One Artist, One Producer: What Happened?

Today is yet another anniversary of Aaliyah’s tragic passing. I don’t know about you, but I for one am not a fan of memorializing the fallen on their “death date,” and would much rather celebrate their lives on the days it began for them (in Aaliyah’s case, it would be January 16).

With that said, if Aaliyah was still alive today, a lot of these pop schmags wouldn’t even make it to YouTube, much less the majors. I’m looking at you, Teairra Mari.

Anyways, Aaliyah was one of urban music’s greatest enigmas. Exuding sex appeal, yet only revealing enough through her midriff-and-baggy jeans attire. Marred in controversy while working with one Robert Sylvester Kelly her career remained at the tipping point until she linked up with Timbaland (the pre-“suicide”-slash-Barry Bonds Workout Plan Timbo), who equally complimented and challenged her airy style with his spaced-out backdrops. Before tragically passing just weeks before 9/11, she had seemingly hit her creative stride.

Timbaland’s works with Aaliyah will forever remain some of his greatest records. It’s proof positive of the end result of when two kindred musical spirits match wits with each other, bouncing ideas off of each other in a musical version of Pong. It also makes me long for the days when artists would solely use only one producer for their entire album. Dr. Dre did it to perfection for the West, so much so that virtually everything hip hop related from my former home can be Six Degrees of Kevin Baconed back to him. Before whatever issues they had, both Gang Starr and Pete Rock and CL Smooth held it down for the East. Clipse and Kelis stayed with the “Neptunes sound.” Kanye’s first album was nearly self-produced (if you don’t count Evidence of Dilated Peoples helping him out on “Last Call”). What used to be a common practice happens every once in a while now, and it leaves me to wonder why this does not happen as much.

From a financial perspective, one would think that having one producer to provide the entire sound of your album would be a hell of a lot cheaper than getting 50-11 different producers to do it. Instead of blaming online mediums (*ahem*) for the decline in net returns some artists should focus more on cutting production costs, and I feel that working solely with one producer definitely helps matters.

The increase of the “two producer, one beat” trend – something I mentioned yesterday – could also contribute to the lack of artists working with one producer, and with good reason. I mean, why not bring a pair of super-producers together to work on one song? The possibilities are endless, and the end results could be something spectacular… or become a clusterfuck of an aural mess. Having one producer eliminates virtually any kind of potential conflict, as both can work together upgrading each other.

While the “one producer, one album” trend isn’t quite extinct (I’m personally waiting on Rah Digga and Nottz’ album to drop in a few weeks), I just wish it would happen more. Until then, though, I still have my Aaliyah-Timbaland songs to tide me over.

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    • James McGames

      Statik Selektah & Saigon – All in a day’s work

      Reflection Eternal (Talib & Hi Tek ) – Revolutions Per Minute

      Statik Selektah & Termanology – 1982

  • El Tico Loco

    One artist one producer one album? The closest thing to that happening in recent years that I’m aware of is Common’s last 2 albums, I know they had more than one but at least it was less than 3 and not too many guests most notably Be, now people make compilation albums with a thousand features and a remix is at least 2 guests, 1 guest if is an r&b artist which is not even a remix to begin with, that’s the same song with extra niggas in it, the only place where I can find a real remix is on Youtube.

  • Onederin

    Whether you do or do not like him, Asher Roth had his album produced by one guy (minus two songs). Some people knocked him for it because they said the songs sounded ‘too similar.’

    That album was weak regardless imo, but I agree that the ‘one artist, one producer’ trend is thin. It’s a shame because it can really bring some musical gold if the right pair link up.

  • Grant B.

    Pilot talk was one producer

  • Alteez

    What about Cymarshall Law & Mr. Joeker? Or what about Pacewon & Mr. Green? Both of those albums are near classics…

  • 2022quik

    My understanding is that artists have to put together dozens of tracks and the record label ultimately decides which select tracks to include on an album. It’s a time intensive process. Working with multiple producers is a form of multi tasking for both the artist and the producer. As an artist you could have 10 different producers engineering/fine tuning your songs all at the same time. From the producers perspective, the producer can be working on several different projects at one time increasing his revenue and exposure. Being committed to just one project takes up too much time for both parties. I also beleive that record labels think that it reduces risk to diversify the types of beats on an album from the extent that they dont want their artist to be boxed in to a certain type of beat. They want diverse beats in order to appeal to different audiences. That’s my guess looking at it from a business perspective.

