As hip-hop is a self-taught discipline, many artists develop an even spread of skills in rap and production, composition and mixing, with some excelling at everything they do.
Controlling their whole creative process from writing to mastering, rapper-producers manage to stand out by developing their own identity and artistic integrity. This path is born of resourcefulness and innovation, and was pioneered by illustrious rapper-producers such as Pete Rock, Q-Tip, The Beatnuts, RZA, Havoc (Mobb Deep) and more recently Pharrell, Kid Cudi and J. Cole, to name but a few.
Like the artists mentioned above, the new generation of rapper-producers have managed to build a powerful, revolutionary universe. Yet, despite the globalisation of the music industry and the democratisation of production tools, most still come mainly from the United States. However, the diversity of this playlist bears witness to the artistic richness that exists there – from Atlanta with the soul and folk inspirations of Raury, to Los Angeles with Channel Tres’ house that’s imbued with West Coast sounds, then passing through Louisiana and the devilish horrorcore of the $uicideboy$, as well as the Run the Jewels - made up of rapper Killer Mike and eminent Brooklyn rapper-producer El-P -, these artists manage to fuse hip-hop with almost any influence. Take Chicagoan Kweku Collin, whose music is as graceful and intoxicating as it is almost impossible to define.
However, one thing that this overview highlights is the cruel lack of women performers and composers. While some of them wear numerous hats at the beginning, as their fame grows they tend to focus more on an artistic direction than on actual production. Case in point, the English IAMDDB.
This pattern also exists amongst their male counterparts. Earl Sweatshirt and Anderson .Paak are producing fewer and fewer tracks. While the late Mac Miller composed primarily for other artists, under the name Larry Fisherman, he continued to pursue other projects that gave rise to sumptuous aerial ballads such as “So It Goes”. Other less well known artists still do everything themselves, from composing to mixing. This is the case with Canadian Chris Yonge and his track “Tone”, created using telephone sounds; the American kings of boom-bap 2.0, The Doppelgangaz; and the unconventional JPEGMAFIA. And not forgetting two of the best kept secrets in French rap: Hugo TSR and Nepal. The former is unassuming yet he produces a boom-bap as punchy as his pen, so much so that he always plays to a sold-out crowd, even abroad. And the latter, who left us far too soon, excelled in every field with powerful, nuanced productions and interpretations, full of finesse, all tinged with melancholy.