The year 2021 in hip-hop is everything that 2020 wasn’t. There are lopsided chances that your favorite artist dropped something to end the sound drought of last year due to the pandemic, whether it’s sample-sized song packs from artists like Tierra Whack and Cordae, tag-teamed efforts crafted by duos like Blxst and Bino Rideux or studded solo joints from frenemies like Kanye West and Drake. With that in mind, you can’t fully salute the fruits of something without acknowledging its inception from scratch. So, it’s time to look at the talented producers that planted the seeds for those sounds to flourish.
Heard on Bigger Than Life or Death, Enrgy Beats turned the heat up on “5500 Degrees” by EST Gee, Lil Baby, Rylo Rodriguez and 42 Dugg with a speaker-blowing beat reminiscent of Mannie Fresh and the famed Hot Boys era. DJ Durel laced the magnetic single “Straightenin,” from Migos’ Culture III, and continued to show and prove by shaping the definitive sound of the project. And D’Mile used his ear for Rap&B to help usher in Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak’s glossy masterpiece “Leave The Door Open,” off An Evening with Silk Sonic.
An artist who lives up to the definition of being a switch-hitter when it comes to producing and rapping is Havoc. In 2021, the legend fired his clip back up on tracks like “Move How We Wanna,” housed on Wreckage Manner, his joint album with Styles P. Following in his giant-sized footsteps are fellow switch-hitters like J. Cole, who helped generate the foundation of the Grammy-nominated “My . Life” with XXL Freshmen 21 Savage and Morray, and Tyler, The Creator, who made each beat on his Grammy-nominated Gangsta Grillz project Call Me If You Get Lost. The project’s single “Wusyaname” featuring YoungBoy Never Broke Again with vocals from Ty Dolla $ign is a blueprint example of how to be an ace on both sides of the beat.
Charts don’t always tell the full story, but at the same time, the golden feat of high placement cannot be downplayed. Drizzy scored two No. 1s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with Scary Hours 2’s “What’s Next,” finessed in part by Supah Mario, and Certified Lover Boy’s towering banger “Way 2 Sexy,” arranged by TM88. Thanks to the foundations made by Ye and Take A Daytrip, Lil Nas X earned another No. 1 with "Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” Then there's Rogét Chahayed, who boosted the sonics on “Kiss Me More” to help Doja Cat and SZA earn the longest-running Hot 100 song of all time by two female artists.
In the lucrative genre of hip-hop, there's plenty more where that comes from in regards to talented beat-builders that went off in 2021. So here, XXL highlights 55 of the best. You can peep their contributions to the game this year below.
Tyler, The Creator is a two-headed dragon when it comes to rapping and producing. When his IGOR album dropped in 2019, he made history as the first artist to win a Grammy for an album he produced entirely by himself. Now, with his recent Gangsta Grillz project Call Me If You Get Lost, he’ll attempt to run that back at the 2022 Grammy Awards. Whether it’s flipping samples like H-Town's “Back Seat (Wit No Sheets)” on “Wusyaname” or crafting the mosh pit-inducing bangers like “Juggernaut” from scratch, The Creator’s beats on his DJ Drama collabo has again left fans asking, “What can’t he do?” Outside his solo work, Tyler contributed to the foundations for Maxo Kream’s “Big Persona,” and on his two collaborations with Snoh Aalegra: “In The Moment” and “Neon Peach.”
D’Mile has been in his duffle bag this year. He proved that R&B will forever be a respected genre by crafting sounds for artists like H.E.R. (“Fight For You”), Lucky Daye (“How Much Can A Heart Take”) and Joyce Wright (“Think About You”). Upping the ante even more, he gave hip-hop heads a welcomed dose of smooth material by writing and producing on almost every track featured on Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars’ funk&B album, An Evening With Silk Sonic. The lines between hip-hop and soul music are forever blended, as shape-shifter D’Mile continues to show.
