DJ Dahi may not be a name you're too familiar with at the moment, but soon, I promise you will be. The producer has done records for up & comers in the rap game (Tiron & Ayomari), as well as more established artists (Kendrick Lamar). You'll probably know him best as the dude who produced Kendrick Lamar's banger, “MoneyTrees” featuring Jay Rock.Dahi definitely has a modern sound on his beats, which works perfectly with the often-times experimental rappers he works with. The likes of Pac Div, ScHoolboy Q, Freddie Gibbs and Dom Kennedy have also been graced with Dahi's beats.
Dahi, who has been producing professionally for the past five years, unlike others on this list,does not mind using a sample. In fact, he says most of his favorite beats utilize a sample,“pretty much all my favorite beats have a sample in it of some sorts. I believe, whatever sounds dope, use it. The key in producing that I've learned is how to really keep your ears open to your surroundings.Like, if I’m down the street and I hear a song [at] a store that’s really dope, I’ll pull out my phone and use shazam and figure what song it is. Then I'll go to the studio and see if I can use the song or be inspired by it to make something new. I don’t sample as much as I us to. But if it works. I’ll use it in some capacity.” Dahi's modern and new-age influence on records is not all that surprising, as the producer says, “I listen to a lot of alternative or electronic music. So in a lot of my beats, you can hear some type of influence in my sound.” The obvious result from this is that Dahi's record are hardly ever mellow. When asked what kind of beats are his favorite to make, Dahi says, “the ones that make me do some weird dance in the studio after I make it.I really like making beats that honestly have emotion. Anything that makes me feel good or puts me in a positive state is my favorite style of beats.” This is obvious from most of his records, which are up-beat and get your head-nodding. Freddie Gibbs' “Bout It Bout It,”Pac Div's “Posted”[-- on a side note, Dahi mentions “Posted” as being one of his favorite beats to create: “I like that beat a lot because of how it came together. It was the last day before the group had to turn in the album and it was super crunch time. Originally they were going to use another beat but for some reason they couldn't use it anymore.So like and I just started from scratch and came up with something pretty creative. I take pride in the process of making a record more than the result for the most part.”] & ScHoolboy Q's “Sexting”all have that weird-dancing potential Dahi refers too. These beats reflect his own personality, as he says, “for the most part I’m a happy and positive person so I try to have my music reflect that.”That's not to say he can't create a more low-key cut-- Dom K's “P+H,”Tiron& Ayomari's “Jack Kerouac,”& Pac Div's “Number One”are both more smoother, but you can still hear that modern or electronic influence on them.
Aesop Rock is definitely different, and not everyone will understand his strange and complex lyrics, nor his beats which are equally strange and complex. Aesop Rock has been around since the '90s, and on top of being a rapper on the underground scene, he also handles a lot of his own production, as well as production for his Rhymesayers affiliates, like Slug and Murs' album Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez(as the duo Felt).
Aesop Rock's production is diverse yet distinctive. For himself, the beats he produces match his poetic verses and flow in their strange content. These aren't the basic, simplistic beats of your average Fruity Loops' producer, but instead you feel like time and skill has been poured into each beat, as they incorporate real instruments. Regardless of whether or not the beats are for himself, they're often hard-hitting and heavy, kind of like Aesop's voice (“Hold The Cup,”“Keep Off The Lawn”). It's definitely not your everyday hip-hop, but it feels real. Or perhaps not even real, but surreal (“Ruby '81” gives off those unreal vibes). Aesop's production feels like it's of another planet, extremely experimental and bizarre, something that only a producer and rapper such as Aesop can pull off. Felt nabbed a bunch of dope production from Aesop for their album ATribute to Rosie Perez, andthere are plenty of examples of the heavy, dark instrumentation that is typical of Aesop (“Protagonists,”and “Bass For Your Truck”to a start). Aesop has the unique ability of creating a beat with feeling, and he just adds to this when he flows over it (“39 Thieves”). The sound can't be called old-school, but it can't be called modern either-- it's somewhere in a category all of it's own.
Blended Babies are a Chicago-native production duo, comprising of Rich Gains and JP, who inked a deal with Sony/ATV and Boardwalk Ent. this past year, but still haven't gotten all the recognition they deserve when it comes to new and fresh sounds. Blended Babies craft some of the smoothest tracks you'll here, and they mesh perfectly with their frequent collaborators including King Chip, The Cool Kids, GLC, Freddie Gibbsand Asher Roth.
