In this article, we are looking at 10 well-known artists who are known to produce their own beats. There are quite a few successful rappers who produce in the industry. This means making the beat, recording the vocals, mixing the track, and mastering.
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Now, this list is in no particular order. Also, each of these artists has worked with other producers, of course. However, the tracks which they produced themselves are noteworthy, to say the least. Let’s kick the list off with the most famous producer-turned-rapper, Kanye West.
10) Kanye West
‘Ye started out in the early 2000’s as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records, producing singles for artists like Jay Z, Ludacris, Alicia Keys, and Janet Jackson before pursuing a solo career as a rapper. His critical and commercial success has earned him 21 Grammy Awards, making him the 12th most awarded artist of all time, and the 2nd most awarded rapper of all time, following none other than long-time collaborator Jay Z. He is also the 30th best-selling music artist of all time, across all genres, and 3rd best-selling rapper of all time, following Drake and Eminem.
It goes without saying, ‘Ye is the most successful producer-turned-rapper of all time.
His production style is characterized by sped-up or otherwise altered vocal samples from classic soul records, and he is often credited with renewing Jay Z’s career by producing four of thirteen tracks on his 2001 album, The Blueprint. Kanye recounts getting off the train from Chicago, having only $10 in his pocket, and getting the opportunity to play beats for Jay Z.
The following year, Kanye dropped his debut album, The College Dropout, and the rest is history. Kanye produces many of his own tracks as well as tracks he is featured on. He continues to be an iconic producer in his rap career.
Next, let’s look at an artist whose work is greatly influenced by Kanye West’s legacy.
9) Tyler, the Creator
Tyler has cited Kanye West, Pharrell, and Eminem as three of his biggest influences, which makes sense because all of those artists are rapper who produce.
Since the beginning of Tyler’s career, he has doubled as a rapper who produces. He co-founded the now stagnant alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future in 2007. He self-produced most of the tracks on their debut mixtape, The Odd Future Tape, and every track on his first solo mixtape, Bastard. From Odd Future’s emergence to their eventual separation, Tyler played a huge role in production for each project. With each solo album of Tyler’s, namely Goblin, Wolf, Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy, and Igor, he has produced most if not all of the songs in each project.
Tyler, the Creator’s early production style is often regarded as horrorcore, which is a complete contrast to his now jazz-inspired, melody-focused sound in his recent projects. This is symbolic of Tyler’s evolution and maturation as an artist over time.
With his most recent album, Igor, Tyler has made quite an achievement, becoming the first solo rapper to ever have a fully self-produced and self-arranged #1 album on the Billboard charts. That’s incredible.
Next on our list is someone who has self-produced many of his own tracks throughout his career, and that is…
8) J. Cole
J. Cole functions as a producer as well as one of the most revered rappers of his generation. He handles the production on most of his own projects, and he has also produced for artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Janet Jackson.
When Cole first started making beats at the age of 14, he couldn’t really do anything past sampling. After his mother gifted him with his first drum machine, J. Cole started developing a greater understanding of music production as a whole and started posting instrumentals online under the monikers Blaza and Therapist. The latter of the two didn’t last long, because this was during the MySpace era, so his URL read www.myspace.com/therapist. Yeah, that needed to change. Thus, J. Cole was born.
In his teenage years, J. Cole once traveled to Jay Z’s recording studio to show Jay Z his beats. He waited three hours only for Jay Z to dismiss him, who at the time was the president and CEO of Def Jam Records. A few years later, J. Cole became the first artist to be signed under Jay Z’s Roc Nation. What does that tell you?
Don’t let one rejection or one failure stop you or discourage you from your hustle. Rejection is a part of the process.
Your journey toward greatness will be littered with disappointment. It’s what you do after that that defines your character.
J. Cole also hadn’t been pushing himself much as a rapper at the time, just a producer. This goes to show that a lot of you producers out there with rap skills should try other avenues and see where you land. The talent you’re not using could end up being your calling.
J. Cole has become a massive success since his days of pushing beat CD’s, obtaining Billboard placements and certified platinum status on all five of his albums: Cole World: The Sideline Story, Born Sinner, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, 4 Your Eyez Only, and KOD. His collaborative project, Return of the Dreamers III, has also gone platinum. Initially a producer, J. Cole has solidified his legacy as one of the most influential rappers of today.
Next up, we have…
At the age of 10, T-Pain had turned his bedroom into a music studio consisting of a keyboard, a beat machine, and a four-track recorder. This was an early sign of his passion for not only singing and rapping, but music production as well.
T-Pain self-produced quite a few of his most popular records, including Buy U a Drank, Can’t Believe It, Bartender, I’m Sprung, Got Money, and I’m ‘n Luv (wit a Stripper). He has also produced songs for other artists, most notably Kiss Kiss by Chris Brown.