Rogét Chahayed hit a NBA Street gamebreaker this year. Between his work on Doja Cat’s Planet Her, Nas’ King’s Disease II and last year’s Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) by Kali Uchis, the classically trained pianist scored eight 2022 Grammy nominations, including Producer of the Year. The diamond-selling beat-builder, who studied under the guidance of Dr. Dre, also helped Doja Cat and SZA break a record for having the longest-charting top 10 song by two women artists in Billboard Hot 100 history with his co-production on the pop-rap bop “Kiss Me More.”
The name is Wu10 and if you don’t already, you need to get informed. The distinguished beat finesser will end the year with production on two Grammy award-nominated projects: J. Cole’s The Off-Season (“My Life” and “Let Go My Hand” with 6lack) and Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales (“On It” with Ari Lennox). On similar timing, he also worked with artists like Smino (“I Deserve”), Isaiah Rashad (“True Story” featuring Jay Rock and Jay Worthy”) and the pairing of Cordae and Common (“What’s Life”). He also spun back to work with Cole again, this time through the artistic lens of Young Thug on Punk’s B-side gem “Stressed.”
Enrgy Beats came out swinging and already has a number of home runs to his name. After making the beats for breakthrough records for YN Jay with “Coochie” and Bfb Da Packman's “Free Joe Exotic," Enrgy helped rising street poet EST Gee make his presence felt by lacing a Hot Boys-esque foundation on “5500 Degrees.” Lending a hand to other acts, Enrgy Beats also secured production credits on Lil Yachty’s Motor City salute Michigan Boy Boat (“Concrete Goonies”) and Drakeo The Ruler’s Ain’t That The Truth (“Chops Out”). Nonetheless, the producer brings the ruckus with each rhythm he coats.
After helping Freddie Gibbs get his long overdue mainstream recognition with last year’s Grammy-nominated heater Alfredo, The Alchemist hasn’t cooled down yet. His decades of setting the bar are once again reflected in three albums this year: This Thing Of Ours, which features appearances from Earl Sweatshirt and Boldy James; an instrumental pack called Rapper’s Best Friend 6: An Instrumental Series and This Thing of Ours 2, which features Vince Staples and up-and-comer Mavi. Alchemist's biggest stride perhaps came with Boldy James on Bo Jackson, on which songs like "Double Hockey Sticks" and "Photographic Memories" are standouts. Heard on the staggering beats he puts forth, it’ll be a frozen day in hell before Alchemist starts lacking.
Almost every prized rap imprint has a go-to sound curator and for YSL, that person is Wheezy. In 2021, the lauded musician helped five albums reach No. 1 status on the Billboard 200 chart with his contributions to tracks on each: Slime Language 2 by his homegrown collective (“Ski”), Punk by Young Thug (“Bubbly”), Hall of Fame by Polo G (“Losses”), The Voice of the Heroes by Lil Baby and Lil Durk (“Who I Want”), plus Donda by Kanye West (“Jonah”). Only a fool would argue that his name isn’t up there with the greats.
DY Krazy fuses the genres of gospel, R&B and Chicago juke music every time he makes a beat. His varied palette for creating sounds was applied this year on Lil Baby and EST Gee’s “Real As It Gets,” King Combs' Future-assisted “Holdin Me Down” and “Water Works” by Yung Bleu and Gunna, just to name a few. Notably, the 808 Mafia member reached further out West and helped the BlueBucksClan chin check their competitors with “Rap City,” showing that no style is out of his range.
One thing about TnTXD: he’s coming with that fire each and every time he’s behind the boards. His ability to spark a melodic ascension into the heavenly clouds of sound was proven this year on nearly half of Rod Wave’s chart-topping effort SoulFly. “Street Runner” went up enough to leave that statement there, but TNT also popped off with additional contributions to Lil Tjay’s “Headshot,” YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s “Nevada” and Pop Smoke’s “Back Door,” among plenty of others. Going crazy would be an understatement.
