2012’s Producer of the Year

5. Mike Will Made It

Watermarks are standard protocol for producers these days, and none was more recognizable than the sultry, informative “Mike Will Made It” tag that began all too many of 2012’s biggest hip-hop and R&B hits. Juicy J’s “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” Jeremih’s “773 Love,” and 2 Chainz’s “No Lie” were all crafted by Atlanta’s Michael Williams, whose trademark sound is a concoction of pretty, melodic synths with a dirty, down South rumble. Mike’s best collaborator was surely Future, whose album Pluto was an appropriately genre-bending mishmash of funky, sing-song vocals and hard-hitting rhymes. “Turn On the Lights” especially earns Future his forward-looking name.

Though his prolific output in 2012 had a redundant catch — Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” is just a regurgitation of “Bandz,” and he’s unapologetically (LOL get it?) acknowledged it on Twitter — Mike Will Made It deserves props for his progressive but poppy production. On Ustream a few days ago, he debuted some new joints off his upcoming Est. in 1989 2.5 mixtape, and it’s got some heat. The compilation drops sometime today, so get your Google engines going now, and trust there will be more to come in 2013.

–Nick Harwood

4. The Alchemist

Alan Maman, better known as The Alchemist, has a resume that transcends that of most hip-hop producers. Mobb Deep, Dilated Peoples, Cam’ron, Big Pun, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Raekwon, Curren$y, Schoolboy Q, Action Bronson, Domo Genesis. He’s been one of rap’s go-to men for over 19 years, providing intricate production that lends itself to decades-old records.

His production is great in that there’s a history lesson-esque appeal to them. Through certain songs a listener may discover bands such as Modry Efekt, Earth and Fire, Fred Bongusto and Bootsy’s Rubber Band.

But, most importantly, Maman’s production is always on point. It’s malleable; one moment he can be creating Jet Life stoner anthems with Curren$y; the next, menacing rap quartets like Domo Genesis’ “Elimination Chamber.”

Somehow, Maman’s production never overshadows the rapper. He balances the production just right to where listeners will know it’s an Alchemist beat they’re listening to. He ensures that the artist is truly the star of the show.

No one can imitate The Alchemist. He does not need a “this beat was made by The Alchemist” tag for his songs because no one crafts beats like him.

He is the rap game Isaac Newton, turning beats into musical gold and exploring other ways to push rap music forward.

–Elijah Watson

3. Harry Fraud

In 2012, the “La musica de Harry Fraud” drop was synonymous with great production. The long-haired sensation from Brooklyn, Harry Fraud, took first place in the producer lane this year with his soulful sound and diverse palette. Crafting a strong repertoire with French Montana, Fraud has created the sound for the big banger “Shotcaller” and the Jadakiss-featured “New York Minute.” French isn’t the only artist he has been building with though, knocking out beats for big names like Rick Ross, Curren$y, Riff Raff, Smoke DZA, Action Bronson, Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, and 50 Cent.

He looks like a ragged surfer — he does actually surf by the way, just as he did right before heading to Rick Ross’ mansion one morning in Miami to make a beat (#flex) — but he produces and mixes his sound straight out of his little Brooklyn “studio” a.k.a. his apartment. We look forward to more from him in 2013. Fraud is the truth — that’s not an oxymoron, it’s a fact.

–Jack Sommer

2. Hit-Boy

Hit-Boy’s had a remarkable year. From producing one of the year’s biggest pop jams — “Clique”, featuring Big Sean, Kanye West, and Jay-Z — to producing half of hip-hop’s biggest hits of 2012. Not only did he contribute this years hottest albums including G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer, Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and Big Sean’s Detroit, he provided the beats and rhymes for his solo debut HITstory and became known as a contender in the rap world as well.

We’ve got our eye on Hit-Boy in 2013 as well, since he’s already provided A$AP Rocky with “Goldie,” the first gem off his debut record, LongLiveA$AP. He’s also been tapped for production credits 2013’s biggest albums from Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Mariah Carey, Lil Wayne, Pusha-T and Beyonce. It’s about time someone showed Mr.West he’s not the only beat and rhyme maven. We guess it’s safe to say, “Ain’t nobody fuckin’ with Hit.”

–Ryan Lyons

1. Young Chop

Young Chop is a fitting alias for up-and-coming producer Tyree Pittman. He’s arguably the youngest producer in the game (18 years old) and chops up beats with the precision and tenacity of a professional butcher.

Chop’s notoriety grew with the release of Chief Keef’s Back from the Dead mixtape earlier this year. The mixtape contained the duo’s golden ticket: “I Don’t Like.” Ironically, the song became liked by listeners throughout the United States, thrusting Keef, his affiliates, and the Chicago rap scene into national headlines.

Chop and Keef’s mutual relationship has created a successful escape from the violent Chicago streets that raised them. Now Chop is being sought out by big-timers Gucci Mane, Big Sean and Lil Wayne. It makes sense; in his production one can hear Chop’s attention to detail. The crescendoing horror movie keys at the beginning of “I Don’t Like”; the subtle synth flourishes that ascend into angelic croons in “Love Sosa.” When Chop is assigned to make a beat he marinates a song with several different ingredients, the final product usually a head-nodding, club-popping hit.

“Young Chop on the beat,” often begins a song with Chop’s highly desired touch. The young voice embodies Chop’s dreams becoming a reality: the beat-maker who started at 10 years old and eight years later, has everyone in the game wanting a Young Chop beat.

–Elijah Watson