Best Known For: “Diamond Girl,” “How It Was Supposed to Be,” Cassie’s “Me & U”
Why He’s Dope: R. Les is an accomplished Harvard scholar (perfect score on the SATs), producer/vocalist/songwriter who’s well versed in creating hits. The crooner helped pen and produce Cassie’s entire debut album, and his work on her semi-erotic breakout “Me & U” pushed the single to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even when Ryan doesn’t use words, his songs speak magic (see: “Gibberish”).
Best Known For: “Poker Face,” “Just Dance,” “Bad Romance,” “Telephone”
Why She’s Dope: Stefani Germanotta usually turns heads with her flamboyant sense of style, so much so that people may overlook her lyrical prowess. In addition to all her own stereotype-bending material, the spunky pop star has written for other genre heavyweights like Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls, Fergie, New Kids on the Block and Jennifer Lopez. Just check her discography.
Best Known For: Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”
Why He’s Dope: The man behind some of R&B’s most classic hits, Johnta Austin is a veteran in the game. It’s hard to listen to a song Johnta has penned and not say, “That’s my jam!” With his ability to capture the essence of love, the good, the bad, and the ugly, J. Austin’s lyrics are perfect for setting the mood.
Best Known Songs: “Ordinary People,” “Stay”
Why He’s Dope: John Legend has a penchant for performing swoon-worthy singles time and time again, many of which are all his own. From Get Lifted to Once Again to Revolver, the G.O.O.D. Music member has had a heavy hand in the craftsmanship of each album’s lyrical content. In addition to winning a whopping nine Grammys, Legend – a singer, pianist, actor and songwriter – received the special Starlight award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.
Best Known For: N’Sync’s “Gone”; “SexyBack,” “Cry Me A River”
Why He’s Dope: Justin Timberlake's solo career popped due to his singing and songwriting talents that yielded hits like "SexyBack," "My Love" and "Cry Me A River,” but little did you know, he also wrote a few of N’Sync’s most loved hits, including “Girlfriend.” In 2008, JT won ASCAP songwriting awards for "My Love" and "Until the End of Time" featuring Beyoncé.
Best Known For: Usher’s “Yeah,” Chris Brown’s “Run It,” Beyoncé ("Check On It," "Get Me Bodied,” “Ring the Alarm," "Upgrade U”)
Why He’s Dope: If you pick a top-10 R&B song out of a hat, chances are Sean Garrett was involved in its creation. With a pointed ear toward tracks for the dance floor, the Georgia-born songwriter/producer/singer has composed pop and R&B hits whose lyrics linger on your mind for days.
Best Known For: “Crazy In Love,” “Diva” “Irreplaceable”
Why She’s Dope: Conspiracy theorists may balk at Beyoncé’s inclusion, claiming she doesn’t write her own material. While it’s true the icon uses a skilled team of scribes, she does deserve credit for co-writing the bulk of Destiny’s Child’s Survivor and co-writing many of her own hits. Ne-Yo put it best, explaining how Bey lays her signature on every song she belts: “When I write a song for an artist I want that artist to take that song and make it their [own]. If you listen to my version of ‘Irreplaceable’ and listen to Beyoncé’s version of ;Irreplaceable,’ it’s two damn totally different songs with all the harmonies and extra stuff she put in there. So yeah, I gave her writer’s credit because that counts. That’s writing.” Lesson learned.
Best Known For: “So Sick,” Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable”
Why He’s Dope: Schaffer Smith knows how to write from multiple perspectives and with a range of emotions. It’s his attention to detail that makes him one of the best in the biz. He pens great songs about relationships, and he can do it from both male and female perspectives.
Best Known For: “Sure Thing,” “Adorn,” “All I Want Is You,” Jaheim’s “Finding My Way Back”
Why He’s Dope: In his fairly short career, the 26-year-old has nailed majorly slept on heavy hitters. Miguel put pen to paper for Usher’s Here I Stand and Raymond v. Raymond and wrote Musiq Soulchild’s “If U Leave,” featuring Mary J. Blige. Judging by his latest hits, Miguel has mastered the art of writing about love and all its dimensions, whether it’s the simple things (“Let’s Just Be”), pure physical lust (“Quickie”) or showering your partner with affection (“Adorn”).
Best Known For: Usher’s “Confessions,” Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together”
Why He’s Dope: Confessions is Usher’s best album, and most of the songs were based on Jermaine Dupri’s life and songwriting. Mariah Carey’s Emancipation Of Mimi helped her make one of the biggest comebacks in music history. Writing for those two projects alone would assure Jermaine Dupri’s slot on this list, and yet he’s accomplished even more.
