Top 10 Rapping Producers

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10 Best Producers on the Mic


It's the rare artist who can juggle the mic and the boards. This list seeks to acknowledge the best producers on the mic. That is, artists who have produced for other artists as well as spit on their own. The list only recognizes those who do these two things well. It excludes fairly new rappers and rappers who produced primarily for themselves. Here are the 10 best producer/rapper combos.

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Lord Finesse

Finesse is as gritty as they come. The New York native broke into the game with his major label debut, Return of the Funky Man. He started out rapping, branched out into production, and ended up cutting tracks for AMG, O.C., Capone-n-Noreaga, Notorious B.I.G., and more.

Essential: Return of the Funky Man

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It's hard to shine when your partner is a guy named Prodigy, but Havoc did more than just keep up with P. He gave Mobb Deep its signature sound -- the dirtiest, grimiest beats suitable for P's dun talk. The Queens native pulled double duty on every Mobb Deep album, making beats and splitting rhymes with Prodigy. He also gave beats to Nas ("The Set Up," "Shoot 'Em Up"), Foxy Brown ("The Promise"), Notorious B.I.G. ("The Last Day"), and 50 Cent ("Fully Loaded Clip").

Essential: The Infamous

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RZA - Shaolin Soul
© Soul Temple

Call him RZA or call him Bobby Digital. Whatever you call him, history will remember him as the man who gave us the greatest group in hip-hop history. The Wu-Tang don. The originator. The mastermind. Prince Rakeem is undoubtedly heads above his peers in the production department. His beats favored lean, steely sounds loosely woven around choice samples. As a lyricist, though, he goes for the zany, which makes him that much more entertaining. And mysterious.

Essential: Digital Bullet

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Diamond D

Diamond D

"See I write my own rhymes, produce my own sh*t," Diamond D bragged on "Best Kept Secret." This guy wears his double threat badge with an attitude. And for good reason. D helped mold the sound of A Tribe Called Quest, while kicking stellar rhymes of his own. He laid down some boardwork on Tribe's groundbreaking album, The Low End Theory, and the Fugees' masterwork, The Score. His 1992 solo bow, Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop (1992), is a must listen for every hip-hop head.

Essential: Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop

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Erick Sermon

Erick Sermon started his career as one half of the iconic EPMD. He rapped and produced on a ton of their cult classics, and later laced some gems for friends Redman, Keith Murray, as well as Jay-Z, Eminem, D'Angelo, and LL Cool J. Very underrated as an emcee.

Essential: Strictly Business

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El-P © Definitive Jux.

With his fiercely esoteric rhymes and brilliant fusion of rap and rock, El Producto emerged as one of the most important hip-hop artists of his era. El-P produced groundbreaking work as part of Company Flow and Cannibal Ox before mounting a formidable solo campaign. Although his individual debut, Fantastic Damage, was indeed fantastic, El waited awhile before dropping another album. In 2007, he picked up right where he left off with I'll Sleep When You're Dead. Pressing his case as one of the greatest producer-rapper combos in hip-hop, he came back with two great albums in 2012: Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music, which he produced in its entirety, and his third entry Cancer4Cure.

Essential: Cancer4Cure

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J Dilla

J Dilla was a singular man. Criminally underrated for his rhymes, Jay was a roaming thinker with a penchant for the staccato flow and peculiar enunciations. On the board, he stretched neck muscles with music that synthesized funk, soul, jazz and toilet paper into some kinda genius. Jocular. Restless. Indefatigable. J Dilla will always be in the conversation for the greatest hip-hop producer of all-time.

Essential: Welcome to Detroit

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DJ Quik

DJ Quik

People know DJ Quik primarily as a producer, but he's also a capable MC. He started rapping and producing around the same time, so he's had time to perfect his style. The Quik sound is a hard-hitting, G-funk-inspired west coast production, which he usually pairs with X-rated slick talk. Quik comes from the a thoroughbred gangsta rap stylist. Aside from his catalog of major albums, he's also produced for Snoop Dogg, the Luniz, Kurupt, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, and more.

Essential: Quik is the Name

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Q-Tip's voice is hard to mimic, impossible to forget. Though he raps like he's fighting a cold, Tip is devastatingly talented and largely influential. His work with A Tribe Called Quest is essential material. When Tribe broke up in 1998 he proceeded to stamp his solo brand on 1999's Amplified. The man who warned us that "record company people are shady" would eventually get a taste of label politics. Nine years passed between his solo debut and his sophomore set, The Renaissance. Meanwhile, Kamaal the Abstract was ready for release in 2002, but it didn't hit shelves until 2009. You should buy all three. Tip also has a production discography to die for. He's tracked firecrackers for Nas ("One Love"), Mobb Deep ("Temperature's Rising," "Give up the Goods"), Mariah Carey ("Honey"), Whitney Houston ("Fine"), and others. Q-Tip is a legitimate double threat.

Essential: Amplified

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Kanye West

Kanye West is a member of an elite group. He's one of, maybe 3 people who would make both a greatest rappers list and a greatest producers list. I'll go further and say that he'll probably make most people's Top 10 in both categories. Put aside any sentiment you may have for the man, if you can, and focus on his music. West redefined the landscape of rap. And he's never stopped searching for a new way to impress. He also influenced a whole new generation of rapper-producers -- the likes of J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. owe their attitude to Yeezy. Kanye West is easily the greatest rapper-producer of all time.

Essential: Late Registration

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