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Before the internet age, a music producer was somewhat of a mysterious figure. Sometimes, producers were just engineers who helped artists figure out ways to create the sounds they were looking for by using various recording techniques and musical arrangements. Other times, they were visionaries who went all out to get the kind of sound they were looking to create out of the blue.
Yet in 2021, the industry is filled with bedroom producers and beat makers who, from the comfort of their own home, can launch Grammy Award-winning singles and propel themselves to the top of the charts with little to no technological obstacles. Some producers focus on their own sound by releasing beat making videos, beat tapes, and instrumental albums — while others focus strictly on creating beats to sell on open platforms like Beatstars or Soundclick.
Whatever the case may be, the last 30 years has shown us that a hip-hop producer can gain just as much star power as the artist cutting up the track. What’s more, producers are actually often the ones largely responsible for the shifts we see in sonic trends within any given genre over time. And since hip-hop has now become the most popular genre in the world, all kinds of sub-genres and new styles have emerged.
Here are seven producers who, we think, are on the verge of pushing hip-hop in new and exciting directions. And remember, if you’d like to improve your own hip-hop production chops, you gotta check out my online course with Soundfly, The Art of Hip-Hop Production.
1. Kenny Beats
Kenneth Charles Blume III, better known as Kenny Beats, is a music producer from Greenwich, CT. He developed a passion for producing music at an early age and even landed placements with artists such as SchoolBoy Q and Ab Soul while still very early in his career. Since then, he’s managed to land credits with Travis Scott, Quavo, Mac Miller, and Kendrick Lamar.
In 2018, Kenny Beats launched his popular YouTube series, “The Cave,” where he shows the process behind his production techniques and how he collaborates with artists in real time. His collaboration process is unique because he simply asks the artist what they want, and no matter how specific or vague their response, he finds a way to walk away with a song by the end of each episode.
During quarantine, he was one of the first producers to make the switch over to Twitch — and began doing regular streams where he made beats and critiqued other people’s live on his stream. Stylistically, Kenny uses a lot of his influences from originally being an EDM producer in his hip-hop work. He’s produced collaborative projects with Denzel Curry, Key!, JPEGMAFIA, Freddie Gibbs, and Deb Never (to name a few). By not sticking to one sound, Kenny Beats has managed to create signature sounds for various artists which in turn has made him one of the top call producers in today’s scene.
2. 808 Melo
Drill music is a sub-genre of Trap music that originated in Chicago. The music is often defined by its hyper-violent lyrics that mirror real life events and unfortunately sometimes lead to real life violence. When producers in the UK started making Drill music, the sonic landscape began to change even further away from American Trap, but one producer has taken this sound and brought it back to its humble origins.
London-based 808 Melo has already made a big impact on the UK Drill scene, becoming well-known for his crisp drums and sliding 808 patterns. He gained popularity after producing the majority of Pop Smoke’s discography including Meet The Woo, Volumes 1 and 2, and his posthumous album Shoot For the Stars.
Melo’s beats are defined by dark and ethereal samples, random chirping sounds, and of course, hard-hitting 808s. His rhythms often feature the syncopated, off-beat hi-hat patterns that have become a signature of the UK Drill sound, but one key feature of his sound is that he’ll program multiple bass lines and interlock them throughout the beat. This makes his beats sound complex while still leaving a lot of space for the artist, since he usually sticks to flipping one sample and manipulating the arrangement around the artists’ flow.
3. Rogét Chahayed
Rogét Chahayed is a Grammy-nominated producer who has been gaining traction since he co-produced Shelley (fka DRAM)’s breakout hit “Broccoli” with Lil’ Yachty. Chahayed is a classically-trained pianist who studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; so his virtuosic piano techniques and understanding of harmony have deeply influenced his production to create timeless records for artists such as Drake, Travis Scott, Halsey, Big Sean, Solange, G Eazy, Calvin Harris, and more.