Best Known For: “Pyramids,” "Thinking About You,” Beyoncé’s "I Miss You,”
Why He’s Dope: A songwriter for and of this generation, Frank changed the tides of R&B with intimate and intricately written songs like "Swim Good" and "We All Try" off his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra and he’s written for Beyoncé and Brandy. The true-to-life tales on his Def Jam debut, Channel Orange ("Bad Religion," “Forest Gump”) capture Ocean's exploration of life's existential fails.
Best Known For: “I Decided,” Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied,” “Upgrade U,” “Why Don’t You Love Me”
Why She’s Dope: The same feisty attitude Solo has in real life transfers seamlessly into her music and those on the receiving end of her penmanship. Both Beyoncé’s B’Day, I Am… Sasha Fierce, and Solange’s 2008 album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St Dreams, most of which she wrote, spawned three singles that became No. 1 Billboard Dance hits.
Best Known Songs: Bruno Mars’ “Grenade,” Britney Spears’ “Circus,” Pitbull's “International Love”
Why He’s Dope: As our music crosses lines more and more everyday, it’s helpful if songwriters know how to dip in and out of the many genres. Claude Kelly has done this quite well. In his career, he’s written for soulful songstresses (Chrisette Michelle, Whitney Houston) and rappers (Lil Jon, Flo Rida) to boy band legends (Backstreet Boys) and Disney Channel breakouts (Corbin Bleu, Miley Cyrus). He has achieved international success as well; his song “Troublemaker” for Olly Murs ft. Flo Rida has gone #1 in the UK.
Best Known For: Alicia Keys’ “Unthinkable (I’m Ready),” Melanie Fiona’s “I Been That Girl,” Jamie Foxx’s “Fall For Your Type”
Why He’s Dope: Sure, we’ve poked fun at Mr. Graham for his hashtag rap moments. In actuality, being in tune with his inner emotions gives Drake a keen ear for rhythm and blues. He’s proven his lyrical expertise by penning songs for his own hip-hop projects, and ballads, and won BMI Urban Awards for Songwriter of the Year in 2011 and 2012.
Best Known For: Pussycat Dolls’ “Beep,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away,” Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl”
Why She’s Dope: Kara DioGuardi had all of 2006 rocking to the ridiculously catchy “Beep” by the Pussycat Dolls. Known for her powerful ballads with a pop flair, DioGuardi has also written hits for Enrique Iglesias and Hilary Duff.
Best Known For: “Refill,” “I Don’t Care,” “Only Wanna Give it to You”
Why She’s Dope: As the seed of two songwriters, it was only natural that Elle Varner followed suit. The soul newbie wrote all of the tracks on her passion-meets-pleasure 2012 debut, Perfectly Imperfect, a rare feat for many artists, and debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200.
Best Known For: Rihanna's "Rude Boy," "Katy Perry's "Firework," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass”
Why She’s Dope: A songwriter du jour for chart-topping pop songs of the millennium, Dean’s a five-time Grammy nominated and 2012 BMI Pop Songwriter of the Year. The adaptable scribe has covered everything from pop (Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All”) to up-tempo tracks like Usher's "Lil Freak” and Beyoncé’s "Countdown.”
Best Known Songs: Rihanna’s “Unfaithful,” Mary J. Blige’s “I Am,” Beyoncé’s “Broken-Hearted Girl”
Why They’re Dope: The Norwegian songwriting/production team, made up of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, stepped onto the scene strong by producing and co-writing Neyo’s “So Sick” (which ended up being a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single) back in 2006. Since then, the duo has gone on to work with reigning R&B/pop queens Beyonce and Rihanna. They worked on Bey’s “Irreplaceable” and “Broken Hearted Girl” then on a large number of Rihanna’s hits like “Unfaithful,” “Rude Boy” and her newest single, “Diamonds.” StarGate were named 2009 ASCAP Pop Songwriters of the Year.
Best Known For: Ciara’s “1,2 Step,” Aaliyah’s “4 Page Letter” and “One in a Million”
Why She’s Dope: A musical legend, Missy is known for pushing the envelope and her in your face R&B cuts. An artist in her own right, she’s penned tracks for the late Aaliyah, Janet Jackson and Monica. Any star asking for a Missy song is guaranteed to end up with a hit on their roster.
Best Known For: "You Remind Me Of Something," "I Believe I Can Fly," Maxwell's "Fortunate," Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone”
Why He’s Dope: Hearing a straightforward R. Kelly song is like seeing an out-of-work Kardashian. Controversy aside, the R&B genius has done it all: crafted a modern lovemaking masterpiece (TP2.com), stepped in the name of love, invented and reinvented the remix, released a motivational world anthem (“I Believe I Can Fly”) and blessed the world with over 15 chapters of his Trapped in the Closet series when five would’ve sufficed. He’s also passed the metaphor torch to a generation of songwriters like The-Dream and Frank Ocean.
