BLOG: Who Makes Kanye’s Beats While He’s (Not) Blogging?
Aside from being a hip hop producer, Kanye West is, of course, a celebrity. But any remaining hope I had that his music hadn’t been completely overshadowed by the cult of personality pretty much went
out the window this week, when the rampant suspicion and speculation about the possibility that Kanye may have paid staffers running his blog site. Oh heavens no, ghostbloggers! Amazingly, Byron here on XXL, the guy who spent a year of his life ‘breaking’ the story that one of the people with a co-writing credit
on “Jesus Walks” actually co-wrote the song (gasp!), is the only person on the internet with enough perspective to not give a shit about this.
Meanwhile, I’m reminded that Kanye’s long and complex history with co-producers has never gotten nearly as much attention. I’m not saying he’s on the Dr. Dre level where you start to wonder if he just has a
staff making beats all day, from which he picks and chooses to stamp his name brand on later. The fact that Kanye has been guesting on more and more records he didn’t produce (such as “American Boy” and “Go
Hard”), and doesn’t try to hog credit for the beat in those instances, makes me believe that he’s fair with giving credit where credit’s due. And his whole career got started ghost-producing for D-Dot (who was
himself one of Puffy’s ghost producers), so he seems sensitive to the plight of lesser known producers not getting shine. But his solo records have been increasingly reliant on the contributions of other
producers, so I thought I’d take a look back at some of his more significant helpers over the years, and see how they contributed to his sound:
Obviously, No I.D. was making classics with Common back when Kanye was just a high school kid watching the Adam Sandler movies he’d be quoting in songs for the rest of his life, so he’s more of a mentor
than anything else. But lately No I.D.’s been co-producing a lot of Kanye’s stuff, including three songs on 808s & Heartbreak, and upcoming work on Blueprint 3 and the next Common album. Still,
I’ve always wondered about the fact that a few years ago Rhymefest’s “Sister” was credited to No I.D. and 213’s “Another Summer” was credited to Kanye, but the songs had identical instrumentals. Between
that and all the ghost-producing No I.D. did for Jermaine Dupri, it kinda makes me think Immenslope was doing more work for ‘Ye on the low.
Kanye’s cousin with the funny name has become a fairly solid producer in his own right, mainly for G.O.O.D. Music artists but also with some tracks for Nas and Cassidy. His one big co-production with Kanye, on
“Diamonds,” however, stands tall as one of my favorite beats either of them have done, which makes me wish they collaborated more.
Brian “Allday” Miller
I remember reading a Kanye interview in the pre-College Dropout days in which he likened his working relationship with protégé Miller to the way he had worked with D-Dot. The guy didn’t really rack up any
significant co-production credits until Kanye’s last two albums, but I imagine we’ve been hearing a lot more of his handiwork than we even know over the years.
I don’t know much about this guy besides that he’s been the ‘music’ director for Kanye’s recent tours and co-produced a lot of 808s, so I’m blaming him for those annoying taiko drums and bloated 9-minute live arrangements of every song.
When Kanye hooked up with the producer of countless film scores and corny college rock singer-songwriter albums for Late Registration, there was a lot of love for the work they did together but also a bit of hate and hand-wringing. But I still think they did great stuff together, and it’s a shame that the only thing they’ve collaborated on since then was “Drunk And Hot Girls.”
On the surface, Kanye linking up with the producer of most of T.I.’s greatest bangers was a good idea, and a lot of people liked the results, but their collaborations were always disappointing to me. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” was clunky as hell, and ever since working with Kanye, Toomp’s been using a lot more samples and his sound hasn’t had the same knock to it.
For years, Dean was best known as the in-house producer for dozens of Rap-A-Lot albums, but in the past couple years has been Kanye’s mixing engineer, and got a couple co-production credits on Graduation.
Maybe Kanye looked him up to help him get more of a southern bass-heavy sound the same way he hooked up with Toomp, but Dean is definitely kind of a lesser known journeyman producer, so I’m curious
how they started working together.
“Flashing Lights” is, in my opinion, one of the hottest beats of the past couple years, so it was almost a little disappointing to find out that Kanye didn’t do it all himself. And given the fact that the track’s co-producer, Eric Hudson, has done other tracks with similar thumping drums and spiraling strings (such as that Jadakiss/Ne-Yo single), I’m guessing “Flashing Lights” was mainly him.
Now, Kanye made a big deal about how he realized after releasing “Stronger” that the drums weren’t right and brought Timbo in to re-do them for Graduation. But I’ve listened to the single and album
versions many times, and even watched the video footage of the studio session, and I can’t hear the slightest bit of difference, which makes me feel like this was either a publicity stunt, or a bunch of
obsessive studio rats making much ado about kick drum frequencies that are barely audible without expensive studio monitors. A meeting of the minds like Tim and Kanye should be put to better use. And even worse, Timbo nabbed a co-production credit more recently on “Amazing,” which features some of the most plodding and useless drums in Kanye’s career.
For years, Kanye and Just Blaze were always mentioned in the same breath, as the Roc-A-Fella production team, the guys who brought soul samples back to the game. But they always had distinct styles and rarely did much work together, aside from Blaze’s DJ scratches over Kanye’s beat on Jay-Z’s “A Dream.” Even later on, when Blaze produced Kanye’s solo hit “Touch The Sky” it seemed more like just an MC working with a producer than a more in-depth collaboration. Still, it’s easy to imagine that these guys have some kind of competitive creative spark, and I’d love to hear them work together more extensively. –Al Shipley