ATL Jacob, Future’s evolving right-hand producer, started 2021 off by offering his stylistics on “Real As It Gets” by Lil Baby and EST Gee, plus “Bruised Up” and “Lying” off Baby and Lil Durk’s No. 1 joint album, The Voice of the Heroes. He also helped newcomers like Kalii (“Mmm Mmm”) and Slimelife Shawty (“Baby Boy”) increase the clout around their names. Most importantly, Jacob helped Kodak Black score his latest hit with “Super Gremlin,” a song that has since erupted more than a bottle of Coca-Cola with a handful of Mentos dropped into it.
Hit-Boy has soared so high in 2021 that he’ll need a parachute to come back down. The seasoned hit-generator put in work on the sequel to Nas’ Grammy award-winning King’s Disease effort, and helped Big Sean tote the definitive sound of Detroit on the short but potent What You Expect. Taking things even further, Hit-Boy also crafted gems with Cordae (“Sinister”) and Maxo Kream (“Greener Knots”). Like Hit spits on “Composure,” "We know the caged bird sings and screams when it’s free," as he has been with a revived run over the last few years.
Pi’erre Bourne fed his fans with plenty of soundtracks to step back outside this year. He got busy on the collaborative tip, releasing four fleshed-out projects with acts like TM88, Frazier Trill, Sharc and Chavo, went on to drop his solo effort, The Life of Pi'erre 5, in time for the summer and also helped shaped a quarter of Young Nudy’s Rich Shooter. To end things on a high note, he co-produced alongside Kanye West on Young Thug's “Rich Nigga Shit” with Juice Wrld as well as Thugger and Juice's collabo "Bad Boy."
After decades in the game, Jake One still has the Midas Touch. The proof is in his co-production on J. Cole’s Grammy-nominated smash “My . Life” featuring 21 Savage and Morray, which samples Styles P and Pharoahe Monche’s 2002 track “The Life.” Further emphasizing his movement, Jake, nicknamed Snare Jordan, contributed to G Herbo’s “Loyalty,” Larry June’s “Tangible Assets” and Pop Smoke’s posthumous gem “Manslaughter.” Making salient beats is just about as regular as breathing for Jake One.
OZ has found immense success over the last few years. Lately, he popped off on production for YSL on Slime Language 2 (“Solid”), Migos on Culture III (“Handle My Business”), Drake on Certified Lover Boy (“Fair Trade”/”Girls Want Girls”) and Young Thug on Punk (“Contagious”). If you put those chart-topping albums on the back-burner, even his helping hands on tracks like “Escape Plan” by Travis Scott cleansed the air like sage.
Baby Keem joins the dual lineage of artists who are equally as nice at rapping as they are at producing. Keem made nearly every beat on his diversified first album, The Melodic Blue. Among the project’s best songs are the intro “Trademark USA,” “Range Brothers” with his cousin Kendrick Lamar and the Grammy-nominated “Family Ties” with an assistance from K. Dot as well. All tracks mentioned above have blown more speakers over the last few months than Static Shock can in a year.
Jahaan Sweet, who previously provided his talented handiwork to pump notes together for Eminem, Drake and the power couple of Jay-Z and Beyoncé to float over, had a year for the books. His assisting production credits for poppin' rhymers like Drizzy (“Fair Trade” featuring Travis Scott), Baby Keem (“Lost Souls” with Brent Faiyaz), Don Toliver (“2am”), Meek Mill (“Me [FWM]”) and Travis Scott (the J. Cole-assisted “Mafia”) put him in position to brag about having some of the best songs that 2021 has offered.
When 40 first met Drake, he dropped everything to work with the rapper, knowing that they had something special together. Over a decade later, it’s safe to say “special” is an understatement. Their one-of-one chemistry was again fortified in 2021, with 40’s work on Certified Lover Boy, where co-production on tracks like “Champagne Poetry,” “In The Bible” and “N 2 Deep” are just minuscule examples of the untouchable discography they’ve cemented alongside one another. From the soulful offering of “Yebba's Heartbreak” to the Afrofusion on records like “Fountain” with Tems, 40’s assorted sound archive is one of the main reasons why CLB broke multiple Billboard records and sold more units first-week than any other album in over a year.
