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:

No I.D.
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.

Devo Springsteen
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.

Jeff Bhasker
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.

Jon Brion
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.”

DJ Toomp
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.

Mike Dean
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.

Eric Hudson
“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.

Timbaland
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.

Just Blaze
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

  • I’m first

    FIRST!!!!!

    • http://hiphoponmymind.blogspot.com/ DJ Daddy Mack

      PLAIN PAT, WHAT UP?

    • Prime

      Ye’ and Mike Dean got tight when Ye was working with Scarface back when Face was on Working for Def Jam and put an album out called the FIX. Most of Dean’s Mixes are sonic Bliss.

  • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grand$

    Not surprising.

    If you can’t trust a dude to blog for himself, you pretty much have to reassess anything with his stamp on it.

    Next, it’s going to come out that he uses body doubles for punblic outings & that wasn’t him beating up that guy’s camera @ LAX.

    Good post though, Al.

    • Pierzy

      Good point but, on the other hand, if it’s hot, it’s hot right?

      I don’t care who made “Graduation” – that shit knocks!

  • tyson mike

    completely agree with what you said about dj toomp

  • The_Truth

    ***Are you serious??

    “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.

    What?? That’s nearly a classic. . .C’mon, man.

    • http://governmentnames.blogspot.com Al Shipley

      Would you put the “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” beat on the same level as “What You Know” or “U Don’t Know Me”? I wouldn’t. I hate how the little cymbal taps almost sound louder than the snare, it just makes the whole track sound kinda weak, and the synths and the vocal sample never really gel into a cohesive mix, in my opinion.

      • http://tonygrands.blogspot.com Tony Grand$

        I’d say the beat was a bit muffled & clunky, but overall the song came across good. The song as a whole is a good song, & I think that’s the case with a lot of ‘Ye’s music, his cadence, delivery & content level out the quality of the instrumental.

      • Dub Sac

        When you listen closely, it seems like a lot of Kanye’s beats are pretty roughly mixed – especially things like “Never Let Me Down” and “Two Words”, where the background vocal samples almost drown out the actual rapping. It’s just a part of Ye’s production aesthetic, I guess. Or he just gets lazy once he’s past the creative part of production.

  • http://www.myspace.com/chronikill ROX ONE

    whoever wrote this has laughably bad taste in beats…

    “Flashing Lights” is, in my opinion, one of the hottest beats of the past couple years

    Hipster trash.

    “Diamonds,” however, stands tall as one of my favorite beats either of them have done

    Annoying garbage with obnoxiously obvious vocal sample.

    please…if im going to be subjected to horrible writing, the least you can get is someone with some taste…

    • http://governmentnames.blogspot.com Al Shipley

      I’ll be the first person to disregard some of Kanye’s beats from the past 2 years as “hipster trash,” but I think “Flashing Lights” makes really good use of the house/dance influence for a nice slow hip hop track.

      The hook on “Diamonds” is a little obnoxious, but I feel like the synths on the verses have some really interesting textures that make the song for me, all the low bass and high squeals.

      I don’t know where you’re coming from, if you think Kanye’s done much better work or you just don’t like his records in general, but that’s just my little of opinion, which is kinda secondary to the overall point of the piece.

  • The_Truth

    ***The only thing I didn’t like about ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ was the video. (unbelievable Hype Williams did it…horrible).

    But the track got love from clubs/ streets/ radio/ etc. . .The way Jeezy was blended into the track was like ‘The devil on your shoulder’ speaking of an extravagant fantasy.

    And now y’all dissing that song?? Man, let’s be open minded about this one. . .that song was hard.

  • The_Truth

    ***WACKEST BEEF’S OF ALL-TIME:

    3)Bow-Wow vs. Soulja Boy

    2)50 vs. Cam’Ron

    1)50 vs. Kanye

    We knew we were losing Hip-Hop when it’s judged by “First Week Sales”. . .then 106 &Park makes a show actually promoting it.

    • foolio_iglesias

      How about the beef between Uncle Luke and those ‘Cowards in Compton’?Yeah,I’m a 90′s rap encyclopedia,look it up.

  • DV8

    wasnt Eric Hudson in Ghostbusters?

    Kanye does his thing on the beats. Ghost producing is nothing new. Dr.Dre been had ghost producers since 2001 (the album, not the year)and he allegedly took full credit for beats he only tweaked from DAZ in his Death Row days.

    I would like to hear Kanye work with Jon Brion more. Late Registration was sick. Mike Dean is a legend in the south for all his work with Scarface and other Rap-a-lot artist as well as Daz (Dean is really a Underground King).

