The Making of VIBE’s Greatest Hip-Hop Producer Of All-Time (Where’s Questlove???)


So let’s get right to it. Declaring the Greatest Hip-Hop Producer Of All-Time is a huge undertaking on par with mediating world peace. Good thing that you, our loyal readers, are the one’s deciding on this fistfight inducing contest. Which brings us to the million-dollar question: How did we come up with the seeding for our all-star list of producers? Well, we can’t say it wasn’t a grueling process.

Choosing our original list of nearly 200 producers was tough enough. But breaking the list down to the final 64 participants was indeed daunting. Oh, and then we faced the ridiculous task of ranking these great beatsmiths, conductors, and musicians. What makes Dr. Dre a no. 1 seed, J Dilla 6th or 16th? Everything from relevancy, influence, impact, and overall artistic reach in hip-hop were considered.

Some producers were left off because their most notable musical achievements did not resonate as strongly in the rap world (Jazzy Pha received most of his notoriety from his work with R&B stunner Ciara). Others were victims of their own era (Chub Rock and Special Ed producer Howie Tee just happened to be in his prime during hip-hop’s competitive Golden Age era that spawned the likes of Marley Marl, The Bomb Squad and Prince Paul; And where’s Warren G? With the likes of fellow West Coast giants Dre, Shock G, Daz Dillinger and DJ Quik in the mix, someone was bound to get squeezed out). Others, while talented, were still making their mark in the game (J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Black Milk, and Shawty Redd). While some possessed extraordinary lyrical skills that dwarfed their own production work (Eminem, KRS-One and MF Doom). Then there were the producers who just missed the cut: including Company Flow’s musical visionary El-P; Suave House’s resident beatman T-Mix; the underrated Kwame, and early Jay-Z collaborator Ski).

But chief among our most controversial omissions was Roots front man and drummer Questlove. Long hours and fiery debates took place over just how to categorize a gifted musician who rarely took sole credit for the lauded Philadelphia band’s great run of albums. The peak of Quest’s hip-hop production prowess came with Common’s groundbreaking Electric Circus project. And most of his musical triumphs beyond The Roots have been within the soul music genre (Quest’s work on D’Angelo’s epic Voodoo album shines brightest). We more than understand the uproar over Quest’s lack of presence. But no one ever said hip-hop was easy…or fair.

That said, we believe the list is pretty damn good. The over 50,000 and counting hip-hop heads who have voted thus far in our Greatest Hip-Hop Producer Of All-Time competition exhibits just how passionate you guys are. As always thanks for your undying support and keep those votes coming. Remember, somebody has to be no.1. —Keith Murphy