On “Hurricane,” Kanye West flexes, “Made the best tracks and still went off the rail.” No cap. This year, on top of the constant flush of headlines he created, Ye ushered in one of the best albums across any genre with Donda. He also brought to life superior records like “Praise God,” “Life of the Party” and “Jail” alongside a dream team of other talented musicians. Outside of his own feats, Ye paid homage by producing on posthumous projects by DMX (Exodus) and Pop Smoke (Faith). With Take a Daytrip, Yeezy also coated the foundation for Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s “Industry Baby,” which eventually went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Per usual, Kanye couldn’t miss with his eyes closed.
Everything Metro Boomin touches turns to fire. Recently, he’s part responsible for cuts like “Knife Talk” by Drake, “Love You More” by Young Thug plus “Burn” by Juice Wrld. "It feels jus like yesterday we recorded this intro at the house @juicewrld999 #FightingDemons out now RIP kid the world love u," Metro wrote in an Instagram post celebrating the posthumous release of their track "Burn." Metro pays it forward to the next generation, too, co-conducting additional songs like Don Toliver’s “Swangin’ on Westheimer” and Nardo Wick’s “Wickman.”
On top of adding his flair to collaborative efforts with Payroll Giovonni (Another Day Another Another Dollar), Wiz Khalifa (Wiz Got Wings) and Larry June (Into The Late Night), Cardo’s contributions to Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, Don Toliver’s Life of a Don, Meek Mill’s Expensive Pain, Young Thug’s Punk, Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue and Maxo Kream’s Weight of the World were straight money balls. All those power moves followed his co-production work on Drizzy’s “Wants and Needs,” which upon its release in March, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Talk about spreading your wings.
Supah Mario’s production ability is a magic mushroom in itself. The reference point traces back to a slew of quality songs from this year alone. He helped Drake secure his first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “What’s Next,” and then doubled back with Champagne later to craft one of the best songs on Certified Lover Boy, “Papi’s Home.” Aside from Drizzy, Mario helped Latto secure her name change on wax with “The Biggest,” and planted seeds for rising artists BKTHERULA (“SANTANNY”) and Doechii (“Shit”) to announce their arrivals.
There’s no better way to begin the year than scoring a top five song on the Billboard Hot 100, a win that Dez Wright accomplished with his co-production credit on “Wants and Needs” by Drake. On the note of No. 1s, he went on to work on four albums that climbed to that height, including Lil Baby and Lil Durk’s collaborative effort of trap hymns, The Voice of the Heroes, Young Thug’s Punk, Drizzy’s Certified Lover Boy and YSL’s Slime Language 2. The further testament of his musical skillset can be heard on tracks like Drake's “7am On Bridle Path," Baby Keem’s “Range Brothers” featuring Kendrick Lamar and Don Toliver’s “Flocky Flocky” with Travis Scott.
It’s a scary sight when BoogzDaBeast and Kanye West link up. Take for example their collaborative Donda standouts “Moon,” “New Again,” “Hurricane,” “Keep Me Spirit Alive” and “Believe What I Say,” among countless others stuffed on the powerhouse of a project. When Boogz wasn’t cooking up audible crack alongside Ye, he tapped in with artists like Megan Thee Stallion (“Eat It”) and French Montana (“Touch The Sky”) to co-produce songs that will age gracefully in their catalogs.
Ojivolta, a production duo, swerved into the lane of rap music in 2021 with heavy-handed contributions to Yeezy’s long-anticipated Donda album. They helped make the foundations for aux cord gems like “Off The Grid,” “Jail,” “Life of the Party” and more. Now that they’ve shown and proved with Kanye West, among other pop stars, you can expect to hear their production name a lot more in the forthcoming year.