What’s interesting about T-Pain’s production style is it gave birth to and popularized Auto-Tune pitch correction, a trend for which he does not get his due credit or respect.
Next we have a very talented artist who tragically passed away in 2018, but whose work as a rapper, singer, and producer generated quite a following during his career.
6) Mac Miller
Mac Miller is a self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, piano, and bass) who self-produced a good portion of his solo projects. When he produced for other artists, he often went by the moniker Larry Fisherman
He is credited for producing records for artists such as Vince Staples, Ab-Soul, and SZA. He also self-produced most of his most recent album, the posthumously released Circles.
Mac Miller had a passion for music production that mirrored, if not exceeded his passion for rapping. He helped popularize the lo-fi rap style that makes its rounds through hip-hop, and from 2013-2018, made a generation appreciate live instrumentation once again. This is one producer/rapper hybrid who is mourned by many, and who continues to inspire other rappers who produce from beyond the grave.
Up next, the man needs no introduction. We’re talking about…
Eminem has amassed hundreds of producer and co-producer credits over his career. He’s apparently very hands-on with the entire music-making process.
Many are unaware that Eminem is a master beat maker and producer as well as a rapper. Aside from co-producing damn-near all of his own biggest hits, he has also been the sole producer for many songs he’s featured on, including, but not limited to Akon’s Smack That and Obie Trice’s Rap Name. Eminem was also the sole producer of the posthumous Runnin’ (Dying To Live) 2Pac and Biggie collaboration.
Eminem’s co-producer credits are too extensive to go into full detail, but it makes sense that he is such a great producer having been overshadowed by one of the greatest producers of all time, his mentor Dr. Dre.
Eminem is included in many hip-hop fans’ Mount Rushmore of rappers, but little do they know how useful he is on the boards as well.
Next up on our list of rappers who produce is Chicago drill rapper, Chief Keef.
4) Chief Keef
Chief Keef is undoubtedly the poster boy for drill music. He’s definitely not widely regarded as a great producer. His self-produced tracks don’t resonate on the scale of his biggest hits, but he has made a big impact on contemporary hip-hop with the drill subgenre. A lot of that influence is carried by his self-produced mixtapes.
Let’s move on to the polar opposite of Chief Keef…
Logic has showcased his talents on the piano and drum machine for a few of his songs, but he mostly works with other producers for his music. I’m including him on this list to say that even if you’re a rapper and don’t want to be a full-on producer, it still helps to pick up an instrument and learn, as well as work side-by-side with producers to help in the beat-making process and develop your own unique sound.
This next rapper/producer makes it known to his listeners that he does, in fact, produce, mix, master, engineer, and write all of his songs.
Russ shows no reservations in giving himself credit and demanding respect for writing, producing, engineering, mixing, and mastering his 11 albums prior to fame, as well as his certified platinum debut album, There’s Really A Wolf.
Russ was first credited as an in-house producer for the collective/label he co-founded in 2011 called Dimeon. He went on to pursue his own career, during which he has boasted time and time again about being his own producer through and through.
What he has accomplished is very impressive, but I want to use Russ as an example for this teaching point. Be humble about your music making abilities. If you try too hard to make it known that you have your hand on every step in your music making process, and you shove it down people’s throat like Russ does, your fans will pass the point of caring and start to get tired of hearing about it. Give yourself credit, but don’t lay it on too thick.
Now for the number one spot, and although I said this list is in no particular order, I did want to save this man for last. He is…
1) Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre has been in the industry for 30+ years, starting out in the 1980’s as a DJ for electro-funk group World Class Wreckin’ Cru.
Hip-hop started to grow in popularity in the 80’s, so in 1988 Dr. Dre and fellow Wreckin’ Cru member DJ Yella joined forces with Eazy-E, then later Ice Cube and MC Ren to form N.W.A. and popularize gangsta rap. Dr. Dre was not only DJ and producer for N.W.A., but a rapper as well. He went on to pursue a solo career and went 3x platinum with The Chronic and 6x platinum with 2001.
He founded Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, and has become the second richest figure in hip-hop right behind Jay-Z.
Dr. Dre is one of the most well-respected producers and entrepreneurs in the music industry today, and although he is also a very successful rapper, we all know him for his talents behind the boards first and foremost.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. This is 10 rappers who produce their own beats. Once again, be sure to like, subscribe and comment, as well as sharing this video with any rapper who is interested in producing or any producer interested in hopping on the mic. Check out my course, How To Make Beats With 0 Producer Skills with this link https://www.smartbeatmaker.com/product/how-to-make-a-beat-with-no-producer-skills-the-ultimate-tool/ and let me help you discover your full potential as a multi-talented artist.
Keep hustling, gang. I’ll see you at the top.