He first rose to prominence as one of the producers on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and since 2015, Chahayed has lent his talents to many hit songs, such as Travis Scott’s hit “Sicko Mode,” and Drake’s recent “Laugh Now Cry Later.” Marrying a modern Trap sound with classically influenced piano performance has made Chahayed a first call session musician and producer. As a mentee of Dr. Dre, Chahayed is himself becoming one of this generation’s most prolific hit makers; and he’s just getting started.
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4. Kaelin Ellis
The internet has created opportunities for music producers that were not possible going back even 10 years ago. Social media platforms have become modern business cards that artists can use to grow their following and secure their fan bases as they grow. And when it comes to hip-hop producers, platforms such as Instagram serve as daily showcases of their work and collaborations to the enjoyment of mass audiences.
Such is the case for Kaelin Ellis, a young producer who began regularly posting beat videos to Instagram in 2019. These one-minute beats showcased Ellis building tracks in spliced together clips of him tracking various parts. His sound waltzes between jazzy boom bap, spaced out Trap, and odd meter experiments, and his unique style recently attracted the ears of veteran emcee, Lupe Fiasco. The two collaborated on their House EP, which also featured celebrated clothing designer Virgil Abloh. An avid sound designer as well, Ellis has released a number of free limited-edition sample packs.
5. Take A Daytrip
The production duo of David Biral and Denzel Baptiste, better known as Take A Daytrip, has been slowly laddering up the charts since 2014. The duo struck gold in 2017 with their production of Shock Wes’s breakout hit “Mo Bamba.” Since then, the duo has gone on to produce Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s duo hit “The Scotts.” Take A Daytrip is also credited on 7 of the 18 tracks off Kid Cudi’s most recent project Man on the Moon: III.
If you follow them on social media, you’ll get insights into their production and sound design secrets — which are pretty simple: they use tons of synths. While many modern producers rely on virtual software instruments (VSTs) to generate their sounds, Daytrip prefers to work with real keyboards and synths. Their use of analogue instruments helps to craft their retro aesthetic, which works perfectly for artists in all genres who are looking to stretch their sonic pallets.
Recently, they’ve been enlisted by Miley Cirus, Dua Lupa, and DaniLeigh; but one of their biggest collaborations was with Lil Nas X. Daytrip produced the genre-defying rapper’s hit songs “Panini” and “Rodeo.” When speaking about their initial meeting with the “Old Town Road” star, he asked to hear “their weirdest beats.” The rest is history.
6. Monte Booker
Trap music has become synonymous with the modern hip-hop sound. In fact, so much so that it’s refreshing these days to hear something that isn’t a Trap beat; something that puts a new spin on those old familiar drum patterns, but with new and obscure sounds. Enter Monte Booker.
Booker seems to embrace all his contemporaries from Metro Boomin to the off-kilter LA beatsmiths like Mndsgn and Knxwldge. His beats make use of found sound textures, analogue synths, and lots of ambient samples of birds or other effects. The result is a unique signature jazzy bounce that’s the perfect springboard for his long-time collaborator Smino, who often oscillates between rapping and singing seamlessly. He has worked with SuperDuperKyle, Dreamville, Saba, NoName, Ari Lennox, and Mick Jenkins. Booker is a producer with his pulse on the future who isn’t afraid to be experimental in any setting.
7. The Kount
Similar to Kaelin, The Kount made his name on Instagram with his beat making videos. The Kount is Koal Harrison, a Toronto-based producer who creates head-nodding beats from scratch using an array of instruments like bass, guitar, Rhodes, synths, live drums, tons of random percussion, samplers like the OP-1 and SP404, and his own custom-made drum samples.
More than anything, The Kount manages to make short, inspiring beat videos that not only highlight his neck breaking beats but his musicianship, and knack for finding equally inspiring collaborators as well as unusual sounds to sample. In my opinion, The Kount is one of the most inspiring young producers on the scene because he’s proof that consistency and quality can open doors.
And speaking of which…
Continue learning about beat making, mixing, vocal recording, and DIY audio production, with Soundfly’s in-depth online courses, including Faders Up: Modern Mix Techniques, Pop Vocal Production, and The Art of Hip-Hop Production. Subscribe for unlimited access here.