Drake's new album Take Care was leaked a week before its schedule release, bringing deserved attention to its producer, Just Blaze.
Just Blaze is one of hip hop's best and most versatile producers. He has worked with rap's aristocracy, from Jay-Z to Busta Rhymes to DMX to Shaggy. He even worked with Maria Carey and Nick Cannon, although separately.
The producer is one of the many under-sung behind-the-scenes talents in hop hop, one of the people responsible for the best, most infectious beats for numerous artists and rappers. Here are the five best living producers in no particular order, along with videos of their work.
Warning: Some of the videos and lyrics are of an explicit nature.
Just another example of Blaze's beats.
Just Blaze has worked with a number of Wu Tang affiliated artists, such as Killah Priest, but the whole Clan sound is the work of one man: The RZA.
Born Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, RZA (a.k.a. The Scientist, a.k.a. The Razor) was the mastermind behind 1992's Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), keeping the beats simple and melodic, favoring R&B and soul samples mixed with audio from Kung Fu movies.
Kanye West, who is also on the list, has listed the RZA as one of his biggest influences.
Wu-Tang? Me and my friends talk about this all the time... We think Wu-Tang had one of the biggest impacts as far as a movement. From slang to style of dress, skits, the samples. Similar to the [production] style I use, RZA has been doing that, he said in 2007.
While he works primarily with the Wu Tang collective, he's also produced songs for Björk and composed the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.
The below song, Protect Ya Neck, samples The J.B.'s The Grunt. Other tracks on Enter the Wu feature the works of Thelonious Monk, The Jackson 5, Syl Johnson, The Charmels, and others.
Dr. Dre is a fine enough rapper (and actor), but his skills as a producer are what define his career.
Starting off with the World Class Wreckin' Cru and N.W.A., Dre helped invent Gangsta Rap in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he produced the immortal Straight Outta Compton in 1988.
He went on to have a successful solo career, staring with his 1992 debut The Chronic, which took some of the edge off of West Coast rap and gave it a funkier bearing, as exemplified by Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang.
Dre should also be credited with defining the sounds of a number of other prolific artists, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem, both of whom have catapulted from Dr. Dre's tutelage into atmospheric careers.
Hi-Tek is a thinking-man's producer, laying down thoughtful and controlled beats for thoughtful and controlled rappers like Talib Kweli and Mos Def.
But digging through Hi-Tek's resume yields a few surprises, just as tracks with 50 Cent, Cassidy, Xzibit and even the funk group Soul Live.
If there's a rap song featuring a female vocal sample with its pitch altered to Alvin and the Chipmunk-like levels, it's probably a Kanye production.
Before he was a world-famous rapper, Kanye was a producer and he has continued to produce his own and others' tracks for over a decade. He was discovered by Jay-Z and taken into the Roc-a-Fella family in the late 1990s.
He continues to produce for Jay-Z and on his collaborative album Watch the Throne, Kanye had his hands in the production of nine of 12 tracks, and was the sole producer of Otis, the album's second single.
Kanye has also produced songs for fellow-Chicago M.C. Common, The Game, Nas, Scarface, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, T.I., Ludacris, DMX, and Monica.