DAR Hip Hop: 8 Classic Albums Produced By One Producer

By @TrueGodImmortal

In hip hop, it has become a normal occurrence again to have an album produced by one producer in its entirely, but it was the standard back in the day. The process of working with one producer, where you can lock in on concepts, ideas, and more has long been important to the genre, and even I have had the pleasure of doing so on the first three albums I recorded. Aside from that, over the years, I found that most of my favorite albums come from the cohesive nature of one producer handling the sound for a project. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at 8 of those instances where the album turned out to be a classic or a really great listen with one producer handling the sound. Let's get into it.

*Blu and Exile- Below The Heavens (2007)
Producer: Exile

-One of the best albums of the era, Blu and Exile worked together to craft one of my favorite albums of the 2000s. Exile gives Blu mostly straightforward boom bap style production with soul samples and of course, Blu doesn't disappoint. While Exile was slightly known in hip hop circles, this was the debut of the West Coast MC and instantly fans began to wonder about his potential. For me, tracks like the classic "Dancing In The Rain", "No Greater Love", and others helped drive home how powerful of an album this was. Blu took his place as one of the premier artists from the West and Exile flexed his ability to captivate listeners with his production. This is a classic. 

*Prodigy and Alchemist- Return Of The Mac (2007)
Producer: Alchemist 

-I always felt like this was a classic despite many people sleeping on the quality. Sure, P and ALC dropped another project together later on and ALC was a huge part of the Mobb Deep legacy, but Return Of The Mac was something special. Alchemist had some of his best work ever on this project with the booming drums and soulful samples combining for the perfect marriage. Prodigy was his usual Murda Muzik self, especially on gems like "Nickel And A Nail", "Stuck On You", and my favorite "The Rotten Apple", with an excellent sample. All in all, this was a slept on project that showcased the strengths of both men.

*Freddie Gibbs and Madlib- Pinata (2014)
Producer: Madlib 

-Of course, this album is important and special when considering one producer albums. Madlib is one of the greatest producers ever and his work with MF Doom and others have been celebrated and rightfully so. In this instance, he works with a MC that fit his production style perfectly and the chemistry with these two is out of this world. This album features guest appearances by Danny Brown, Scarface, Raekwon, Domo Genesis, Earl Sweatshirt, Ab-Soul, and more, with every MC sounding right at home on the Madlib production. Tracks like "Broken", "Real", "Robes", "Shame", and "Deeper" are the highlights here, and for the most part, this album doesn't disappoint from start to finish.

*Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek- Train Of Thought (2000)
Producer: Hi-Tek

-When I look back on albums that had one producer only, this sticks out every single time. Sure, Hi-Tek was a part of the Reflection Eternal duo as a part time rapper, but his main role was as the producer and the cultivator of the sound. As a result, the album has a smooth soulful boom bap vibe where Kweli sounds extremely comfortable over this production, especially on gems like "Memories Live", "The Blast", and my personal favorite "Ghetto Afterlife". The chemistry between these two was apparent and Reflection Eternal showcased the potential they could have had if they stuck together as an actual duo over the years (it took well over 10 years for their second album).

*Raekwon- Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
Producer: RZA

-The greatest album to come from the Wu Tang Clan camp was of course produced entirely by RZA, the figurehead of the movement. Raekwon was assisted by Ghostface for this album and historically, the chemistry between those two is well documented. On this album, that chemistry was truly born in a way not heard on the Wu debut. Raekwon is at his best when he spits vivid street tales and the aggression behind every Ghostface verse here just adds an extra element to every song. The true standouts are plentiful here on this near flawless album, but for me, my favorites are "Criminology", "Rainy Dayz", "Knuckleheadz", "Knowledge God", and of course "Glaciers Of Ice", and the excellent "Verbal Intercourse". Simply put, OB4CL might be one of the 5 greatest hip hop albums ever, if not THE greatest. That says a LOT.

*Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth- Mecca And The Soul Brother
Producer: Pete Rock

-One of the greatest producer and rapper duos ever, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth entered the game with their mind focused on making something happen. Pete Rock would provide the soulful jazzy production while Smooth would deliver some of the true to life and honest lyricism that made this project an easy listen. For the most part, this album doesn't miss one bit, as the classics like "T.R.O.Y.", "Straighten It Out", "Ghettos Of The Mind", and "Act Like You Know". Listening to Smooth drop his verses and Pete Rock drop an occasional verse over his own production was great and this album is highly regarded by so many in the hip hop world and rightfully so. 

*Snoop Doggy Dogg- Doggystyle (1993)
Producer: Dr. Dre

-Much of the belief is that this album was ghost produced by Daz. I don't know if that's true, but regardless, this was an excellent debut album that made the world crown Snoop as the next hip hop legend. The biggest piece of the success for this album to me has to be the G-Funk production from Dr. Dre, as the sound helped changed the way we consume the styles in hip hop IMO. Tracks like "Gin and Juice", "Ain't No Fun", "Murder Was The Case", and more were all instances where the production and lyrics have the perfect marriage. To me, this is one of the best debut albums in hip hop history and with Dre handling the production, it should come as no surprise.

*Juvenile- 400 Degreez (1998)
Producer: Mannie Fresh 

-It was impossible to make a list such as this one and not include one of my all time favorite albums on it. Juvenile is one of my favorite rappers from the south ever and it was this album that took him to a higher level commercially. The production on the album? It was one of the biggest reasons for the success and of course, none other than the legendary Mannie Fresh would be behind the sounds. With the New Orleans bounce style slightly in tact alongside some hardcore southern hip hop themes, Juvenile delivered an album of epic proportions with hits like "Back That Azz Up", "Juvenile On Fire", "Ha", and more. This is perhaps my favorite album on this list because it represents so much, but most of all, it showcased the chemistry between Fresh and Juvenile.



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