Albums that keep it low-key with just one producer and one rapper.
A few years back, Complex published an editorial piece on Nas that ever so facetiously accused him of ruining hip-hop. The perfect viral title, the perfect exalted rap legend, the article’s major premise is that Illmatic is behind the “overall decline in the cohesion and quality of rap albums” because its success and acclaim led pretty much everyone to imitate it’s multiple-producer model.
Setting aside the gripes of so-called purists, and dreamers forever living in hip-hop’s “golden age,” the prevailing attitude on production is an interesting topic to ponder. Consider that Post Malone’s number-one hit could come from a sophomore biology major who had zero knowledge of the album it would end up on. Or that even control freaks like Kanye West don’t touch every second of every beat (Consider even further that Kanye and Drake have introduced a curatorial touch to hip-hop, where they pull from everyone and everything). The days of He’s the DJ, I'm the Rapper are far in the past, andwe've so come to expect multiple producers that now it makes for headlines and Twitter notifications when a project is handled by just one.
So with the status quo so certain, and such an absolute turnover brought by Illmatic, why has this moment begun to show shades of those earlier days? One phenomenon the Complex piece touched on was the “superproducer,” someone so hot every rapper is asking for a beat from (regardless of stylistic compatibility). And it seems each year brings a fresh, young kid to be that. They disseminate their work, saturate the radio, and then disappear. Except, maybe there’s potential for something else— consolidation, bringing a longer lasting regime. Superproducer has become “executive producer,” in turn, has become musician in one's own right. Right now, all eyes are on Metro Boomin, who seems to have found a sweet spot between cutting loose singles and building lasting relationships with his favorite artists. We had Savage Mode. We had Without Warning. Not exactly standalone producer jobs, but they show us that the landscape isn’t locked in, or set on some irreversible path to hyper-diverse, cherry picked beats.
With all this in mind, we have compiled a list of some of our favorite single-producer albums. This is more about duos, the rapper and the producer as separate entities, so we cut anyone who produced for their own project (sorry, Dr. Dre). Not all your favorite classics are on here, but if do some research and you’ll find out why.
Presented in chronological order.