Kanye began his career ghost-producing for D-Dot, one of Bad Boy's main Hitmen. In 2001, he made his own name by producing three tracks on Jay-Z's The Blueprint. Since, Kanye has taken over the rap game, but he's still kept a keen focus on the production side. With his prolific output, he can't do it all himself. Or maybe he can, but, regardless, he makes a constant effort to bring in a diverse group of producers to shape GOOD's always cutting-edge sound.
Mike Dean is one of the most respected producers in the game, and his name is usually seen next to Kanye's. He's produced songs on each Kanye album since Graduation, including nine tracks on MBDTF. He was a legend before Kanye, no doubt, and doesn't get enough credit for being a key pioneer in the dirty south sound, producing records for Texas legends like Scarface and UGK. Still, there's no question he's gained serious exposure since working with Kanye. He's gone on to produce for Jay-Z, Beyoncé, The Weeknd and Madonna, among many others. He's earned five Grammy's, all of them for his work with West.
As Kanye's sound has continued to diversify, he's begun reaching out to more and more producers from different backgrounds, often including several on one track. Yeezus is the most experimental mainstream hip-hop album in years, and its production credits serve as a who's who in electronic music. The most familiar are the French robot duo Daft Punk, who first worked with Kanye in 2007 on "Stronger." Daft Punk have long been one of the most successful acts in electronic music, but nothing could have prepared them for "Stronger," which went #1 and won a Grammy. In 2013, Daft Punk scored a #1 album of their own, as well as five more Grammys, with Random Access Memories.
Also on Yeezus is Scotland's Hudson Mohawke, who was busy making trap-influenced club music before Kanye recruited him for "Mercy" in Spring 2012. Now he's signed to GOOD and, in addition to his creds on Yeezus, has produced for John Legend, Pusha T, Azealia Banks and Drake.
Another artist who is signed to GOOD as a producer is Houston's Travi$ Scott. Now Scott is blowing up everywhere, whether he's rapping or producing, but 'Ye signed him back in 2012 before he had released any of his own work.
Last week, we detailed how Gucci Mane put Atlanta on his back--similar to what Kanye's done for Chicago.
Lupe Fiasco broke the scene by remixing Kanye's "Diamonds from Sierra Leone." His version "Conflict Diamonds," found its way to Kanye, who immediately invited Lupe to guest on "Touch the Sky," a single off Late Registration. A month later, Lupe released "Kick, Push," which earned him two Grammy nominations. Later that year, Food & Liquor earned four Grammy nods and one win for "Daydreamin."
The Chicago sound has changed drastically over the years, which can be seen in Kanye's own catalog. Still, when drill broke circa 2012, it was miles away from anything he was doing at the time. Kanye co-signed controversial drill sargeant Chief Keef, remixing his biggest hit "I Don't Like" with Pusha T, Jadakiss and Big Sean. Drill immediately entered the mainstream, to which the success of Keef's debut, Finally Rich, is a testament.
King L, another hardcore drill man, was relatively unknown until he made one of the few guest appearances on Yeezus. According to his face, he's now signed with OVO.
'Ye's latest cosign, Vic Mensa, is the opposite of drill--electro-backpack raps with an amazing singing voice. Vic is featured on Kanye's latest single "Wolves," and he just had the biggest performance of his life on SNL 40.
It's not as if GOOD had humble beginnings, though. Or, if it did, they didn't last long. GOOD's first record was John Legend's Get Lifted, which went platinum and won a Grammy for Best R&B Album. Then Common followed suit, releasing the universally-acclaimed Be in 2005. No surprise, both albums were executively produced by Kanye.
In 2007, GOOD diversified by adding a young Big Sean to its roster. Sean went down to a local Detroit radio station where Kanye was being interviewed, ran up to 'Ye as he was leaving, and asked if he could rap for him. Kanye gave him 16 seconds; Sean left with a record deal. Sean has since proven himself as a hitmaker, though questions of longevity have remained. Recently, though, he's been quickly putting those doubts to rest, with huge lead singles off his upcoming Dark Sky Paradise. As he continues to develop as an artist, Kanye will be there every step of the way.
A year after signing Sean, Kanye picked up another then-unknown rapper, Cleveland's Kid Cudi. After hearing his A Kid Named Cudi mixtape, Kanye signed him and soon got him on the charts. He started his career with a double platinum single, "Day n Nite," which would land on his Grammy-nominated debut Man on the Moon: The End of Day. To be fair, Cudi had his own influence over Kanye. Cudi helped Kanye write songs on 808s & Heartbreaks, and, together, they created a new sound--that put auto-tuned sung raps over house beats--whose influence is still being heard. Cudder is no longer with GOOD and is pursuing ventures in fashion and movies. Would he have made it to Hollywood without Yeezy, though? Doubtful.
Pusha T has emerged as GOOD's second-in-command under the man himself. Again, we're not taking anything away from Pusha. With the Neptunes, Clipse released two classic records that still sit atop the canon of coke-boy rap. But when King Push wanted a solo career, he went to GOOD, and he chose wisely. Before signing, he scored his biggest features ever by rapping on "Runaway" and "So Apalled" off Kanye's opus MBDTF. Months later, he was signed, and the rest is history. His debut with GOOD, My Name Is MyName, was our #1 album of 2013, and it cemented Push as one of the biggest solo stars in the game.
Aside from the work he's done in Chicago and in-house at GOOD, Kanye has co-signed countless artists, directly and indirectly impacting the music world in ways we can't imagine. Here are a few notables:
If anyone's responsible for discovering Nicki Minaj, it's Lil Wayne. Indeed, we could do an equally extensive feature on Weezy. But Yeezy did wonders for young Onika's career, too--simply by having her on guest on "Monster." Not only did she guest, she stole the show on a track that featured Jay-Z and Rick Ross. Nicki Minaj's debut, Pink Friday, was released a month later, exceeding all expectations by going platinum and earning three Grammys.
A rapper who will personally attest to West is 2 Chainz, who was the sole non-GOOD signee on "Mercy." He recently went on 106 & Park, and recapped the story of when he went on the show, with Kanye, two years earlier to promote his debut album. Kanye, in atypical fashion, didn't say a single word, and Chainz admits, "That's the biggest statement you can say."
At his recent concert in New York, Kanye brought out the aforementioned 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Travis $cott and Pusha T. The most unexpected guest, though, was New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap. Fetty scored a ubiquitous hit with "Trap Queen," but with Kanye calling it his favorite song of the moment, all the hype feels justified.
Another young talent who was giddy to have West's stamp of approval is Ty Dolla $ign. If you didn't know, Ty $ sings background vocals on "Only One." When asked about working with 'Ye, Ty responded, "It's like running track and getting a gold medal. Constant gold medals!" Ty also helped write "FourFiveSeconds," another new Kanye single that features Rihanna and, another recent co-sign, Paul McCartney.
McCartney was reportedly in a group called The Beatles decades ago before Kanye somehow discovered his multifaceted talent via the Internet. McCartney plays keyboard on "Only One" and guitar on "FourFiveSeconds." Thank you Yeezy.