In honor of Black Music Month, we've created a list of the top black music producers working today. The list is a mix of the well-known and the up-and-coming, which means the sounds you hear booming out of car windows this summer will most likely have been created by one of these top black producers.
Yes, we said black producers, but Rubin, who co-founded (with Russell Simmons) Def Jam in 1983, has helped shape so many hip-hop careers — Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, etc., etc. — that we're giving him an honorary black pass. Rubin, who's produced for everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Neil Diamond, was recently credited with smoothing the edges on Kanye West's Yeezus. Rubin also had a cameo in the announcement video for Jay Z's new album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, which means he'll have had a hand in that, too.
The creator of West Coast G-funk has produced music for a variety of artists, from Eminem to 50 Cent to Kendrick Lamar. But it wasn't enough to create his own sound; he also gave fans a better way to listen with Beats by Dre, one of the most popular headphones today. He and producer Jimmy Iovine will also help produce the next generation of entrepreneurs: They recently donated $70 million to the University of Southern California to establish a four-year undergraduate program for an arts academy.
Before the rapper-producer gave us the hard-hitting Yeezus, his early signature sound featured R&B classics sped up to create what some called "chipmunk soul" (which can be heard here and here). His sound led to hits for Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Mariah Carey. The melancholy, detached sound of his fourth studio album, 808s & Heartbreak, helped spawn an indie-flavored, hipster-friendly version of R&B (dubbed by some as "PBR&B"), opening the door for artists such as The Weeknd, Miguel, Frank Ocean and Drake.
Timbaland's signature drumbeats have appeared in tracks by Aaliyah, Missy Elliott and Justin Timberlake, including J.T.'s most recent album, The 20/20 Experience. Timbaland will be busy this summer producing tracks for several artists, including music power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
The 19-year-old Chicago producer behind high school friend and rap phenom Chief Keef is helping to put the regional sound of "drill" into the mainstream, making him one of the most sought-after producers in music right now.
The producer responsible for hits like "Run This Town" and "D.O.A (Death of Auto-Tune)" first gained prominence for his work with fellow Chicagoan the rapper Common. He's also worked with the other well-known Chi-Town rapper, Kanye West (Yeezus), as well as Jay-Z, Alicia, Rick Ross, Drake and Usher. He's currently one of the producers working on Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail.
The most visible and best-known member of the production duo known as the Neptunes, Williams uses classic R&B flourishes to give new tracks, such as Frank Ocean's "Sweet Life," an old-school feel. Williams will be busy, as usual, this summer producing tracks for several artists including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Earl Sweatshirt, Chris Brown, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus.
The Des Moines, Iowa, native's distinctive beats have scored hits for several artists, including Lil Wayne ("A Milli"), Nicki Minaj ("Did It On 'em") and Ke$ha ("Sleazy"). The beat-maker, who now calls Atlanta home, isn't afraid to produce a little controversy: Last year he declared that fellow producer Swizz Beatz wasn't relevant.
Bangladesh's opinion notwithstanding, the South Bronx, N.Y., native is one of hip-hop and R&B's most important producers, creating hits for everyone from DMX, Busta Rhymes and Jay-Z to Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson — and his wife, Alicia Keys. He's also one of the producers working on Jay-Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail.
Mike WiLL Made It
Since 2011, the Hotlanta native has been burning up the charts with hits for Juicy J ("Bandz A Make Her Dance"), 2 Chainz ("No Lie") and Rihanna ("Pour It Up"). He's most recently contributed to the "blackification" of Miley Cyrus with her new single, "We Can't Stop."
The Californian is best-known for tracks "Niggas in Paris" (by Jay-Z and Kanye West), Kendrick Lamar's "Backstreet Freestyle" and A$AP Rocky's "Goldie." He's produced tracks for Lil Wayne, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Justin Bieber. The producer, who's signed to West's GOOD Music label, hopes to follow in his boss's footsteps by rapping, too: He recently dropped a new video for his single "Jay-Z Interview Pt. II."
The producer has worked with T.I., Wale, Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar and fellow Canadian Drake, who signed the hit-maker to his October's Very Own label. T-Minus is currently working on Drake's third album, Nothing Was the Same, which will hit stores Sept. 17.
Diddy made his name (or, uh, names) producing albums by Mary J. Blige and the Notorious B.I.G., among others. One of hip-hop's most successful entrepreneurs, Diddy will attempt to conquer TV this fall when he launches Revolt TV, a new channel dedicated to music and culture.
In addition to producing for his group the Black Eyed Peas, Will has worked with a wide range of artists including Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Usher, Justin Timberlake, U2 and the late, great Michael Jackson.
The New Jersey native is famous for his work on Jay-Z's albums (The Blueprint, The Blueprint 2 and The Black Album) and producing hits for Cam'ron, Kanye West, Eminem, Maroon 5 and Rick Ross.
The Jamaican-born producer, who grew up in Canada, has produced for Drake, Eminem, Rick Ross, Das Racist and others. He has named several producers as influences, all of whom happen to be on this list: Swizz Beatz, Timbaland, Dr. Dre and The Neptunes.
Pop & Oak
The dynamic duo come from interesting backgrounds that have influenced their work: Andrew "Pop" Wansel's father is Dexter Wansel, who helped develop the Philly Soul sound of the '70s; Warren "Oak" Felder is a Los Angeles-based Turkish American originally from Istanbul. The pair frequently collaborate with Nicki Minaj (they produced the No. 1 single "Your Love") and have worked with other top stars, including Big Sean, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown.
Polow da Don
The Atlanta native has produced tunes for many of R&B and hip-hop artists, including Fergie, Mario, Usher Ciara, Chris Brown, Ludacris and Monica, who's also his cousin.
With more than 20 years in the business, the producer helped shape the short but brilliant career of Amy Winehouse and has worked with some of music's top artists, including Alicia Keys, Usher and Miguel. His signature sound can best be heard on Nas' "Made You Look."
Syd Tha Kyd
Her Odd Future compadres — Frank Ocean; Tyler, the Creator; and Earl Sweatshirt — get all the ink, but Syd deserves credit for helping to develop the group's sound. She produced the group's tracks while living at her parents' house in Los Angeles. She's also half of the neo-soul outfit The Internet. And though Ocean received praise for recently coming out, Syd has been open about her sexuality for a while.