Unless you enjoy pouring over production credits, you might look at me funny when I say Cardo is the best producer of 2016.
I get it, he isn’t as famous as Metro Boomin or as established as Mike Dean, who’ve both enjoyed MVP-worthy seasons. You won’t even hear his trademark drop, “Cardo got wings,” on his biggest songs. But like an F-35 stealth jet, Cardo has quietly been flying high and dropping nuclear bombs this year.
Over the last 12 months, the Forth Worth, TX-via-Saint Paul, MN native has serviced a clientele that reads like a bucket list for any current producer, promising or prestigious. ScHoolboy Q and Kanye West’s “THat Part,” Drake and Future's "Grammys," Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s “Through the Late Night," Travis and Kendrick Lamar’s “Goosebumps,"—all heaters prepared and cooked in Cardo’s kitchen.
And let’s not forget tasty appetizers like 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne's "Back on the Bullshyt," D.R.A.M.'s "In a Minute/In House" and Cousin Stizz's "Every Season." The record speaks for itself, really.
Perhaps Cardo’s true pièce de résistance in 2016, however, was bringing the cold-blooded killer out of the best rapper alive. Alongside frequent collaborator Yung Exclusive, Cardo produced “untitled 02” and the first half of “untitled 07,” the meanest, most ig’nant moments of Kendrick Lamar’s untitled unmastered. To Pimp a Butterfly was a masterpiece but rarely did it match the thrill of hearing Kendrick threaten to end your existence, in no uncertain terms, if you fuck with Top. More Cardo on the next Kendrick album, please.
Those who’ve been paying close attention to Cardo’s career will know this MVP campaign didn’t come out of nowhere. Since landing his first major placement on Wiz Khalifa’s cult favorite, Kush & Orange Juice, in 2010, he’s been grinding harder than Dom Kennedy’s hit (which, coincidentally, he also produced). Some of Cardo’s earlier beats, characterized by booming 808s, hazy synths, and cowbells, felt a little too same-y—take Smoke DZA’s “We Out” and Gerald Walker’s “Live It Up,” for example.
But after producing Meek Mill’s “Levels” in 2013 (with the help of his five-year-old daughter), Cardo has continually taken his sound to new places and his career to new heights. His beats aren’t just made for the car, they sound good in the club, too. They don’t just make you screw your face up like Big Quint, they make you lose your damn mind (just ask Travis). The trademark cowbells may be all but gone, but you know it’s a Cardo beat if it slaps like A Pimp Named Slickback.
Cardo is closing out 2016 with some of the best songs and biggest credits under his belt, not to mention three GRAMMY nominations (which feels criminally short). With a new solo album called Lost in a World in the works, as well as potential collaborations with pop mega-stars like Rihanna and Justin Bieber, 2017 could be the year he moves further into the spotlight.
All we know is that Cardo is the best hip-hop producer of 2016, and it’s about time we give him his props.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram