7 Artists Who Rap And Make Beats
In modern music, it is rare to come across an artist who can do multiple things well. Most pop artists you hear on the radio today are singers only. Their beats were created by outside producers, their lyrics written by specialized songwriters, and the songs mixed by separate engineers. Gone are the days where an artist wrote, produced, and recorded his or her own music exclusively by themselves.
In hip-hop however, most rappers at least still write their own lyrics. Some even produce their own beats. Listed below are 10 rappers who also have a knack for producing quality beats. Whether the beats are for their own songs or for other rappers, these artists are extremely talented and should be respected for their skills behind the mic AND in the producer’s chair.
Kanye West: Kanye is the quintessential producer turned rapper. More so than anyone else on this list, Kanye has the crafts of rapping and producing down to a science. His production is respected by even the most critical hip hop heads, and his ability to write songs and make great albums speaks for itself. Kanye started his career making beats for artists such as Jay-Z, The Diplomats, and many others. When others laughed him off as a rapper, he believed in himself and – love him or hate him – turned into one of the most successful and important artists of the past decade.
Dr. Dre: Dr. Dre is a legend in the hip hop game. A true household name and pioneer of the art form. Before Kanye’s reign, Dr. Dre was the king of all producers-turned-rappers. While he was never the most respected rapper in the game, Dre could hold his own on the mic, creating some of the most beloved and successful hip hop albums of all time. Behind the boards though, Dre is easily the most recognized, successful and inspirational hip hop producer of all time. Like Kanye, Dre is the executive producer behind his albums, and he is the king of collaborations with other artists.
RZA: As the main producer for the Wu-Tang Clan, RZA created a hard, grimey, sample-based sound that served as the inspiration for up and coming producers everywhere. His style has always been unpolished and raw, and that is what made his beats so good. This imperfect sound focused not on quantized patterns and clean mixing, but rather a ruggedness that gave his beats a certain groove and swing that defined the New York street sound. On the mic, RZA was no different. He had a one-take mentality when recording, with raw verses that were often sloppy, but in the best kind of way.
Havoc: Havoc, one half of Mobb Deep, was similar to RZA in that his beats were always dark, hard and gritty, and highly sample-based. The sound he created would eventually define the sound of Queens, NY, more specifically the Queensbridge project area which he was from. Songs like Shook Ones became synonymous with the hood. Though just as grimey, Havoc’s beats were mixed a bit more cleanly than those of RZA, but this didn’t take away from street appeal. Havoc was also a very talented rapper on the mic. He and Prodigy complimented each other perfectly, sharing verses and hooks on all of their songs. While Havoc was never known for being a crazy lyricist, the appeal of their music didn’t call for intricacy. It was more about having a hard sound to match his beats, which Havoc did well.
J. Cole: Of everyone on this list, J. Cole is the most modern artist. Much like Kanye West, Cole has an extremely high ceiling in both the rapping and producing departments. The main difference is that Cole is the better rapper, at least technically. Most would also say he is a better writer than Kanye, too. While his ability on the mic is obvious, he is also a great producer. Like Kanye and Dre, he can produce both beats for the radio and for the streets. The only thing that is missing for Cole is the longevity/consistency. Within the next decade or so, J. Cole has the ability to cement himself among the all-time great rapper/producer combos of all time.
J. Dilla: J. Dilla (RIP) was a legendary producer and one-third of hip hop group Slum Village. His sampled sound embodied the essence of hip hop music, and many consider him to be one of the greatest producers of all time. His ability to play multiple instruments surely added to his skill as a producer. Dilla made beats for some of hip hops most pure acts like The Roots, Common, MF DOOM, Mos Def, and A Tribe Called Quest among many others. As an emcee, Dilla fit in perfectly with the conscious rap scene, though never receiving as much credit as his peers on the mic.
Mannie Fresh: Mannie Fresh blew up the airwaves in the early 2000’s with Cash Money Records. Producing hit after hit with The Hot Boys (Lil Wayne, Juvenile, B.G. and Turk) and the Big Tymers. His production sound was something that was so fresh at the time (no pun intended), and it really helped to usher in the rise of southern hip hop music. His beats were usually composed of 808s, electronic and synth elements, with far less reliance on the sample. This is one thing which sets Mannie apart from the others on this list. As a rapper, Mannie was never known as a great lyricist, but this era and style of southern rap was more about hooks and overall sound than quality of lyrical content. He was a mainstay in most of the songs he produced, usually having a verse and contributing to a lot of the hooks. His influence is huge, helping give wings to southern hip hop and providing Lil Wayne with beats to start his career with.
This list is in no order, and only begins to scratch the surface of the talented rapper-producers out there. The ones mentioned are simply some of the ones I find to be most famous, most successful, or most influential. Feel free to add your favorites to the comment section below, and don’t forget to check out my beats!