  • SmokinAces

    Haven’t we had this conversation before? First off, Aaliyah never worked exclusively with Timbo. Kay-Gee, Vincent Herbert, Darkchild, and JD produced on One In A Million and there were various producers on the Aaliyah album also. Probably since the early-mid 90′s people working with one producer has been more an exception than a rule. I think it has a lot to do with access. When you do your first album, you may only have access to one producer on a consistent basis. But if you acheive some sucess, you’ll probably be more able to work with producers you always wanted to.

  • Anonymous

    This year we got Pilot Talk (Curren$y & Ski) and Revolutions Per Minute (Kweli & Hi Tek). And Last year had Boy Meets World (Fashawn & Exile) and This Ain’t No Mixtape (Curren$y & Monsta).

    Plus, the indie scene is doing that one producer/one vocal artist duo. Sleigh Bells and Crystal Castles come to mind.

    So, they’re around.

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  • Bronxbomma

    Yeah the Fashawn boy meets world shit is on point.

  • Chuck T

    Freeway and Jake One was pretty much on point.

  • estaban

    Chiddy Bang – a true one mc one producer duo…dont sleep

  • Yes

    Thank you to the dude that said Pacewon and Mr Green was a classic. That album has to be one of the most criminally slept on albums of the past decade!

    Oh and Anonymous, you can’t really mention music outside of hip-hop using one producer for that artist, because most genre’s only use one producer for their albums. (sorry if that doesn’t make as much grammatical sense as it did in my head)

  • Harra$$DaDon

    One Producer check out Flo Dawgs Block Addicts! Classic

  • HellNaw

    I think you do get it still.Just away from the ‘majors’.I think Commons ‘Be’ was the last time i heard an entire album pretty much all one producer.I think it gives an album a unity that multiple producers cant.It sounds like a album…as opposed to a collection of singles.

    The T.I’s want to cover all bases…so they ship in producers for; the club banger/the females/the street tune. It’s like painting by numbers.

  • JG

    Murs and 9th Wonder.

  • doclvly

    wow, you wrote about something relevant for a change. Best article you wrote in a while. I feel like to many of your post are more small side conversation,than a big topic. You also usually don’t drop enough examples either, it often leaves your blog reading like a run-on concept instead of a lesson and social observation someone can actually use.

    sry. not everyone can be a yes man

  • Moose

    What’s Aaliyah’s best album?

  • j

    co-sign jake one and freeway, fashawn and exile, murs and 9th, and soon to be released david banner and 9th. blu and exile is a classic too

  • Marcos

    What about RZA and the 1st wave of wu-tang albums?

  • Mark

    Great article. If you love one emcee-producer collaborations you should check out FEEL GOOD MUSIC by ILLUS and J.J. BROWN. J.J. kills the beats and compliments ILLUS’ hard hitting positive style and sick flows. One of the best albums of the year. Extremely slept on.

  • Anonymous



  • Lobo

    You gotta give credit to DJ Muggs for what he’s been doing with his VS series too. All albums exclusively produced by him and each featuring a single mc; GZA, Planet Asia, Sick Jacken and now Ill Bill.

  • bluekid99

    I agree w/Anonymous-That Cole is about 2 bang

    It’s artists like J. Cole that majors are lookin’ 4 now 2 cut production costs
    They want those artist-slash-producers ’cause they know their own sound and how to make records for their fan base like how Cole did Higher for the females w/o goin’ all r & b on the beat and it’s a true r&b/hip hop record

  • UMMM

    Duck Down has been doing this fairly consistently since 2005. 9th Wonder & Buckshot are two albums deep with Chemistry & Formula. Marco Polo has produced albums solely for Torae & Ruste Juxx & they have upcoming projects from Skyzoo & !llmind & Pete Rock & Smif N Wessun, plus Random Axe (Sean Price, Guilty Simpson & Black Milk) where Black Milk will be providing the sole production.

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  • ReelMuzikRep

    One Producer lookin for One Rapper… come to to meet him. and when you’re ready to get a track just hit us at …tell em GoodMike sent you.

  • oskamadison

    One MC, one producer, that’s all you need. Now, will someone please go kidnap Nas and drag his ass to Headqcourterz and hold him hostage until he and Premier finally do that album together?