    I think Kanye’s next album is gonna be some amazing shit. Hes gonna bring it back just prove all the haysayers wrong. Just watch.

  • c. gabi

    I don’t mind Kanye being an “MC”. It’s tolerable.

    The fashion designing, blogging and whatever else he wants to do he can definitely keep.

    I much prefer him as a producer…and as a producer you know, at some point you have to break free from what your usual sound is. Think about it, for the longest time you knew a Timbaland beat when you heard it, you knew a Neptunes beat when you heard it. So Kanye taking it to a different level or even “collaborating” (which is relative) is cool.

    And why is no one giving mention to Kanye’s production on Scarface’s “Guess Who’s Back?! That shit went (and still goes) hard!!

    • DV8

      yeah that still slapps, im guessing “Guess Who’s Back” is when he meet Mike Dean

    • http://governmentnames.blogspot.com Al Shipley

      I will definitely co-sign “Guess Who’s Back” being one of Kanye’s best beats, that was really the track that made me actively pay attention to his productions, more than anything on The Blueprint. But he didn’t collab with anyone on that beat, so that’s why it hasn’t been brought up under this topic.

      • Dub Sac

        Speaking of Kanye’s production on The Fix, the beat for “In Cold Blood” really grabbed my attention. There’s a really nice break where he filters the drums out and some chick vocals come in for a second before the beat drops back in. I also agree that Kanye’s work on that album is more interesting than The Blueprint. “Heaven” is also well produced.

  • $ykotic

    IMO, “Flashing Lights” was that song. It was so hot everyone on the team dropped it.

    A much better song than “Stronger”.

    Don’t really care about the collabos…

  • Yayza

    I can’t wait to hear the song Just and Kanye did on Saigon’s album. Apparently he wants it to be a single, so it must be good.

  • Silky Johnson

    To be honest I prefer backpacker Kanye over pretentious whiny Kanye. The College Dropout + Late Registration were 1000x better then Graduation and 808′s. And Kanye’s beats were better, songs such as This Way by Dilated Peoples, or Takeover by Jay-Z or Guess Who’s Back, I honestly don’t think I can name a recent Kanye beat I was really feelin, these days I’ll take Statik Selektah over Ye Tudda everytime.

  • joey maker

    Jeff Bhasker, apart from being involved with 808s, produced “The Documentary” from Game’s debut. Sick track.

  • sevdemy

    your retarded because FLASHING LIGHTS is just a 8 bar Curtis Mayfiled loop with added claps and amped up violins

    at least know that samples if your gonna write for a “producing” magazine/or online blog or whatever this once a month paragraph shit is

    • yoprince

      i’ll cop to not being the most erudite person when it comes to beat making or producing… but does it really matter how simply the beat was made if it knocks and no one else made a rap track out of it b4??

      just a thought

    • http://governmentnames.blogspot.com Al Shipley

      I dunno man…the “Little Child Runnin’ Wild” strings aren’t really the sum total of what’s going on in the “Flashing Lights” beat, in my opinion it’s really the organ part (which isn’t sampled from Curtis) that makes the song. If I ran down what was sampled any time I mentioned a Kanye song this thing would have been 5 times longer, gimme a fuckin’ break with your lame attempt to kick knowledge.

  • Vicious Seiger

    Where is Just Blaze?

  • http://www.myspace.com/thissathekid the-K.I.D

    “Guess whose back” is my all-time favourite Yeezy drop…

  • DownSouth

    It trips me out how Kanye nem said that they spent a lotta time working on the kick in Good Life. And the kick doesn’t knock that hard. It fits in good with the mix but it seems like it shouldn’t have took that long to work with.

  • Shawty J

    I always thought it was funny they Ye produced other people’s beats himself, but on his albums used co-producers. In most cases the style of the record gives away who did what. Examples

    Good Life – obviously Kanye chopped up a Michael Jackson sample and Toomp re-did the beat using his instruments, an interview and Youtube video confirmed this.

    Flashing Lights – according to Eric Hudson the beat was almost done when he gave to Kanye, so Kanye probably just finished it up.

    Breathe In, Breathe Out – Co-Produced by Brian “All Day” Miller, funny the one of the only songs on that album with no sample had a co-producer, LOL.

    Late Registration – Kanye chopped up samples, Jon Brian brought in musicians to play along with the samples and in some cases have the musicians replace Kanye’s sample (Just Blaze also does this when he can’t clear samples, I miss his Youtube channel).

    • Chris hansen

      Breathe in breathe out is sampled

  • http://www.dynamicproducer.com dynamicwayne

    Not surprised at all