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If the Super Producer is Dead, There May Be Hope for Us After All

superproducers.jpgGooch over at XXL asked one of those rhetorical, seemingly non-threatening Hip Hop questions that tends to get people riled up. "Is the era of the super-producer over?"

The one hit wonder has put the super producer out of business. And why? Probably for a few reasons, but the main one being that super producers just aren't very reliable when it comes to making hits anymore. They recreate a sound that worked once, over and over again, and consumers are too smart for that nowadays. They're not buying it.

Although Super Producers made #2 of our 25 Things That Killed (and are Still Killing) Urban Music list, we would hate to see them sacrificed on the alter of the YouTube star. But...

  • How exciting would it be to go back to a time when artists (namely R&B) could reclaim their thunder? When a hot single was about the vocalist and not the producer?
  • When the producer wouldn't use another artist's output to prop up his own solo release?
  • When the only people doing backup were hired backup singers and not ad-libbing beatmakers?
  • Or, how about not being able to correctly identify the producer on the first measure of a track because you've heard the same beat ten times in the past year with only slight variations?

It would be nice wouldn't? About ten years ago, when I was obsessed with things like liner notes, I would pride myself on being able to identify the producer of a track within seconds. But maybe they made it too easy. Maybe the sound was too branded. It continues to this day, when I could care less and have shorter patience for such things. This isn't to say that the producers implicated in Gooch's post aren't dope; it's just that they are ubiquitous and oftentimes it's difficult for the vocalist to emerge from the producer's shadow.

I think there needs to be a re-balancing of the scales.

Is the Era of the Super Producer Over? [XXL]


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10 Responses

  1. Powerfull!!! When One producer sounscaped an album, the object was to make the next track as original as the last. Maybe the same drumkits or instruments were there but each song stood on it own. I think of the chart breaking producer Rod Templeton. Where would Micheal Jackson be without him? Then again Where would Rod be without Micheal's voice? It takes chemistry. It's not a one man show, both should bring something to the table....

  2. Funny you mentioned Rod Temperton. He was a writer and member of Heatwave thatacually "wrote" songs. ( not created based on the newest gear). Quincy tapped him to work on several projects. Quincy Jones "The Great and Annointed Super Producer" worked with other writers, arrangers and players to set the standard.
    Like you I read the liner notes on EVERYTHING and there was a synergy between Quincy, EWF, TOTO, Rufus. It was the Golden Era of Black Production.
    Jam and Lewis used the new technology, but they still "wrote" songs and worked with great players and engineers ( Steve Hodge was a BEAST!!) . And tried hard not to repeat themselves. New techniques, same standard.
    Now these producers are to self absorbed. I hate to quote Suge Knight ( really I do) but the producers jumping on the artist record is detrimental to the song.
    The true producers move in silence until neccesary.

  3. If its over then I'm glad.When super producers known in the hip-hop world crossover, they tend to forget what made them hot, especially Timbaland.

  4. i'm glad some people here are giving love to some old-school behind-the-boards cats. i'll take gamble & huff, curtis mayfield, and leon sylvers III over most of these "genius" producers. and that's just a few off top . . . back in the day, there were so many producers, songwriters and arrangers who didn't get a tenth of the recognition they deserved. perhaps it was for the best--maybe it made these people even better at what they did because they didn't have the distraction of trying to be a damn star themselves. these dudes today getting superstar kudos off pushing buttons. a lot of them would have an easier time reading hieroglyphics than reading music. i'm not hating, i'm just saying. i hate to once again say that it was better back in the day, but i'll be damned if it wasn't. jimmy & terry whatup!

  5. Well after Palow da Don cribbed Garage Band it should be officially over. But this is in reference to the hip hop / r & b hybrid and dummying down of music and the ridiculous fees. Rick Rubin isn't accused of overexposure afterall. Plus I say go back to the Peven Everett interview.

