Diggin In The Crates: 20 Of The Most Underrated Hip Hop Producers

By @TrueGodImmortal 

In hip hop, one of the most important elements to the music is production. The beat. The sound. It shapes the entire song, the entire album, everything. Yes, lyrics are essentially the true foundation that hip hop was built on, but the production is what really drives home the vibe into your ears. Whether live instrumentation, samples, or simple loops, the producer is just as much of an important part of the song as the artist is. With that in mind, we know all about the greatest producers of all time and the ones who get the acclaim. We know the J. Dillas, the 9th Wonders, the Pete Rocks, the DJ Premiers, the Kanye Wests, the Just Blazes, the Alchemists, the Neptunes, the Timbalands, the Dr. Dres, and a plethora of other legends who have earned their stripes as hip hop producers. Today, my job is to talk about the 20 most underrated producers in hip hop history, looking at the producers who are prolific, but still very under appreciated in many ways. Let's get into it.


-The Mobb Deep producer/rapper has been making amazing tracks for 20 plus years, and it's a surprise that he's not seen as one of the all time greatest by more. He's not mentioned as much as Alchemist, a producer who came to more prominence producing for Mobb than anything. Havoc has crafted a majority of great tracks for Mobb, Prodigy, 50 Cent, and a slew of other artists, showcasing his darker production style with solid kicks and snares usually over piano keys or lush samples. He's definitely one of the most underrated producers ever.

*DJ Paul and Juicy J

-If you talked about some of the greatest Southern hip hop producers, Mannie Fresh and Organized Noize come to mind instantly. However, the other names that should always come to mind are the Memphis legends DJ Paul and Juicy J. Long before Juicy was a pop star, he and Paul would team up to make the soulful samples and 808 drums blend together perfectly, as well as sinister trap/street production. Their work with the Three 6 Mafia albums, Project Pat, UGK, Ludacris, and so many others is what made them production legends and I don't hear them mentioned in the conversation enough, which is why they are here on this list.

*N.O. Joe

-Usually known as the producer that helped Scarface craft his amazing albums, N.O. Joe is a truly underrated legend. Any producer that has contributed work to albums like The Diary, The Untouchable, and more from Scarface, alongside production on UGK's albums and the Odd Squad is a legend in the game.


-Many of you might not know this name, but truthfully, Ayatollah is responsible for some great production. His most infamous work to me is with Mos Def, as he would produced the all time classic "Ms. Fat Booty" with one of the most flawless samples in hip hop history IMO. The Queens native would produce many tracks over the last 2 decades, racking up production credits with Styles P, Mos Def again, Talib Kweli, Cormega, Inspectah Deck, Sean Price, and many more. If you haven't got familiar with the work of Ayatollah, please do so now.


-One of my favorite producers of the modern era, the Filipino producer has a love for drum patterns. He utilizes soul samples and efficient drum patters to draw the listener in to his production and never stops. My favorite productions of his? Little Brother's "Nobody Like Me"  and "Sirens", 50 Cent's "Make A Movie Out Em", and his assistance on J. Cole's "Love Yourz". Illmind is an underground production legend and he also has great work with Skyzoo, Torae, and a number of others, solidifying his status.

*Jake One 

-The Seattle native is now best known for being the man behind the production board for the dynamic duo Tuxedo, but he's built up a resume as a producer for hip hop artists as well. He's done a number of work for 50 and G-Unit, as well as Freeway, Prodigy, MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, Game and many more. Though his output has hit everyone's radar, if you aren't aware of Jake One and what he does best, you need to get locked in and listen to his amazing production.


-This VA native is honestly one of the most slept on producers without a doubt. He came to fame mostly from his Roc-A-Fella production days, contributing to multiple albums from Jay-Z, but he would have some shine producing for Blackstreet and The Lost Boyz prior to that. He's produced tracks for Jay like "1-900-Hustler", the iconic "You, Me, Him, And Her", as well as "The Ruler's Back", and others. He had some solid production on the Beanie Sigel and Freeway, but his greatest moment as a producer came when he produced the best beat on MBDTF, as he's the producer responsible for the amazing beat on "Devil In A New Dress". His resume isn't as extensive as Kanye, Just Blaze, or Premo, but Bink has been putting in work for years and deserves to be recognized.


