By Dave S
If you want to make it in the industry you’re going to need to put in the hours to make yourself known. Like any job, what will earn you the most recognition is not only performing well of the things that are expected of you, but finding more projects to work on without being asked.
In some ways, you can look up to these artists, who despite having busy schedules performing, writing and touring, also take the time to engineer and produce other artists work. These are artists that go beyond what we expect of them to do the less glamorous job of sitting behind the board and crafting ideas into fully-formed songs.
For all he’s accomplished Kaytranada is one of the most impressive artists in the game right now. At 25 years of age, the Haitian born, Canadian DJ (born Louis Kevin Celestin) has garnered quite a reputation for himself not only as a solo artist but as a heavyweight record producer.
In 2016, Kaytranada put out his critically acclaimed, Polaris-Prize winning album 99.9%, which started gaining him attention in the public eye as an artist. But for the hardcore Kaytranada fans, they’d tell you that his talent dates back to 2012, where as a 19 year old he began working with some of the hip hop, R&B and alternative industries’ rising stars.
He begun to gain the attention of hip hop artists like Vic Mensa, Mobb Deep Mick Jenkins early from his remixes and EPS under his early moniker of Kaytradamus. As the ball got rolling, more and more artists hired Celestin to sit behind the board. He went on to co-produce Kali Uchis’s “Rush” with BADBADNOTGOOD, with whom he would later collaborate on 2016’s “Lavender”.
In 2015 a photo began circulating of Kaytranada working with legendary producer Rick Rubin, which was later confirmed, and backed by their partnership publishing company Pulse Recordings. Since then, Kaytranada has produced tracks for the likes of Missy Elliot, Flume, Disclosure, Rihanna, Solange and Chet Faker to name a few.
2. Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak had his first shot as a producer when self-releasing his all covers EP Cover Art. The album was inspired by white artists of the 50s who had critical success by covering black artists while compensating them hardly anything. Blending Jazz, Hip Hop and R&B, to make his unique blend of soul.
It was that experience that put Paak at the helms of Watsky’s 2014 record All You Can Do, also appearing as a musical contributor on three tracks of its tracks.
Anderson .Paak then went on to release two critically acclaimed album Venice, and Malibu along side producers like Hi-Tek, Kaytranada and DJ Khalid. That year he was nominated for a two Grammy’s, one of which for Best Urban Contemporary Album for his work on Malibu.
Pharrell Williams, or better known simply as Pharrell, started out writing, performing and producing for his four piece R&B band The Neptunes with High School friends Shay Haley and Mike Etheridge (and later Teddy Riley).
Pharrell and Riley had their first experience producing a hit track when it came to working on Wreck-N-Effect’s banger “Rump Shaker”. The track was met with commercial praise, peaking at US Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart.
He and Hayley went on to form N*E*R*D, their funk rock / hip hop group in the early 2000s, writing hits like “She Wants To Move” and “Everybody Nose”. After their second album Fly or Die, N*E*R*D split up and Pharrell went onto a solo career, which is when his producing skills really began to blossom.
In 2007 he produced Beyonce’s cover of “Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend” and Britney Spear’s “Why Should I Be Sad”. Pharrell then worked on two tracks from UK rock group The Hives’ The Black And White Album. In the next few years Pharrell would produce songs for Jennifer Lopez, Shakira, Maroon 5 and almost ended up producing The Strokes’ fourth record.
But he wasn’t done with the hits, rolling through this decade with some of the highest charting singles. After working on Despicable Me with Hans Zimmer, the both produced and composed the 84th Academy Awards. That year he produced two tracks off Frank Ocean’s Grammy winning record Channel Orange. In 2013 he put out the smash hit “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, it peaked at No. 1 in the US, Canada, UK and more, and later landed him an Oscar nomination for best Original Song. The next year he wrote and produced Robin Thicke’s single “Blurred LInes” that peaked in 13 countries on Billboard’s Hot 100. Talk about a powerhouse producer.
Jaime Leine, or his stage name El-P is known most recently for his work as part of the Jewels with fellow MC Killer MIke. However, the American hip hop artist has had a major impact on the alternative hip hop scene for the past two decades.
His work dates back to the early 90s, when Leine formed Hip Hop trio Company Flow with Bigg Jus and Mr. Len. Over the next couple years the band would rise as one of the most influential hip hop groups to come out of Brooklyn.
It wasn’t until late 2000s did he get his feet wet with producing when he left Rawkus Records to form his own record label. Def Jux quickly became widely applauded after his work on producing albums for artists such as Cannibal Ox and Aesop Rock.
In his time he’s worked to produce records for some of the industry’s best including Jedi Mind Tricks, Atmosphere, Das Racist and Zach De La Rocha.
5. Kanye West
No question the controversial and often misunderstood Kanye West is one of the greatest minds the music community has to offer.
Whether or not you’re a fan of his music, namely anything off his 8 studio albums, there’s a pretty slim chance you don’t like any of the music he’s produced.
Growing up in Chicago, West became fascinated with the world of hip hop, beginning to write his first beats at the age of 15 under the mentorship of DJ No I.D. Five years later, he got his first producing gig on Chicago rapper Grav’s album Down to Earth. After years of producing a number of small time artists, it wasn’t until Foxy Brown’s second studio album Chyna Doll that he had his first Billboard charter.
However his real first break came in 2000 when he had the opportunity to produce records artists on Roc-A-Fella Records. That gave him the chance to work on Jay-Z’s 2001 album The Blueprint that put him on the map. Over the next couple years, West would go on to produce hits for Ludacris, Alicia Keys and T.I.
Since then, over the next two decades, West has produced 226 records and over 100 singles for artists including, Mos Def, John Legend, Chris Brown, Kid Kudi and Drake.