I think the general rap Stan opinion (emphasis on the word “general”) places Dr. Dre and DJ Premier as the top hip-hop producers of all-time. It’s pretty hard to deny Dre’s accomplishments, even if his Detox album has become a running joke of sorts. Who else can claim to have introduced the world to the likes of N.W.A, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and 50 Cent?
Although DJ Premier’s commercial success hasn’t even remotely matched Dre’s, fans still marvel at his ability to chop and reformat samples like some sort of Mad Scientist (no disrespect to Large Professor). Primo revitalized an entire coast with his sound once the Notorious B.I.G., Nas and Jay-Z sought-out his work in the mid-to-late ’90s. And while “Unbelievable,” “New York State of Mind” and “Friend or Foe” were no doubt classic songs, I would argue that Primo’s best work came on Group Home’s 1995 debut album Livin’ Proof.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to take it a step further and say that Livin’ Proof is the greatest produced hip-hop album of all-time!
Let’s keep it 100, when it comes to MCs, Group Home’s Lil’ Dap and Malachi the Nutcracker left much to be desired. So from the gate, Premier had his work cut out for him. It’s not like he could half-ass a beat or two and expect the MCs to make the song memorable with their lyrics. On “Sacrifice,” Malachi actually rapped, “You’re funny, like that fuckin’ dummy Bugs Bunny;” a line that goes down in lyrical infamy for all the wrong reasons. Still, the way Primo flipped the first six seconds of the Chi-Lites “What Do I Wish For” and then turned it into a Timberland trekking, Champion hood rockin’ banger was perfection in a four bar measure.
To keep things factual, though, there were two beats on Livin’ Proof that Premier didn’t rock (Jaz-O’s “4 Give My Sins” and Guru’s “Serious Rap Shit”) and what do you know, they were the two weakest songs.
The album’s first single “Supa Star” was amazing. Again the lyrics weren’t the illest, but Lil’ Dap’s vocal texture sounded so ill over the beat. Preem is probably the best when it comes to matching a track with the right MC, even if they aren’t the best writers. Just like he did for album’s title track “Livin’ Proof.”
Malachi’s basic rhyme scheme (especially when taking into account that this was 1995, back when rappers could actually rap) would’ve really been exposed over a weak instrumental, but when he said, “Where’s my knife? Take a chance with your life;” it actually sounded kind of ill. Primo could’ve (and probably should’ve) taken the easy way out and given the track to Nas or something. Then again, he probably did play it for God’s Son, who I could see turning it down. We all know Nas’s reputation for picking shitty tracks.
The fact is Dr. Dre had Snoop Dogg, Kurupt and Daz on The Chronic and they were beasts on the mic. You gotta give Premier props; he had a lot less to work with and still crafted an album that hip-hop heads can nod too. Am I wrong? What do you think the best-produced hip-hop album of all-time is? —Rob Markman, The Deputy!