  6. Good post. There were killing (dead) the scene for a minute,but the will be back. These cats are too damn smart to fade. I think this will be a boon to the radio or iPod as it were. Because the will be force to vary their sound and dig a lil deeper into their own artistic crates. Missy is a good example of this, she's out collabin' & "studying" music and hittin' you where ever it feels good.

  7. A good vocalist will emerge and will not be limited to the shadow of a drum machine. These producers aren't really producers a producer well produces something. These people are just dj's without records beat selectors if you will. You can make a beat with your foot and the floor in fact just about anyone can. What we are really talking about is turning music back over to people that were born with the gift.
    And since someone already mentioned Peven Everett I think I will just say that he is a real producer and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist so instead of buying some ridiculous fad track maybe people should appreciate craftsmanship like his.

  8. Avatar

    All super producers have a sound. You gonna tell me the early Motown stuff did not have an assembly line sound? All that stuff sounded the same ! Jam & Lewis, Babyface and LA, Teddy Riley, all of the other so called Super Producers had an instantly identifiable sound and could be picked out in 2 bars in. I know people that were around for the Thriller/Off the Wall Sesions..Quincy wasn't playing no instruments and wasn't writing no charts. The studio musicians and writers like Rod were the ones coming up with the tracks and "producing" the music. Quincy was doing the P-Diddy..coming in and saying put a crash here and approving final mixes.The reason these guys get called on time and time again is because they were the first to come up with thier brand of music. . Who programmed drums like Timbaland on One in a million, or If your girl only knew ? Who was doing crazy off key beats like the Neptune's early work ? Who was doing beats that sounded like Teddy's on the first Guy album ? Or tracks as original and fresh as Jimmy Jam on Janet's 2-3 album ?No one ! Its easy to copy and mimic a sound after the originator created it. Its much harder to INVENT a sound, and that what these super producers do and why the get paid for it. Yes it gets old but what would you do if you had coutless record companies throwing money at you to deliver you'r "sound"? Would you turn it down? No.

  9. @Mutada: The "if you were an artist would you turn down the money" device pretty much excuses ANY and EVERYTHING we could possibly take umbrage with. 🙂 We realize why a lot of this stuff happens. MONEY. Ok, now that that's out of the way.... Black Milk, Waajeed, and Nicolay all have signature sounds, but they aren't as ubiquitous as the "super-producers" cited in the XXL blog. They haven't worn out their welcome and they know how to mix it up. If they started making mainstream radio hits, who knows? But as things stand, too many people are employing the same usual suspects and it does water the music down. And I actually like all the cats implicated/pictured.

  10. Avatar

    Nova I agree with you its all about money. I'd also bet that if you sat down with a Pharell, Timbaland, or any of the other flavor of the month producers and listened to the tracks on their hard drives. I'm sure you could find a ton of Diversity and stuff that sounds nothing like their top 40 stuff. Pharell at the height of his fame even complained about the industry coming to the them for "that sound" or the "single". Pharell and Timbaland have sort of made a business of going left field and sounding different than their contemporaries
    What happens in my opinion is for one the record companies demand "that" sound because they are absolutely terrified of a flop AND the days of real artist and development are dead. Second you have a million "I can do it too" clone producers who crop up like chicken pox . Tim and Pharells sounds would have sounded fresh much longer if the clones wouldn't have used it over and over again.
    But this happens to all "Super Producers". If we go back to the 80's and 90's people used to rip off New Jack Swing from Teddy like he had the cure for cancer in his beats. Same with Dr Dre after the Chronic .. Look what our resident mutchkin Jermain Dupree did on Da Brats first album. You could not even think of having an R&B ballad unless it featured Babyfaces now infamous DX7 Rhodes . In this decade we suffer from the same thing. Auto-tune, Arpegiators and "Swag". So I would say let these artists and their homogenized music keep flopping and support the little known producers. But I will say this. If suddenly Black Milk (who is dope btw) was booked solid for the next year with 3-4 sessions per weak he would probably start repeating himself too.
    (I cant even bring myself to type super producer and swizz beatz in the same phrase that's blasphemy. Opps : )



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