Speaking with the Blended Babies about their music,they cite their inspirations as “anything. A lot of movies. We shoot a lot of zombies on Xbox.” I'm not sure you'll see the zombie-shooting-influence on their music, but it can definitely be cinematic. The two producers obviously work very well together, and say they've been doing it for “years and years and years.” An extremely dope example of their music can be found on Roth's Pabst & Jazzmixtape-- which, as its title indicates, incorporates elements of jazz into the beats, something Blended Babies does beautifully. Blended Babies are also known to keep a minimal production style (“Pulled Over By The Cops,”) similar to that of Chuck Inglish, however, think less 808 drums and more random noises magically turned into music (Asher Roth's “Common Knowledge,”“More Cowbell”). They don't rely on sampling too often, instead infusing their own natural creativity into a beat, and making something from scratch. “Legally [samples are] a bitch but a lot of the best shit the classic shit is samples. That said, we pretty much always have a live instrument on everything we do even if there's a sample guitar, horns, violins,harps whatevs clev.” Chuck and Blended Babies have even been known to co-produce together, a match made in production-heaven (King Chip's“Plural” is a perfect example). Often there are soulful and jazzy elements in theirminimal beats (as we saw with Asher Roth, but Freddie Gibbs' “Oil Money” should not be forgotten, and equally so GLC &Blended Babies collabo mixtape Catherdal-- the title track“Cathedral” is just a taste of their smooth, jazzy-ish beats.) However the duo can also go full-out bluesy on us: they have done production on blues singer ZZ Ward's album (“Criminal” which features Freddie Gibbs, “Lil Darlin'”) making a fluid cross-over from rap to soul music. This transitioning is also what they say makes their production unique, apart from their distinguishable sound. “The sound [makes us unique]. You can tell it's our shit without using a beat tag. Also we can flip genres easily and most producers don't,they are either rock or rap or r'n'b or reggae or trap or classical or whatever genre they focus on.”
Cookin' Soul is the name of a trio of producers from Valencia, Spain. As individuals, they're known as Big Size, Milton & Zock. Although some might think being located overseas is a drawback, the trio definitely know what's poppin' when it comes to hip-hop and fresh sounds. That's partly due to being in the game for a good eight years, and recording for a variety of kinds of rappers gives them diversity (Nipsey Hussle, Soulja Boy, Curren$y, Game to name a few).
Speaking to Big Size of the collective, he says that inspiration for a beat comes from “music I'm listenin[g] to at the moment, if I'm sampling something that gives me the vibe to go with. The mood you're in affects the type of music you wanna create.” If anyone has heard a beat with that “Cookin' Soul” tag at the beginning,you know it often takes on old-school or soulful vibes, and as Big Size says, “[my favorite kind of beats to make] are soul-sample based beats. I love soul & funk records.” The funk seeps through many Cookin' Soul records, in fact, their name alone should give you an idea of what they're into (Nipsey Hussle
). When asked to describe their own sound, Big Size says it's “soulful and definitely bring[s] that 90s golden era real hip-hop flava.” Thatpretty much sums it up. Although they don't have a favorite beat they've made “of all time,” Big Size mentions Max B's “Lip Singing”
and Sir MichaelRocks “Alive & High”
as potentials. Those demonstrate the smooth, 90s sound the trio can create. Even if the beat is harder you can still hear the influence of soul (Jadakiss
' “Layin Em Down”
,Grafh“Bring The Goons Out”
).Cookin' Soul likes using samples (see Nicki Minaj
and Nipsey Hussle's “A Million”
for great examples of sample-usage), as Big Size accurately puts it, “hip-hop comes from sampling, even though sometimes it gives problems when it's time to clear them for album use.” Although samples can cause future problems, the production trio often mix in an older feel with a younger feel creating a mesh of flavors, which is something Big Size thinks is unique to Cookin' Soul. “The influences from the old to the new school sounds, tryna mix 'em together [in] our own way but always with soul and of course, our infamous C-C-C-C-Cookin Soul
tag [is what makes us unique].” A most perfect example of these cross-over vibes with a touch of soul is Freddie Gibbs
' “Walk In Wit The M.O.”
Digi + Phonics are the collective behind the collective. What that means is, they're the collective that pushed the Black Hippy collective to the forefront of the rap game. Without the insane production proved bySounwave, Tae Beast, Willie B. and Dave Freeaka Digi + Phonics, a Black Hippy track would be seriously lacking.
By now we've grown accustomed to the top-notch production found onKendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock's music. But the members of Digi + Phonics definitely prove the adage “practice makes perfect.” As Black Hippy was on the come-up, so were their beats, progressively improving with each project released by a TDE labelmate. Although the crew doesn't usually produce as an entire collective, they'll team up to create an energetic masterpiece (i.e.Ab-Soul's “Soulo Ho3”courtesy of Sounwave & Dave Free, or ScHoolboy Q's “Raymond 1966” from the same pair).Two can also pair to create something much low-key (Ab-Soul's“Bohemian Grove” from Dave Free & Tae Beast and“#LTM” from the same duo—do we see a pattern here?). Nonetheless, it seems it's when they work solo that they create the biggest bangers-- although it may be hard to differentiate either producer's style, as whole, they blend the modern with the old-school, the ratchet with the chill, touching on just about every aspect of music. Here we'll try to break down the vibes from each producer. Sounwave is responsible for the crazy beat on ScHoolboy Q's “There He Go,”as well as K. Dot's “A.D.H.D.,”and “Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe,”proving he is one to experiment with a new-age sound on a track.Willie B may be considered equally as experimental with“Gangsta In Designer”for Q, and the horn-filled“I'm Thuggin” for Jay Rock. But he definitely creates some smoother more classic-type ish, for example, Jay Rock's “No Joke,”“Kill Or Be Killed,” and Kendrick Lamar's “Poe Man's Dreams (His Vice).”Tae Beast has crafted several intricate yet turned up records,including Ab-Soul's “Pineal Gland,”andScHoolboy Q's“Druggys Wit Hoes,”he may be the trippiest of the group. Finally, Dave Free, who seems to have a more laid-back vibe on beats, as we saw previously, but Groovy Q's “Blessed” or“How We Feeling”are a prime examples of the relaxed vibes from Dave Free.
