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The relationship between an MC and their producer has always been an integral element of great hip hop. When talented rappers and producers are able to develop a strong organic chemistry, fans receive exceptional music. Going back to legendary duos like Swizz Beatz and DMX, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, JAY-Z and Just Blaze, and Eric B. and Rakim; it’s clear that there is power in having a go-to guy to create with.
While there have been countless noteworthy rapper-producer duos who consistently put out dope records, today we are taking the time to highlight seven dynamic partnerships of this era. Check them out below.
Kendrick Lamar & Sounwave:
Kendrick Lamar’s career truly began to grow in 2010 after the release of his final mixtape, Overly Dedicated, and from then on, he’s worked closely with TDE producer Sounwave. It’s difficult to pinpoint a distinct sound that these two artists have crafted, but for good reason. As Kendrick’s artistry continues to evolve and he ventures into new musical spaces from one album to the next, Sounwave has effectively catered his production to that respective project’s direction. The variety and unpredictability of their joint efforts are what makes this duo so compelling.
Sounwave has given K. Dot bangers like “The Spiteful Chant,” a funk-influenced hit like “King Kunta” and a jazzy groove like “Untitled 05,” while impressively never sounding like he’s outside of his element. The beauty in this duo is that artistically, there seems to be a mutual push, resulting in several classic records.
Essentials: "Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe," "M.a.a.d City," "Mortal Man," "Element"
21 Savage & Metro Boomin:
Over the years, Metro Boomin has worked his way into becoming one of this generation’s premier producers, contributing unforgettable instrumentals to the discography of many of our favorites. When he teams up with 21 Savage though, there is a clear musical elevation on both ends. At their best, this duo isn’t like any other in recent memory. Metro’s menacingly cold and hard-hitting production with Savage’s raw, straight to the point delivery make for a crazy combination.
What started with just one song on The Slaughter Tape grew into a powerhouse of a duo when Savage Mode dropped in 2016. With both 21 and Metro being relatively early in their careers and still clearly improving, the best music from these two may very well still be on the horizon.
Essentials: "No Heart," "Bank Account," "Still Serving," "Don’t Come Out The House"
Pusha T & Kanye West:
“Kanye likes to hear me one way. One way. I mean, he’s made some great melodic records in his day. Pusha T will probably never get one of them.” These are words from a Pusha T interview with Vulture last year, when he was describing the process of him and Ye cooking up. That “one way” is relentless. Post-Clipse, Pusha T’s solo career in regards to quality has been nothing less than stellar, as his debut My Name is My Name was met with great acclaim. His solo peak came last year when he and Kanye locked in for a concise seven-track album (Daytona), filled with gritty, soul-based instrumentals and potent raps from two seasoned veterans.
The style of music that Ye and Push make together doesn’t fall into today’s trends, as it truly showcases both artists at their most comfortable. As a result, we as fans get sample-flipping and coke raps at their finest.
Essentials: "Runaway," "Nosetalgia," "Hold On," "If You Know, You Know"
Drake & Boi-1da:
The first producer who comes to mind for most when they think of Drake is Noah “40” Shebib, understandably so because together, they’ve craft a strong atmospheric sound that is signature for both artists. However, Drizzy’s chemistry with day one collaborator Boi-1da has shown to be just as fruitful... maybe more. The two have an exceptionally well-rounded catalog, as they’ve dabbled in a handful of sounds from dancehall inspired songs like “Controlla” to trap bangers like “Know Yourself.”
With that being said, their best records to date come when Drake decides it’s time for him to get some bars off, and Boi-1da provides him with the perfect instrumentals to let loose on. “Diplomatic Immunity,” “4 P.M In Calabasas” and “Duppy Freestyle” are just a few examples of that in recent years. Whether it’s for a hit single or a B-side vent session, Boi-1da and Drake always deliver.
Essentials: "Best I Ever Had," "5.AM In Toronto," "0 to 100/The Catch-Up," "God’s Plan"
Rapsody & 9th Wonder:
Both representing North Carolina, Rapsody and her mentor 9th Wonder have developed a strong synergy over the past decade that eventually manifested into her breakout Grammy-nominated album, Laila’s Wisdom. Rapsody is a lyricist in the purest form, and with 9th being an OG in the game who’s worked with legendary spitters like JAY-Z and Black Thought, his ear for producing a skill-set such as hers is second nature.
Whether it be a bar-fest or an introspective examination of her life, Rapsody has been able to count on 9th Wonder for the better part of her career, and his affinity for soulful productions works ideally with her delivery and content.
Essentials: "Hard To Choose," "Godzilla," "Power," "Jesus Coming"
Rick Ross & J.U.S.T.I.C.E League:
Rick Ross and the J.U.S.T.I.C.E League together have perfected the “luxury rap” style that has been a defining sound for Ricky Rozay. These elegantly crafted instrumentals complemented by Ross’ vivid and braggadocios rhymes that detail the most lavish of lifestyles will have you feeling like you just let the seat back in your own Maybach. Look no further than the first entries of the "Maybach Music" series if you need a reminder of the atmosphere that these records create.
Ross is said to have worked closely with the production collective for his highly anticipated upcoming LP, Port of Miami 2. “Maybach Music 6” on the way?
Essentials: "Sixteen," "Aston Martin Music," "Foreclosures," "Maybach Music 1"
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib:
Madlib is a legend. No questions about it. When he and Indiana’s own Freddie Gibbs first joined forces in 2011 for the Thuggin EP, there was an instant match. A couple projects later, they’d put out a critically acclaimed album titled Pinata that Gibbs described as a “gangster Blaxploitation film on wax.” Madlib’s eclectic fusion of funk, soul and jazz in his beats -- along with Gibbs’ menacing raps -- actually made for a riveting experience. This was one project that hip hop heads loved.
Fans of MadGibbs should be ecstatic because, just weeks ago, the duo inked a deal with RCA’s Keep Cool Records for a new album titled Bandana that's slated to drop soon. If you aren’t privy to the work of this duo, now would be a great time to familiarize yourself.
Essentials: "Thuggin," "Deeper," "Harolds"
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