Written by @MattMoretti:
Producers are too often the unsung heros of hip-hop. While for the most part their names don’t ring bells like MC’s or singers, at the end of the day most people still listen to the beat first and the lyrics second. The production coming out of The Bay has always been incredibly diverse, but it has also consistently maintained a style of it’s own. As we close up 2012 we salute the producers that created the soundtracks to our lives over the past year, and we look forward to 2013 and who we expect to make power moves alongside incredible music next year.
*Note: This list is in no particular order. Additionally there are countless producers out here who are extremely talented. Yet it’s impossible to write about everyone, so I limited it to 10. If you didn’t make this list, be assured that we still have major love for you and what you do.*
In a years time P-Lo has gone from being one of the many members of The Invasion/HBK/New Bay/$hmop Life crew to being arguably the most in demand producer from the Bay. While he has spent the year producing the majority of his own mixtape MBMGC, as well as tracks for many of the most promising Bay Area heads like Iamsu!, AKAFrank, Kool John, LoveRance, and Berner, what makes him really poised to hit the national spotlight has been what he has done for artists outside of The Bay. Landing beats on Wiz Khalifa’s Cabin Fever 2, and the Deluxe Version of O.N.I.F.C. is a really big deal, as is producing for Mannie Fresh. In 2013 we expect “Produced by P-Lo of The Invasion” to show up alongside the names of tracks from many of the industry’s biggest hitters.
There is no doubt that DJ Fresh has been one of The Bay Area’s biggest producers for the past 3-4 years now. While his 80‘s influence is always front and center, his diversity has allowed him to produce entire albums for local artists spanning the entire hip-hop spectrum: from J Stalin, to The Grouch, to Young Gully, to Casual. It’s safe to say that over the years The Tonite Show series has become a staple of Bay Area hip-hop, and in 2012 he has added to that legacy thanks to editions with The Jacka, Cousin Fik and Stevie Joe. Yet the reason why we expect DJ Fresh to start to make waves on the national scene in 2013 is because he has volumes of The Tonite Show with Trae The Truth, Raekwon and Freddie Gibbs slated to drop next year. Not only are all three extremely dope MC's with their own very well established fan bases, but anything any of them do gets tons of coverage all over the internet as well as in other hip-hop/music publications. Therefore there is no reason to expect anything less from their collaborations with Fresh.
SB Focus is one of those producers who through genuine creativity has developed a distinct style all of his own, that still fits within the framework of what current hip-hop fans are looking for. When he samples, it’s usually something memorable yet unexpected (think Kriss Kross’s “Jump” or TLC’s “Creep”), and when he’s on the keys he utilizes unique sounds while still maintaing the knock required of a Bay Area producer. In 2012 he produced a lot for Show Banga, including his hit “Shots Fired”, and additionally handled the majority of the work on Kool John’s Live From The New Bay. He also won second place at the iStandard Producer’s showcase. In 2013 expect for him to continue making slaps with The New Bay, which will hopefully help leverage him the opportunity to expand his clientele.
“Slow Down” was hands down the song of the year in The Bay Area. It could be heard at every local sporting event, club, function, and car radio for months. Not only did it revive Clyde Carson’s career, but it spawned a dance that provided serious career boosts to DJ J12 and Priceless Da Roc, and it inspired the second biggest Bay Area hit of the year in “Gas Pedal”. Throw into the mix that ShoNuff didn’t just produce that song, but the entirety of Clyde Carson’s Something To Speak About mixtape, The Team’s Hell Of A Night EP, and Erk Tha Jerk and London’s The Wake Up EP, and needless to say we are looking forward to whatever the beatsmith has in store for our ears in the future.
While the production style in The Bay continues to expand, most Bay Area hip-hop fans still love and demand the MOB sound. If anyone is working to keep that sound alive it is without a doubt Pittsburgh’s AK-47, and 2012’s been a great year for the kid. The go to producer for the Livewire generals, AK-47’s production not only helped J Stalin’s “Money In Ya Jeans” win the MTVu Freshmen of the Week and get into regular rotation on MTV, but he laced Philthy Rich with the beats to “Menace II Society” w/ Chief Keef, and “No More Pain Pt. 2” w/ Trae Tha Truth. Not to mention the fact that he landed a spot on Freeway’s Freedom Of Speech mixtape, and has been endlessly pushing instrumentals and behind the beat videos on youtube, as well as releasing the Pittsburgh Pirates mixtape to show love to the MC’s in his city. If he can continue to knock out hits for the MOB’s biggest names, as well as leverage his recent success to continue to expand his work to artists beyond The Bay, great things could be in store for AK-47.