JMSN is impressive as an artist and equally impressive as a producer-- the full package you don't often find. Although JMSN has had a long road to his self-produced debut album Priscilla, formerly being known as Christian TV, it is under the moniker JMSN that he seems to have truly found his own sound.
JMSN was a self-taught producer, starting at 16 years old, and grinding to get to the level he is at today. You'll hardly ever find a sample in his music as he's an advocate against sampling:“[I don't like using samples] at all. I think there's so much musical possibilities without it out there. Sometimes maybe people make samples their crutch and not even know it. Learn how to make something that sounds like a sample then you're straight.The world is yours.”He definitely seems able to find these musical possibilities, as JMSN explains his own innovative sound is one of “real elements mixed with the surreal. I try to match up things that usually aren't in the same room. Somehow make them work together to make the perfect piece of art. There [are] no limits.” This surreal feeling is found throughout the entirety of Priscilla,where you'll find jazz elements (“Love & Pain”),dance or pop elements (“Fire,” “Girl I Used To Know”),guitars (“Runaway”),even the harmonica (“Jameson”).The combined elements are all beautifully turned into something complex, which you can really feel the emotion seeping out of. JMSN calls “emotion” his number one inspiration when beat-making,“emotion is the biggest inspiration for any beat. I wanna feel the beat in my chest as well as in my soul.”Headphones are recommended. A lot of his production is more melancholy,r'n'b-ish, or as JMSN describes his own sound, “hippy r'n'b.”(“Falling”is a particularly ill example-- and it's also an example of the extreme emotion you'll find flowing in his songs, as JMSN cites emotion as his number one inspiration in creating a beat). But don't think that he's limited to production on his own music-- JMSN is actually working on a project with Ab-Soul, which you can get a taste of on “Nibiru.” The beat sounds like it has eastern-oriental influences, matching up well with Ab-Soul's creative mind and flow. Although we haven't heard much from JMSN given that Priscilla was his debut, his unique and experimental sound are what landed him on this list.
J.Hill is an up-coming producer from the Chi, which puts him in direct connection with his frequent collaborators, most of whom are Chi-area residents (Sir Michael Rocks, King L, Twista). There are a lot of new sounds coming out of Chicago as of late, and J. Hill is taking part in the movement.
However, his sound is less Chief Keef and more an alternate universe.What I mean by that, is there's a certain vibe to a “J. Hill on the track” song-- it's often spacey and synthy and smooth, to say the least. However, even if it is J. Hill, he probably wouldn't want you knowing it: “I think I like to make stuff that people wouldn't know it's me,” he says. J. Hill has been actively producing for 6 years,but you can make it 9 if you include the 3 years prior in which he was just playing around with the drum machine. J. Hill has to first find that “something special” for inspiration when creating a beat, and then he builds the drums around it,“I mainly just play around on the keyboard or with a sample and when I feel like it's dope I'll build the drums around it.”(Mac Miller's “Someone Like You” is a obvious example of this--and also demonstrates the smooth, relaxed vibe that J. Hill is capable of perfecting). While the Mac Miller cut features a sample, it's not always something J. Hill is confident in doing himself.“Yes,[I like using samples], but I'm not the best at picking samples. My homie C Sick helped me out with making sampled beats not sound so boring,” he says.In a different direction, snyths and drum-driven beats abound in J.Hill's catalogue. A great example of this style from Hill is Sir Michael Rocks' “Can't Hide It” or“G.E.D.”Synths also turn Tris J's “Tristan Casanova”into molasses, especially with Tris' flow, it's just smooth as fuck. J. Hill can also use a variety of different sounds in a beat, as in“G.E.D.,” but in particular King L's “Motion Picture.” This versatility with sounds is something J. Hill prides himself on, although he's aware there is always room for improvement, “I like to say I'm versatile with my style. I'm constantly trying to improve my drums though.” Even so, often his beats somehow blend piano keys, horns, drums, and triangles to create a chilled out yet cohesive production, thanks to J. Hill's touch.