-Another VA native, this producer caught my ear with his work for Busta Rhymes. Since then, I've always looked and listened out for his productions and he's never really disappointed. He keeps the essence of the boom bap sound in his drums, and can be versatile with his melodies and rhythm. He's produced for Scarface, 50 Cent and G-Unit, Ghostface, Game, and garnered a hit with his production for the Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly banger "That's That Shit". His resume is solid all around and I wish Nottz got more credit for being one of the most consistent producers in the game over the last 2 decades.

*Easy Mo Bee

-A true legend, Easy Mo Bee is responsible for the production on some of your favorite tracks and you might not even realize it (you should). His most infamous work came on two of the greatest hip hop albums ever with Biggie and his Ready to Die classic and of course 2Pac and tracks on his greatest album "Me Against The World". Easy Mo Bee has a slightly smaller but extremely solidified resume of hip hop, and that's what got him on this list. The early to mid 90's saw Easy Mo as one of the most prominent producers, and in addition to working with Biggie and Pac, he would craft gems for Lost Boyz, Busta Rhymes, Ras Kass, Kurupt, and Big Daddy Kane, among others. My favorite Easy Mo production? One of his lone contributions to Biggie's Life After Death album, the Jay-Z assisted "I Love The Dough". Easy Mo Bee is a hip hop production legend.

*DJ Quik 

-It's hard to really classify Quik. On one hand, he's one of the best producers from the West ever. On the other hand, he's extremely underrated and slept on severely. What makes him so vital to this list is that Quik embodies the term "underrated" to the max. He's relatively quiet about his status in the game, knows he's a legend, but he sticks to just making quality music instead of bragging. Aside from producing a majority of his own music, Quik would do production work for 2Pac, Tony Toni Tone, Snoop, Suga Free, Kurupt, Talib Kweli, Chingy (haha), Nate Dogg, Jay-Z (my least favorite Black Album beat "Justify My Thug"), Game, and many more. Quik isn't just a west coast legend, he's a hip hop legend.


-I've always been a fan of Buckwild and his production from the first moment I heard it. He had a style that was really his own, dating back to his days working with the D.I.T.C. and beyond. He's worked with the best of the best, and allowed his style to never get stale, as he manages to stay versatile in his production. From 50 Cent to Big L to AZ to Kool G Rap to Biggie (he co-produced "I Got A Story To Tell") to Fat Joe to Black Rob (he co-produced the big hit "Whoa") to Game to just about any relevant name in hip hop during the 90's and 2000s, Buckwild has worked with them. His output over the last 20 years is solid and I don't hear his name mentioned enough in the top producer conversation.

*J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League 

-I chose this production group because they've put up some amazing beats over the year and deserve a lot more credit than they've received. They've done work for so many artists over the years, from varying genres, and that's what makes them vital to the culture. The Florida trio produced a number of tracks for Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige, Bun B, Nas, and many others. They have a distinct sound with trap sensibilities backed by boom bap style drums, and their sound is one of the most infectious in hip hop over the last 10 years.

*Erick Sermon

-The Green Eyed Bandit is one of the most infamous producers in hip hop and responsible for a majority of the production on the EPMD albums, which would earn him a spot here instantly. He was great with sampling, utilized a solid drum pattern for his beats, and is responsible for two of the most infamous movements in hip hop, those being EPMD and Def Squad. His work with EPMD is also rivaled by his work with Redman, Shaq, Keith Murray, Alfonzo Hunter, LL Cool J, Jay-Z, Dave Hollister, Method Man, his own solo projects, and more. One could also credit Rockwilder for his production prowess alongside Erick Sermon, but he just missed the list.