Megan Thee Stallion and LilJuMadeTheBeat have been steadily rising in the rap game like dough in 400 degrees. In the last 365 days, he provided co-production on ruckus records like “Thot Shit, “Outta Town Freestyle” and co-produced with his partner in crime on “Tina Snow Interlude.” Outside of his home team, Ju also made glass-shattering beats for Taylor Gang members Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa (“Pop That Trunk”) and Saucy Santana (“Neva Eva”). When you can cook up like he can, becoming a household name is just in the cards.
Hats off to a solid effort from Grammy-nominated producer Kal Banx. This year, he helped Isaiah Rashad drive home southern rap’s elite status by co-producing sounds on songs like “Claymore,” “Chad” and “RIP Young,” off Zay's The House Is Burning. He also secured production credits on Jorja Smith’s comeback tracks “Buss Down” and “Burn.” Banx truly is emerging as a sleeping giant in this genre we love called hip-hop.
While Nick Mira can easily work with big dogs only, he takes pride in putting on for the next generation as he did alongside Juice Wrld a few years back. So, it was only right that he worked on the late rapper's newest posthumous album, Fighting Demons ("Already Dead"). The 2021 XXL Freshman Class beat creator also linked up with blooming artists like 24kGoldn ("Company"), Lil Eazzyy ("Pain For This"), The Kid Laroi ("Lonely and F*ucked Up") and Lil Tecca ("About You"). In addition, Nick landed another well-burned single with “His & Hers” via the Internet Money collective and a credit on Lil Nas X’s debut album, Montero.
As evident in his glamorous resume with Rico Nasty, Kenny Beats can bring the best out of anyone. That notion was solidified in his work on the entirety of Vince Staples’ self-titled album, on which the brilliant production on tracks like “Taking Trips,” "Sundown Town” and “Take Me Home” helped Vince create his best project to date. Kenny also helped respected rhymers Isaiah Rashad (“Score”) and Ski Mask The Slump God (“Merlin’s Staff”) stamp their comebacks this year in good fashion.
Tay Keith's production enterprise was elevated this year by joining forces with acts like DJ Khaled, Lil Baby and Lil Durk for “Every Chance I Get"— a radio and playlist favorite—Migos for “Jane,” Lil Wayne and Rich The Kid for “Trust Fund” and then to Tennessee-bred favorites Moneybagg Yo and Key Glock for “Wat Be Wrong??” and “Something Bout Me,” respectively. The power of his beats provided another mini sound takeover for the producer, allowing him again to sit comfy at the top as he co-created with some of rap’s most favored faces.
DJ Durel has been brewing hits with Migos for years now. Last year, he co-produced the trio's undefeated single “Racks 2 Skinny" and kept that energy high this year by assisting in the definitive sound of Culture III, notably heard on wonders like “Straightenin,” “Avalanche” and “Mahomes.” Basically, he got his foot in the door and has since kicked that thing down.
Murda Beatz kicked off the year by tag-teaming a collaborative effort with Shordie Shordie called Memory Lane, and then assisted in the No. 1 album The Voice of the Heroes by Lil Baby and Durkio, plus Culture III by Migos. Outside of those Billboard 200 top five efforts, he put in work alongside DVSN and TY$ (“Somebody That You Don’t Know”), A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (“Notifications") and Megan Thee Stallion (“Eat It”), among plenty of others. In each situation, Murda was the case.
That OG Parker tag will forever reign supreme. Each time you hear it, a fireball is set to roll through after, as heard throughout his collaborative effort, Die 4 Respect, with 2021 XXL freshman DDG. On top of creating a song-of-the-summer with “Impatient” featuring Coi Leray, platinum-selling producer OG Parker also went crazy on co-production for Migos’ “Birthday,” Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot Shit,” DaBaby’s “Roof” and Lakeyah’s “In Person.”