We’ve said it once, and we’re happy to say it as many times as necessary until more people take note, but The Bay’s best kept secret behind the boards is without a doubt Dex Beats. The producer of San Quinn’s “Rocking Up Work” had a solid 2012 in which he placed beats on the Zion I album, one of Zumbi’s mixtapes, Nio Tha Gift’s Hustler’s Spirit, Kool John’s Live From The New Bay, and Thizzler and Teambackpack cyphers. Yet as much as we’ve been feeling what Dex has already dropped, he’s largely on this list because of incredible production with the likes of The Jealous Guys, J Billion, and Nio Tha Gift, that he let us hear but that hasn’t been released yet. As well as a dope instrumental album that he has been working on. If those projects all drop in 2013, and the fans get to hear what we have, Dex Beats will no longer be a secret.
Over the past couple of years Al Jieh and Ammbush have worked hard to define a distinct sound for the music made with Davinci and SWTRDS. It’s equal parts Boom Bap and West Coast Funk, with a little more emotion, combined with heavy hitting drums that’ll stay pissing off your neighbors, and the end result is something that’s never really been heard in The Bay. 2012 was a great year for both of them due to the releases of Davinci’s MOEna Lisa and XLIX, but also because they have started to expand who they are working with as well. Adding Oakland’s Main Attrakionz to the list of regular collaborators is sure to get Al and Ammbush a ton more love from The Complex’s and Spin Magazine’s of the world. With the quality of output from these two, we expect to see their name attached to much more amazing music in 2013 and for years to come.
2012 was truly a pivotal year for Nima Fadavi. Not only did he drop two EP’s with Santa Cruz’s So Fresh Clothing, an album with Rey Resurreccion, and an album with J Lately, but he placed beats with the likes of Fashawn, Pep Love, Berner and Philthy Rich. Yet he’s also a touring DJ and has been on tour with Berner and the rest of the Taylor Gang for the past month or two, in addition to the Can I Rap Tour with Roach Gigz, and shows with Los Rakas. But getting back to the Taylor Gang tour, I assume that would be as good an opportunity as any to let the established artists on the tour hear some beats that he’s been cooking up. So I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in 2013 we hear some of the Taylor Gang, or other non-Bay Area artists starting to rhyme over instrumentals by Nima. Not to mention all of the other dope music I am sure he’s making with MC’s from the Bay as well.
JustinKase is one of the true unsung heros of the New Bay Movement. Over the past 3 years the list of MC’s who have rocked over his instrumentals is a literal who’s who of young rappers from the Bay getting it. From Erk Tha Jerk, to Iamsu!, Loverance, NHT Boyz, Moe Green, Show Banga, Mike Dash-E, akaFrank, Smoovie Baby, Husalah, Damey and about 30 other dope artists at least. Yet despite all of the trunk rattling bangers he’s cooked up, Justin still needs that major hit to help him emerge from being an MVP behind the scenes, to someone universally recognized for his artistic prowess. Between dropping Epic and Rare 2 with Ray Guevara, and all of the other production work we’re sure that he’s knee deep in, 2013 could be the year that he gets that hit.
It amazes me that Cozmo isn’t more of a household name here in The Bay. Not only has he been producing for most of the biggest names in Bay Area hip-hop such as: The Jacka, Messy Marv, San Quinn, Mistah F.A.B., Yukmouth, Berner and Ya Boy, but he’s also one of the few Bay Area producers to regularly get placements on major projects outside of the Bay. Since 2006 he’s produced for: Wiz Khalifa, Scarface, Bun B, Freeway, Trina, Nipsey Hussle, Planet Asia, Sheek Louch, AZ, Lil Flip, The Outlawz and more. This year he made his presence felt by producing the vast majority of Berner’s Urban Farmer and two tracks off of Wiz’s Cabin Fever 2. Hopefully this is the lead in that he needs to take his career to the next level, and to become a regularly talked about and anticipated producer both locally and beyond.