Here at DJBooth, we love producers. From the grimiest boom bap to booming trap 808s to piercing electronic synths, production is the backbone of the music we all love and producers don't always get the spotlight they deserve.
Enter the beat battle, where producers take center stage to face off and prove who's got the better discography and who can illicit the better reaction from the crowd.
With Swizz Beatz and Just Blaze's recent friendly battle serving as our inspiration, we had four members of our editorial team select which two producers they'd most like to see face off.
We look forward to you disagreeing with all of the chosen victors.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of each individual author and do not represent the entire DJBooth editorial staff.
Jake One vs. The Alchemist
Andy: Despite hailing from the 90210, The Alchemist has been producing some of hip-hop’s best and grittiest rap beats for the last two decades. With one of the most respected catalogs in the game, A-L-C’s sound is thugged out (Mobb Deep “Got It Twisted”), smoked out (Curren$y “Scottie Pippen”) and souled out (Pharoahe Monch “Desire”) in equal measure. With gems like “Keep It Thoro,” “Hold You Down” and “Break the Bank” that combine all three facets of his genius, Alchemist can go 12 rounds with any producer.
Hailing from the same school as The Alchemist, Jake One has also made a career out of blending soul samples with crunchy drums and lush percussion, though Jake’s sound is arguably crispier and cleaner. Having produced for Drake, J. Cole, Pusha T, 50 Cent and Rick Ross (and, by extension, Dr. Dre and Jay Z), the Seattle beatsmith has enough recognizable records in the stash. But he also has his fair share of face-scrunchers to satisfy underground heads. De La Soul and MF DOOM’s “Rock Co. Kane Flow” will hit like a bump of pure Colombian.
The Alchemist versus Jake One is like the heavyweight title fight for the “White Boy With Soul” belt. Both have underground hits, underrated album cuts and their own compilation—and collaborative—projects to choose from. They could go toe-to-toe with soulful gems and street rap records. But while Jake One’s catalog could lift the crowd, Alchemist’s bigger, deeper discography would shut it down, because that’s what beat battles ultimately come down to.
Just look at what happened when The Alchemist pulled out Jadakiss and Styles P’s “We Gonna Make It” against Just Blaze in 2009. Even Just couldn’t help but to put his hands in the air—and not to throw his diamond in the sky.
Mac Miller vs. Earl Sweatshirt (aka Larry Fisherman vs. randomblackdude)
Cassidy: With most of his beats credited to the pseudonym Larry Fisherman, Mac Miller is surprisingly prolific behind the boards. He’s thrown beats to everyone from Ab-Soul to Lil B and produced a large percentage of his own discography. That’s a lot of range. His versatility is definitely a strength but also speaks to the fact that Mac’s beats aren’t always instantly recognizable and don’t have a strong unified sound.
On the flip side of that coin, Earl Sweatshirt’s ambient and industrial approach to producing is very distinctive and easy to recognize. Like Mac, Earl has a pseudonym of his own, has kicked beats to an interesting handful of homies—Kilo Kish, Da$h and Miller himself—and is an expert at producing tracks that match his style and sound. On the latter front, Earl’s probably got a slight edge, as some of his more emotional and powerful records are heavily production-driven.
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Pitting the frequent collaborators—the two have even co-produced a track together as Sweaty Fisherman—and smoking buddies head to head, a strong argument could be made for either discography. Overall, though, Earl hasn’t displayed the same range or diversity of sounds as Mac and hasn’t pushed himself outside of his comfort zone as regularly.
Sorry Earl, Larry Fisherman takes this one by an inch.
Kaytranada vs. Knxwledge
CineMasai: Kaytranada’s pulsating synths and colorful rhythms give me life on the dance floor, while Knxwledge’s hazy sample boosting has soundtracked many a mellow moment. But just as much as I love playing 99.9% and Hud Dreems back-to-back, I’d love to see these two try to take chunks out of each other on the boards.
For starters, both producers are the masterminds behind some of the best remixes in music right now. Kaytra’s career was kickstarted by his sublime reworkings of Janet Jackson and Teedra Moses, Busta Rhymes, Danny Brown and Solange. If his remixes bring new technicolor bounce to songs, Knxwledge crafts beats that flow like a divine spirit through the likes of Drake, Uncle Murda and more. Even given their distinct styles, there’s a warmth to both producers’ work that would make their standoff simultaneously gel and hit hard; sun and moon reflections of the same sunny 78-degree day.
I imagine picking a winner between these two geniuses is like picking a favorite child, but I’d have to give the edge to Kaytranada, if only for sake of his versatility. Kaytranada has his bop down but is more than capable of digging into the crates for a grittier sound, as he proved on WIKI's “3 Stories.”
Go find me an electronic, disco-tinged Knxwledge track and then we can talk.
Boi-1da vs. Noah "40" Shebib
Hershal: Without diminishing the input of others who may have contributed along the way, Noah “40” Shebib and Boi-1da are the two producers who are most responsible for crafting, refining and evolving the sound of the most popular rapper of today’s generation. The two producers helmed the backboards on Drake’s breakthrough mixtape, So Far Gone, thus popularizing the quintessential “Drake sound” that would eventually go on to permeate throughout music in the coming months and years.
The party who is clearly more responsible for inspiring this shift, however, is 40. While Boi-1da has been behind some of Drake’s biggest singles over the years (“Best I Ever Had,” “Headlines,” etc.), 40 has singlehandedly created the spacey, ethereal soundbed that comes to mind when one thinks of Drake and his musical influence (“Marvin’s Room,” “Successful,” etc.). Herein lies the fundamental distinction between the two producers. While 40 has been vocal about how he’s content to work almost exclusively with Drake on forming this cohesive sound, Boi-1da’s mission since 2009 has ostensibly been to get as many placements on as many diverse projects as possible. In this way, a beat battle between Boi-1da and 40 is like a game of golf between players of two different skill levels. 40 is playing with a huge handicap.
Some may argue that having your own trademark sound is an integral part of being an accomplished music producer. To 40’s credit, there is definitely something to be said about the fact that everyone instantly knew who produced “Weston Road Flows” the moment they first heard Views. Some may argue that skilled music production is about how subtly someone is able to flip a sample. To 40’s credit, when I listen to the way he flipped the Jon B sample on “Cameras,” I’m always astounded by its ingenuity. Some may argue that the best music producers spend just as much time artist-building as they do in the studio making beats, but 40 is known to be one of the few people in Drake’s inner circle who can truly influence his creative decisions.
But, come on. This is a beat battle we’re talking about here. The only thing that matters is bangers. 40 definitely has a few in his arsenal, but at any point in the battle, Boi-1da could hit him with the "FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt," “The Blacker the Berry” and “Work” triple-move combo and end the entire thing on a whim. Boi-1da would win in a landslide.