The Neptunes are the gifts that just keep on giving. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo went on a steamy run this year that started with production on Moneybagg Yo’s first No. 1 album, A Gangsta’s Pain. They flipped a viral Kodak Black clip into a hit on Bagg's “Projects” and then “Certified Neptunes.” The duo also finessed the sonic undertones for Pop Smoke’s “Merci Beaucoup,” A$AP Ferg’s “Green Juice” and IDK’s “Keto” with Swae Lee and Rico Nasty. Leaning into the realm of R&B, the genre-defying producers connected Brent Faiyaz and Drake on “Wasting Time,” worked with Summer Walker on “Dat Right There” and Snoh Aalegra on “In Your Eyes,” showing fellow producers what a textbook example of an alley oop looks like.
Taz Taylor has stamped himself as one of the best producers this generation has to offer. Succeeding last year’s hit “Lemonade” and in addition to this year’s “His & Hers,” Taz’s Internet Money collective made waves this year by helping acts like Lil Tecca (We Love You Tecca 2) and Dro Kenji (F*ck Your Feelings/Eat Your Heart Out) stake their claims in the rap game. Beyond molding the sound of full projects, Taz also helped make tracks with Polo G (“Decisions”), Lil Yachty (“Virgo World”), Trippie Redd (“Betrayal”) and The Kid Laroi (“Same Energy”).
Havoc set the bar decades ago when it comes to producers who can impressively hold their own on the mic, too. This year, he showed and proved why he’s an originator of double-dealing artists by crafting each beat on Wreckage Manner, his collaborative project with Styles P. “Move How We Wanna,” “Nightmares 2 Dreams” and “F**k Around” are felony-level examples of the murder that commences when he hops on the boards and in the booth.
G. Ry’s track record on wax has yet to fray. His standout production moments this year include co-production on DDG and OG Parker’s viral smash “Impatient,” Toosii’s “Back Together” and Lil Tjay's "Calling My Phone” with 6lack. The genre mixologist also helped Big Sean reclaim his crown in Detroit by producing on Hit-Boy and Sean’s speaker-blowing effort, What You Expect, on top of producing on DVSN and Ty Dolla $ign’s cooler Cheers to the Best Memories as well.
All Turbo knows is platinum plaques and high placements. In 2021, the coveted beatsmith helped artists like The Kid Laroi (F*ck Love 3+: Over You), Lil Baby and Lil Durk (The Voice of the Heroes), Young Thug (Punk) and the entire YSL collective (Slime Language 2) secure No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart. Considering his early rise with Gunna and Lil Baby, The Playmakers head honcho expects nothing less from himself but top-notch feats, which he exemplified this year.
Even in his Off-Season, there aren’t many artists as talented as J. Cole. His Grammy-nominated project has more bars than Bourbon Street, and Cole played a part in producing all but four songs for himself to glide on top of. If tracks like “Applying Pressure,” “The Climb Back,” “100 Mil” and “Amari” have yet to leave your headphones, the Dreamville boss can be thanked for creating those earworms. You can't get that game from no Ted Talk.
Take a DayTrip’s price went up years ago and has yet to go down. The duo played a large part in curating the sound of Lil Nas X’s anticipated debut LP, Montero, this year. Alongside Kanye West, they made a top-shelf beat for “Industry Baby” featuring Jack Harlow and co-produced “Montero (Call Me By Your Name), records that both went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Outside helping Nas X zip the mouths of his haters and producing the late Juice Wrld's “Doom," featured on the rhymer's recent posthumous album, Take a Daytrip blessed artists like Cordae (“Taxes”) and Baby Tate (“Eenie Meenie”) with some magic in their beat packs.
Omer Fedi climbed his way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart last year by co-producing “Mood” by 24kGoldn and Iann Dior. He also made a name for himself with his work on 2020's “Go” by The Kid Laroi and Juice Wrld. With a ton of momentum riding on his shoulders in 2021, he played a pivotal role in 24k’s debut LP, El Dorado, and Lil Nas X’s Montero album. On the latter, Fedi earned another No. 1 record with co-production on the album's title track (the project itself also went No. 2 on the Billboard 200). Fedi also lent a production helping hand to the backdrop of “Stay” by The Kid Laroi and Justin Beiber, a track that sat cozy in that prime spot of No. 1 earlier this year.
