’s not a replica of the previous track then he’s accused of biting off someone else (see Alchemist’s comment regarding the similarity between H.A.M. & Araab Muzik’s production). Is he a one dimensional flash in the pan or are we merely seeing just one side? Until he answers that question for us the skepticism will remain.
#9 Noah “40” Shebib
We all know the success he’s had with Drake and that debut craftsmanship alone lands him on this list but being that he only produces for one artist the hype certainly isn’t as strong. With Drake trying to duplicate his success while expanding his sound, ears will be pressed close to speakers every where, paying close attention to hear what 40 evolves into. A diverse workload certainly would aid in his growth & development but we’ll have to wait and see if Aubrey let’s him off the leash.
#10 J. Cole
Everyone knows J. Cole is a gifted wordsmith, but did you also know he has aspirations as a producer too? Ok that’s probably not news to you but over the course of 2010 those desires became more evident. With each track released J. Cole shows he’s more than just a capable producer. What really stands out about Cole is his self awareness. He understands that his success and recognition as a producer will not be tied to his mic skills. He recently stated in an interview that he already has tracks recorded/in the works with XV & Kendrick Lamar. Songs with those two stand out mc’s, in addition to his own self produced tracks will serve as the foundation for J. Cole’s producing career, and I fully expect that list to grow & grow quickly.
He may not have had the 2010 that these other producers had, in fact he didn’t come close but having the inside track on what Phoenix is up to allows me to declare him the dark horse for 2011. He jumped the year off invading blogs everywhere by releasing the lead track (Home Team) from his forthcoming debut compilation, Tomorrow Today. His project features artists from labels such Def Jam, G.O.O.D. Music, & Bad Boy while also enlisting some of the indie scenes’ finest. He immediately followed that single release with an artistic instrumental ep that displayed his creativity. He’s dark, he’s synthy, and he’s able to combine these two traits while creating a full sound with a mass appeal. He could easily be this year’s Lex Luger but with more range & versatility you could expect his credits to be widespread.