For the average music lover, all hail the artist feels like an appropriate mantra. After all, to be a star is to be perceived as the ultimate conduit of rare talent. Unfortunately the adulation often doesn't extend to the unspoken heroes, meaning songwriters, producers, stylists and the teams who work together like a well-oiled machine to create the persona your favorite megastar dons every time they appear in public.
In the 90s, hip-hop enjoyed a second golden age, and with it came the era of the super producer. Suddenly Timbaland, Scott Storch, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, Jermaine Dupri, Just Blaze and other notable producers, were equally as recognized as the artists they worked with. It was also a time in which it was common for one producer to work with an artist on an entire album, lending the project a sense of continuity and a seamless style that is sometimes missing today.
Think about it: You can't talk about Aaliyah's One in a Million album or Missy Elliott's Miss E...So Addictive without mentioning Timbaland. These days, an artist may not feel beholden to working with one producer exclusively, but they are becoming household names again.
From DJ Esco's thoroughly rockstar-esque dance in Future's "Where Ya At" music video to the ominous but oh-so-viral phrase, "If Young Metro don't trust ya I'm gon' shoot ya," the era of the super producer is back and better than ever.
So why not get to know seven producers whose bangers lit up your 2016 and are only getting better in 2017?
If you think Drake's ego has inflated exponentially in the past few years Anthony Paul Jeffries better known as Ninteen85 probably has some culpability in that. The 31-year-old Ontario-born producer is one of many homegrown talents OVO has quietly added to its growing ranks. Though he is often most recognized for his work on Drake's Nothing Was the Same and VIEWS albums, Jeffries has also been behind Nicki Minaj's "Truffle Butter, " as well as singles from Juicy J, Jennifer Hudson, R. Kelly and Trina.
The two-time Grammy-nominated producer is also one-half of dvsn whose debut studio album, Sept. 5th was met with positive reviews following its release in the Spring of 2016. In an article penned last year, Fader went so far as to describe Jeffries as OVO's secret weapon. So while he's far from a new name in the industry, his low-key persona make him a fresh discovery to many. Add to that his ability to channel diverse soundscapes - he effortlessly floats between R&B, hip-hop, dancehall, trap, electronic and pop - and it's difficult to pin this musical generalist down.
Similar to Nineteen85, 28-year-old Glen Boothe or Knxwledge is another producer that will likely feel very familiar: if not by name than by his prolific output and song credits. In 2015, he formed the group NxWorries with Anderson. Paak whose monumental rise to fame secured him a spot among 2016's most popular artists. Prior to that, the New Jersey native was steadily churning out a stream of independent releases via Bandcamp dating back to roughly 2009.
As of now there are over 64 projects on Bandcamp alone credited to Boothe. In fact, his ability to produce is so copious that Flying Lotus candidly told BBC 1 Radio that he was near impossible to keep up with.
Naturally that kind of hard work is bound to pay off - for Boothe the outcome has been working with artists ranging from Kendrick Lamar for whom he penned the song "Momma" on To Pimp a Butterfly, to Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy, Pyramid Vritra and other Odd Future affiliates. In a time where instrumental hip-hop is making a comeback, Boothe's jazz, soul and golden age hip-hop influenced production style will likely be more sought after than ever.
Back in 2011, WorldstarHipHop uploaded a video of a then 17-year-0ld Julian Gramm building a beat in his bedroom, labeling him as a "Youth Talent of the Week". The early nod foreshadowed the Canadian producer's bright future, a future in which he'd find himself working alongside popular artists like Young Thug, Travis Scott, Dej Loaf, Pusha T and more.
2016 was particularly kind to the young talent. His work with D.R.A.M. and Lil Yachty on the hit song "Broccoli" spawned a Grammy nomination for "Best Rap/Sung Performance," and his production on Kid Ink's "Be Real" saw the track reach gold level certification. Expect to see much more from Gramm in 2017.
South African producer, DJ and performance artist Angelo Valerio makes music with a purpose, both on his own and as part of NON Worldwide, a collective he helped found alongside fellow producer and artist Chino Amobi. The global network that comprises NON is made up of artists from Africa and the diaspora, all of whom work in the medium of sound. Ho's music in particular often confronts the legacy of colonialism, and advocates for visibility of queer, non-cis heteronormative identities in Africa.
Dressing in drag is another element of Ho's live performance that is geared toward challenging ideas around gender identity, discrimination and what it means to be other.
The collective's work has found a home in performance spaces and museums around the world. Beyond that, it's found a home on the dance floor and with other artists too. Ho has also worked with Venezuelan dark horse producer, Arca, whose recent production credits include work on Frank Ocean's Endless and Kelela's beautifully warped Hallucinogen. All in all. Ho's tracks often feature a sense of foreboding and a dark, electronic undercut by a schizophrenic sense of anxiety. It's all topped off with references to vogue and ballroom culture.
If you've heard of Boi-1da than you've probably heard of his 20-year-old protege Ebony Oshunrinde or WondaGurl. At the age of 17 she was already being covered by the likes of Complex and MTV. And like J Gramm, the young Ontario native forayed into music early. She began producing music around the age of nine. When she was 15, she entered a beat making competition in Toronto and promptly won.
By 2013, her credits included placements with Ryan Leslie and Jay Z - she was instrumental in producing the song "Crown" on the latter's Magna Carta Holy Grail album.
In 2015, Oshunrinde made a bold move and sent Drake a direct message of a beat that would go on to be "Used To" on If You're Reading This, It's Too Late. From there she branched to work with Kanye West, Travis Scott and even Rihanna - she is one of the co-producers of the smash hit "Bitch Better Have My Money." Even though 2016 was a shit year for a lot of us, Oshunrinde was living her best life.
Jersey club is going into 2017 fully thriving thanks to producer and DJ Cherise Gray aka UNIIQU3 whose frenetic dance mixes spawned a 2015 tour appropriately named, "Too Lit to Quit." The Hillside, New Jersey-born emcee started playing piano at the age of seven and briefly harbored dreams of Broadway greatness. In an interview with Run the Trap she shared that her parents encouraged her aspirations, often taking her to vocal auditions.
As the years passed she became more involved in nightlife and soon found she wanted to be more than just another body on the dance floor. Soon after Gray began experimenting with remixes her own songs and working with Jersey collective Brick Bandits with whom she has since parted ways. For Gray, the ultimate is to push the genre of Jersey club toward the mainstream, and it's working.
Tove Agélii better known as Toxe looks like the angel-faced, blonde-haired, blue-eyed teeny bopper next door but put her in a studio or in front of some DJ equipment and suddenly things get dark - in the best way possible. Based in Gothenburg, the high school student (literally) is a key part of Sweden's Staycore collective. Agélii, who has become a sweetheart with publications ranging from Redbull to Fader, shared that her isolated upbringing pushed her to explore various genres of music.
Blending hip-hop, club, house and pop, Agélii 's projects walk a fine line between brutality and a nubile kind of delicateness that feels oddly emotional. It's not exactly teen angst but rather a maelstrom of unforgiving noise that hits the body mercilessly but without pain. Young as she may be, Agélii is proving that her staying power is something to be reckoned with.
Discover more new music for 2017 with our list of 10 talented musicians worth discovering.