Ambezza became a diamond-certified producer when Future and Drake’s “Life Is Good” went diamond this year. His other victories include assisting in the inception of Drizzy and Lil Baby’s most recent link-up “Girls Want Girls,” YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s “Rich Shit,” plus YG and Mozzy’s “Mad.” Ambezza looked out for his youngins as well, co-crafting additional beats for bubbling West Coast artists like Remble (“Book Bag”) and East Coast torch-bearers like J.I (“Taken For Granted”).
By working with artists like Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow, swelling producer Great John has been a major part of Brooklyn’s undefeated drill scene, due to his knack for adding magnetic melodies onto an already staticky style of production. In 2021, he reasserted himself as a leader of the sub-genre by crafting most of Sleepy Hallow’s Still Sleep? (including the platinum-certified “2055”) and fueling Sheff’s blazing run with a polished loosie called “Run It Up.” He's clearly here to stay.
Thanks to TM88’s head-rocking beat on “Way 2 Sexy,” off Drake’s Certified Lover Boy, cult favorite and toxic king Future can finally claim that he has a No. 1 song under his belt. TM also put in work on the boards for Rich The Kid’s loosie “Boss Bitch” with Coi Leray, Big30’s "Whatever Come With It” and EST Gee’s “Riata Dada,” all preceding his end-of-the-year collabo with Pi’erre Bourne, deemed Yo!88.
A quick Google search will have you cosigning the notion that if T-Minus is on the beat, you might as well call it a classic. The seasoned production architect put in work this year by co-producing J. Cole’s Lil Baby-assisted “Pride Is the Devil,” among a handful of other gems on The Off-Season, Tierra Whack’s “Meagan Good,” IDK and Offset’s “Shoot My Shot,” Bas’ “The Jackie,” Young Thug’s “Stressed” and Juice Wrld’s posthumous cut “Rockstar In His Prime”—a title that’s fit for T-Minus as well.
It’s hard to argue against the notion that two isn’t better than one when FnZ is the topic of conversation. The production duo started the year off in a blaze but co-contributing to the luxurious coating of “Lemon Pepper Freestyle” by Drake and Rick Ross. They went on to align themselves with bubbling rappers like Lakeyah (“Young and Ratchet”) and The Kid Laroi (“I Don’t Know”), all before contributing to some of the best songs on Donda that include “Believe What I Say” and “Lord I Need You.”
Mike Dean’s legendary status is a non-comparable salute. Following the MWA commander's early days of working with rap hall of famers like Tupac Shakur, Scarface and UGK, Dean connected his beats to the likes of Kanye West and Don Toliver in the last 365 days. The results were sensory-pleasing tracks like Donda’s “Jesus Lord,” “Jail” and “Jonah.” Plus, Life of a Don’s “Crossfaded” and “You” with Travis Scott. If you look up the definition of fire, you’ll see each of those tracks mentioned beforehand.
The explosive drill scene in Brooklyn couldn't have popped off without the production prowess of 808 Melo, who most notably created the foundations for fallen general Pop Smoke to prosper. For the fallen rapper’s second posthumous and chart-topping album, Faith, 808 co-produced on “Brush Em,” “Questions” and “Beat the Speaker,” just to name a few. In his spare time, he also helped make beats for 42 Dugg (“Still Catching Cases”), Lil Tjay (“Go Crazy”) and Migos (“Light It Up”), further cementing his name, tag and sound into the rap game.
CMG signee Moneybagg Yo secured his first No. 1 album with the 2021 release of A Gangsta’s Pain. Fans raved over how it was, from the bars to the production, which was mostly crafted by YC. Following last year’s hit “Said Sum” and the success of "Time Today," Moneybagg and YC linked up to make two more certified sliders: a lean, love song called “Wockesha" and “Scorpio” from the project’s deluxe. YC also raised his stock by producing Roddy Ricch's "Heartless (Live From LA)" earlier in the year.