*Black Milk 

-This Detroit native is one of my personal favorites to listen to. He's one of those producers that showcases a ton of versatility in his style, but keeps the boom bap sound at the essence of his production. Knocking drums and superb melodies have led Black Milk to become one of the best producers in Detroit since the death of J. Dilla. His work for artists like Slum Village, Lloyd Banks, Elzhi, Canibus, RZA, Black Thought, and more have made him into another underground legend in hip hop production.

*Large Professor 

-It's crazy because Large Professor is one of my all time favorites and I'd list him as one of the all time greatest, but he follows the trend of most of the producers here and is largely put on the back burner, despite being one of the most talented producers we've seen in this hip hop era. His production work with Kool G Rap, A Tribe Called Quest, AZ, Cormega, and most of all, Nas helped shaped his legacy. He produced two of the greatest Nas tracks ever in "It Ain't Hard To Tell" and "You're Da Man". Large Pro needs way more credit and I think he's at the top of the list of underrated producers in hip hop period.

*Salaam Remi

-If there's one producer who has made a name for himself, but still doesn't get enough respect, it's 100% Salaam Remi. His work with legends like The Fugees (on their classic "The Score") early on in his career helped shaped his journey and start his legacy. His resume isn't extremely extensive, but it's rich in sound, as he supplied Nas (his most famous collaborator), Amy Winehouse, Jazmine Sullivan, Miguel, Big Boi, B.O.B., Ludacris, Canibus, and others with his drum heavy sound. Salaam dabbles in both hip hop and R&B production, but it's his work with Nas that really earns him the spot here because over the last 17 years of Nas' career, Salaam has been his best producer. That is a big deal.


-This LA based producer really makes this list for two reasons: his sample/drum combination and his work with Blu. Blu and Exile created one of the greatest albums of the 2000s, Below The Heavens, and one of the most important pieces of this album was the soul production that allowed Blu to spit his greatest rhymes. We can thank Exile for that. In addition to his work with Blu, he's worked with Fashawn, Mobb Deep, Tanya Morgan, Snoop Dogg, Big Sean, Pharoahe Monch, Strong Arm Steady, and a plethora of other mostly west coast artists. Exile deserves much more credit than he's been given over the years in hip hop.

*Ski Beatz 

-This isn't a name that instantly comes up when you think of the greatest producers or even top tier producers, and that's a shame. Ski is an amazing producer who rose to prominence for his work on two major projects: Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt and Camp Lo's Uptown Saturday Night. He started out with work for Original Flavor, and graduated to his work with Jay, AZ, Camp Lo, Lil Kim, Fat Joe, Sporty Thievz, Curren$y, Murs, and many more artists. Ski is a legend of the game.


-The Cincinnati native was really popular at one point in the hip hop game and he's built up quite the legacy over the years as a top tier producer. From his work with Blackstar, Reflection Eternal, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Styles P, G-Unit, Lloyd Banks, and many more, Hi-Tek has been extremely prolific through the years, and has also made his own albums, the Hi-Teknology series where he rapped and produced his own tracks. When we talk the most underrated, Hi-Tek is 100% on the list. There's no doubt about that.


-It was tough choosing Madlib for this list, because I think he's literally a top 5-10 producer of all time and I would have him on any list for the greatest producers ever. However, my personal opinion doesn't always match the public opinion, and he's extremely underrated in the eyes of the public. He's made his own classic Beat Konducta instrumental series, as well as the iconic album Shades of Blue instrumental album, but he's also provided great production for artists in hip hop like Freddie Gibbs, MF Doom, Talib Kweli, Blu, De La Soul, Strong Arm Steady, Mos Def, and of course, Erykah Badu. His most infamous work might be his production for Kanye and Kendrick on the TLOP standout "No More Parties In LA", which earned Madlib even more love as a producer. The fact is, Madlib should be a regular fixture on all of these major label albums, and more Madlib production on the next Kendrick album, Kanye album, or any album for that matter is a plus for the artist. Point blank.



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