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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Super Producers – A Double Edged Sword
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The super producer. The super producer is one who is well known for his aptitude at creating dope beats and can usually be heard on nearly every album that comes out during the window in which his or her beats are considered hot. This is great for the producer, but troublesome for Hip-Hop. There’s an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth and that’s exactly what’s going on with rap albums today thanks to the advent of, yup, you know where I’m going with this, the super producer.

No one is going to deny Pharrell, Timbaland, Kanye West, Just Blaze, DJ Premier, etc. are fantastic at what they do behind the boards, and no one can fault them for trying to sell their beats to as many people as possible, but as an artist it’s time to take a look at your own work and see if those producers really fit in with your project. Unless you’re using one of them for your entire album they probably don’t. Unfortunately we’ve gotten to the point in Hip-Hop where people are reading liner notes like they’re the gospel, making sure that saints Timbaland and Kanye are listed as producers before even thinking of picking up a CD and this is extremely damaging to the craft.

Take a listen to the albums that are universally considered classics and you’ll find they all have one thing in common no matter when they were made or what coast the artists are from; they’re all sonically consistent and cohesive. The Chronic, 36 Chambers Of Death, ATLiens, Paid In Full, Straight Outta Compton, these are all albums most of us know by heart and one of the reasons is that they were created by a few folks who were unbelievably tight with each other. When purchasing a beat from someone who may or may not know your style there’s no soul behind the eventual finished product. Yeah, you can sound really dope rhyming over a RZA beat but there will be a disconnection with it. No matter how dope you sound you won’t sound as dope as GZA would, or Ghostface would, because they have the history of working together with him. You can buy the beat, but without that time spent in and out of the studio together it’s just that, a beat. Beats can be bought, soul is something that’s created over time. Who’s going to create a better beat for you, a guy who you call up and pay a chunk of money to or a guy who’s been with you through thick and thin and knows you inside out? You know the answer to that.

Another issue with using beats from a large number of producers is your voice gets lost and you don’t have a sound of your own. Artists have asked me “who do you think I sound like?” And the fact of the matter is if I can answer that question you’re not going to go far in the music world. A lot of people can rap, not a lot of people can create rap music. What I mean by this is put on any of those albums listed above, when you hear a song from those records you instantly know it’s that artist, you don’t even have to hear the first lyric, you know from the first thump of the bass “that’s Outkast” or “that’s Wu-Tang,” there’s never any question in your mind. Now turn on the radio today. You’ll know who produced the track instantly, but the artist on the track… that may take you a line to figure out. By using a bunch of super producers artists are essentially making themselves secondary in their own music. Isn’t this the opposite of what you want to do?

Albums today are a mess, but there’s an easy cure for this, go the way of the classics and work with just one or two producers. The Rolling Stones didn’t switch guitarists and drummers every other song, so why would you switch producers so often? Look at the Gnarls Barkley and DangerDoom projects. Those albums became so popular so quickly because they were consistent, they made sense from song to song. One can also look at what Justin Timberlake did with Timbaland. Justin’s previous solo effort was very mixed, there was no clear idea of what he wanted to do. All of a sudden he comes out with an album he worked on almost exclusively with Tim and BAM he gives birth to something creatively different that people latch on to. You can play any song off of that album and know it’s a Justin Timberlake song as soon as the beat comes in. The same can be said for any Atmosphere album, and isn’t that what you’re looking for as an artist, instant sonic recognition?

So artists, before you pick up that phone to dump a hundred grand on the latest beatsmith du jour, take a minute to think about what it will do to your album. Remember, in the end it should be about who you are, not how many people you can work with.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:10 AM  
9 Comments:
  • At 10:54 AM, Blogger Ketchums said…

    Great post. Saigon had a great comment about this topic a while ago - he said that artists are trying to buy classic albums instead of making them, and that's definitely true. These cats nowadays are more focused on getting the right people around them to on making their own mark.

     
  • At 3:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very mediocre post. Of course I'm going to post this as anonymous because why would I wanna do something different (like aligning with a talent as insurmountable as Timbaland -gasp-... or actually leaving a viable contact name -double gasp-)

    It's so boring to read a page so littered with inferiority of ability to grasp the growth of hip hop. It's beautiful to see evolution from a rapper to a producer/producer to rapper/ producer of hip hop to producer of pop.

    Get a grip. There is nothing about this that is negative to hip hop. (and no, I won't be coming back to this page, so there is little need to respond!)

     
  • At 4:50 PM, Blogger Adam said…

    Ketchums, thanks for the props! Whaddaya think of this clown who posted under you? I'm thinkin it's pretty clear it's someone who read the first two paragraphs then jetted to the bottom to complain.

     
  • At 5:08 PM, Anonymous saywhat said…

    "Take a listen to the albums that are universally considered classics.. they’re all sonically consistent and cohesive."

    I fully agree with your argument. But what do you think of The Game's "The Doctor's Advocate"? Do you think it is "sonically consistent" mostly because it's kind of a theme album with Dr Dre being the theme or because Dr Dre was actually "ghost executive producing"?

     
  • At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Chandra said…

    Why does someone have to agree or side with you in order to not be a clown? An individual who very well could have read your entire (very mediocre) post throughout and still had an opposing viewpoint. I too side with dude, and think its opinions not merely presented, but shoved down peoples throats (case in point if you dont like it or agree with it you're either a) misanthropically uneducated when it comes to urban music schemes or b) a clown) that negate hip hop. If you and many others like you succeed in overthrowing an entire genre, what would you have to write about oh contradictory one?

     
  • At 9:07 PM, Blogger Adam said…

    saywhat, that's a very interesting question. Personally I like the older west coast feel of Doctor's Advocate, it's all sounds like it goes together, which is why, I think, it's getting such good reviews. How about you?

    And Chandra, check my history. The debates that have gone on on this very site about the Cristal boycott, racism vs. bigotry and Jay's horrible "leadership" at Def Jam have all featured spirited debates in which numerous arguments were presented and respected. The reason(s) anonymous' insults were insulted right back was because of the way in which they were presented: no name, no reasoning, no comprehension of the argument, and with the coward's "I'm not coming back" closing. You, too, are guilty of non-thinking acts by claiming my post is mediocre and saying I'm "shoving" my opinion down people's throats while giving no evidence of either. Why is it mediocre? Is it because you don't agree with it? If that's your reasoning how would that make your insult of me any different than the claims you are making against me? To me it sounds like the pot is attempting to call the kettle black (and as we all know that's Michael Richards' job. ZING).

    If you come correct at Adam's World you can always rest assured your agrument will be well received.

     
  • At 1:57 PM, Anonymous consciousme said…

    Good post Adam. You make a whole lot of sense this coming from an emcee/producer/engineer...

     
  • At 2:00 PM, Anonymous les-tor_manchestor said…

    When people are checking for a producer, it just validates the whole I'm not listeing to the words I'm just listening to the beats business.

     
  • At 7:35 PM, Anonymous John Cochran said…

    I totally agree with your post. I am an aspiring artist/producer and we sit in the lab and talk about the "super producer" thing all the time. I feel like there definetly needs to be artist/producer chemistry involved. This is why Dre and Rza have been involved in so much classic material. Hell, even Cash Money records were better with Mainnie doin all the work than they are now.

     
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