With a history that includes making distinctive beats for greats like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Travis Scott, DJ Dahi got it crackin’ like he always has. The year began with his production on Brent Faiyaz and Tyler, The Creator’s “Gravity.” And it ended with additional credits on Maxo Kream’s Weight of the World (“Trips”), Baby Keem’s The Melodic Blue (“Vent”), Mac Miller’s rerelease of Faces (“Yeah”) and Don Toliver’s Life of A Don (“Drugs N Hella Melodies”).
With the serendipitous vocals of singer Daniel Daley, Nineteen85 has helped DVSN earn bragging rights for being one of the best one-two punches in music right now. Their collabo, Cheers to the Best Memories, with Ty Dolla $ign is a direct contradiction to any doubt, with most of the sounds like "Memories" and "I Believed It" featuring Mac Miller co-produced by Nineteen85. Doubling back with Ty and linking up with his OVO label head Drake once again, whom he previously worked with on the hits “One Dance,” “Hotline Bling” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Nineteen85 also assisted in pumping rhythm into the B-side gem “Get Along Better.” He dug his mark in even deeper in the game by scoring a credit on Summer Walker’s fan favorite “4th Baby Mama” as well to ice the wedding cake of accomplishments built in 2021.
Boi-1da needs no introduction. The only thing you should know is that nowadays, he’s still pumping out straight gas in the form of beats. The seasoned vet and diamond-selling producer ticked off a sonic bomb by contributing to Drake and Rick Ross’ “Lemon Pepper Freestlye” in the spring and then later left his imprint on J. Cole’s The Off-Season (“95 South”/”Hunger on Hillside”), Kanye West’s Donda (“Ok Ok”), Meek Mill’s Expensive Pain (“Tweaking”) and Rick Ross’ Richer Than I Ever Been (“Rapper Estates”).
When Pop Smoke was coming up in Brooklyn, so was Rico Beats beside him. The ballooning producer paid homage to the person he jumped off the musical porch with by playing a decent-sized hand in Pop’s second posthumous album, Faith. Tracks like “Genius” with Swae Lee and Lil Tjay, the Bizzy Banks-assisted “30” and “Tell the Vision”—which saw an additional appearance on Ye’s Donda—are top-tier samples of the lush beats he’s unloaded this year.
Juicy J’s ear for magic is always on display with the beats he chooses, most times created by himself. This year, the Down South legend unloaded the deluxe version of The Hustle Continues and put together the bedrock on tracks like “Talking To God.” As an OG, he’s dished out soundboards for the game’s new school, too. Take for example the heat he put forth for Megan Thee Stallion (“Pipe Up”), Kash Doll (“Like A Pro”) and Chief Keef (“Hadouken”) to thrive with. The legacy continues.
Chances are that you haven’t been able to avoid Bankroll Got It’s musical contributions throughout the sophomore year of this pandemic. He helped Coi Leray’s “Twinnem” make viral splashes that took the song from TikTok to Taco Bell commercials, assisted in Rob Stone’s lusty smash “I Love It” with Rubi Rose and lent his arsenal of skills to KenTheMan for tracks like “Love Yourself.” Additional work with Kalan.FrFr. (“Sound Like Me”) and Flo Milli (“Blast Off”) are evidence that he’s climbing his way up the ranks alongside artists who are doing the same.
That Foreverolling tag is starting to hold weight around the rap game. With plenty of people tagging EST Gee as being “next up,” that wouldn’t be possible without Gee’s frequent beat-builder, who this year, shocked a pulse into most tracks on Gee's Bigger Than Life or Death (“Lick Back Remix”) and the follow-up 2 (“Hit Maker”). Aside from that, he also secured credits on two chart-topping albums: Baby and Durkio’s The Voice of the Heroes (“2040”) and Moneybagg Yo’s A Gangsta Pain (“Go!”).