Best Known For: “It Kills Me,” “4 AM,” “Wrong Side of a Love Song”
Why She’s Dope: Canadian songstress Melanie Fiona takes her heartbreaks and turns them into hits. Fiona pours her soul into each song she pens and doesn’t hold back. Her lyrics describe what every female has felt, including cheating boyfriends and the loss of love.
Best Known Songs: Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been”
Why He’s Dope: Think of the club’s top pop songs (Kesha’s “We R Who We R,” Rih’s “Where Have You Been,” Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold,” and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”) that looped in your mind afterwards, more than likely against your will. Lukasz Gottwald, recognized under the moniker Mr. Luke, is the man to blame. Creating these catchy tunes has earned him two ASCAP awards as well as two Grammy nominations.
Best Known For: “Fallin’,” “A Woman’s Worth,” “No One”
Why She’s Dope: A. Keys’ mix of R&B, soul and soft pop resonates in lyrical themes of self-worth and empowerment. Crafting the majority of songs on her ocean-deep classic debut Songs In A Minor, Keys inflicted pain with her pen and wrote tunes that struck close chords for everyone.
Best Known Songs: Usher’s “There Goes My Baby,” Beyoncé’s “Sweet Dreams,” Pleasure P.’s “Boyfriend No. 2”
Why He’s Dope: Although he is a vocalist, rapper and songwriter, his latter talent is what garners the most attention. He wrote for Mario, Beyonce, Usher, Natasha Bedingfield, Pleasure P, Dirty Money and more, with some standout songs being Keri’s “Energy,” Bey’s “Sweet Dreams” and Diddy and Co.’s “Hello Good Morning” to name a few.
Best Known For: “Rock wit U (Aww Baby),” “Breakup 2 Makeup”
Why She’s Dope: The R&B crooner has taken pages out of her diary to write about the roller-coasting feelings of love, infidelity, heartbreak and sacrifice that are found in her songs "Foolish," "Rain On Me" and "The Way That I Love You."
Terius "The Dream" Nash
Best Known For: Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” Rihanna’s “Umbrella”
Why He’s Dope: Dream could be considered the anti-writer. He’s known for enhancing songs with strange phrases, repetitive adlibs—see: the “ella ella” in “Umbrella.” And songs both for himself and other artists tend to have some quirk factor, which led to this VIBE list: How Well Do You Know The-Dream’s Silly Lyrics?
Best Known For: “Someone Like You,” “Rolling in the Deep,” “Chasing Pavements”
Why She’s Dope: Adele knows how to tell her side of a sad love song. With just two albums released, 19 and 21, both specializing in heartache, the young English singer has been put on a pedestal by British and American press while racking up prestigious auteur awards, including Songwriter of the Year at the Ivor Novello Awards this year and the 2012 Grammy for Album of the Year for her primarily self-penned 21.
Best Known For: David Guetta's "Sexy Bitch,” T-Pain's "Bartender"
Why He’s Dope: Lady Gaga and Leona Lewis have looked to Akon (credited as Aliaune Thiam) for pop theme songs. In 2008, the versatile songwriter earned a fair share of songwriting awards, including one for Gwen Stefani's “Sweet Escape.”
Best Known For: Travis McCoy’s “Billionaire,” Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You”
Why He’s Dope: Seemingly coming out of thin air, Bruno Mars has been playing on the airwaves long before his rise to solo stardom, penning songs for Alexandra Burke, Brandy and Adam Lovine. The pompadour sporter has a niche for writing songs that never seem to get out of your head, including, “I want to be a billionaire, so freaking bad.”
Channel 7 (Formerly 7 Aurelius)
Best Known For: Ashanti’s “Ain’t It Funny,” “Always On Time” and “Foolish”
Why He’s Dope: The singer/songwriter/producer is responsible for writing 80 percent of Ashanti’s love-soaked self-titled debut, when the Long Island-bred songstress was at her best. His work on Ashanti even led to his earning the title Songwriter of the Year at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards in 2003.
Best Known Songs: Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River,” Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous”
Why He’s Dope: Timbaland’s rise to fame spanned from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s due to well known collaborations with Aaliyah, Ginuwine, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, LL Cool J and other era moguls. His production chops are well noted. But as a songwriter alone, penning hits has kept him held at the highest esteem. In 2008, he scored an ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award. He also topped Billboard’s 2011 list of top 20 Hot 100 songwriters of the last decade.