In November, DJBooth broke down the 10 Most Valuable Rap Collaborators of the 2010s, featuring the rappers and singers whose guest performances led to chart-topping hits. That list did not highlight one of hip-hop’s vital ingredients: the relationship between artist and producer.
Producers often exist outside the spotlight of the booth or the stage. Yet, it takes an exceptional producer to lift a song onto the charts. Diverse samples, thumping grooves, enrapturing atmosphere—they’re all marks of hip-hop’s most valuable and genre-shaping producers.
As another decade closes, let’s look at which producers made the most significant impact on the charts.
We’ll start with the ground rules. We gathered data from Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart, which offers a complete picture of the genre’s top performers. Since we’re highlighting actual collaboration, we excluded cases where the producer and lead artist were the same individual (sorry Kanye, Cole, and, um, Khaled). We also focused on solo producers, though many of the songs used for this list feature multiple producers. Additionally, we only included instances where the producer received a full producer credit, rather than co-producer or “additional production” credits.
The final results were calculated using a combination of top 10 hits, the number of weeks represented in the top 10, and the number of weeks at the number one spot. Without further ado, here are the producers whose excellence made them the Most Valuable Collaborators of the decade.
Though not included within the rules of our list, production duos CuBeatz and Dr. Luke & Cirkut both had the numbers to qualify. The former contributed to recent hits like “SICKO MODE” and “FEFE,” while the latter linked up with Nicki Minaj (“Only”) and Pitbull (“Timber”) to top the charts. Other essential producers just missing our list include Kanye collaborators Mike Dean and Hit-Boy (“N****s in Paris”), early-decade favorite Kane Beatz (“Super Bass”), and pop-rap producer DJ Frank E (“See You Again”).
- Top 10 Hits: 5
- Weeks in Top 10: 108
- Weeks at No. 1: 18
Get ready. Toronto dominates this list, beginning with 34-year-old Paul Jefferies, aka Nineteen85, who first broke through with Drake’s 2013 R&B hit “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Jefferies continued to collaborate with Drake throughout the decade, providing soulful, minimalist production on Views highlights “Hotline Bling,” “Too Good,” and “Hype.” Though much of Jefferies’ success came from scoring hits with Drake, his bouncy Mustard-esque production on Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” remains danceable as ever. In addition to providing some of the decade’s smoothest production, Jefferies also makes waves as one-half of OVO Sound R&B duo dvsn.
Best Contribution: The sparse percussion and bitey organ strikes of Timmy Thomas’ “Why Can’t We Live Together” provide an unforgettable hook for Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Add an airy trap beat and subterranean bass line, and you get a musical moment that might feel burnt out at the moment, but won’t easily be forgotten.
- Top 10 Hits: 10
- Weeks in Top 10: 57
- Weeks at No. 1: 93
Washington Heights producer Vinylz (born Anderson Hernandez) knows the importance of relationship and hard work. The 30-year-old first connected with Swizz Beatz as a teenager before later building a working relationship with OVO producer Boi-1da. Those connections led Vinylz to produce songs for Drake (“Fake Love”), Travis Scott (“Pick Up the Phone”), Lil Wayne (“Believe Me”), and J. Cole (“Deja Vu”). Murky keyboards and snappy percussion propel his production, offering rappers perfect pockets to deliver their performances.
Best Contribution: Vinylz’ only collab with Meek Mill, the 2015 track “R.I.C.O.,” features a menacing loop that mirrors Meek and Drake’s mobster rap. Working alongside Allen Ritter and CuBeatz, Vinylz’s eerie orchestral sample, which is layered under brooding synths and flickering snare hits, sounds like something out of Jordan Peele’s Us.
8. Frank Dukes
- Top 10 Hits: 8
- Weeks in Top 10: 152
- Weeks at No. 1: 1
Another Toronto native, Frank Dukes, 36, is at the forefront of innovative collaboration, creating a library of sample-ready compositions, employed by Kendrick Lamar and Madlib, among others. “I think [Kingsway Music Library] has made making beats way more collaborative,” Dukes told Billboard earlier this year. Dukes isn’t married to hip-hop and also produces hits for Jonas Brothers, Lorde, and others. However, artists Post Malone (“Better Now,” “Congratulations”), and Cardi B (“Be Careful”), as well as other producers like Boi-1da and Metro Boomin, have found Dukes to be a potent ally.
Best Contribution: Though Boi-1da crafted the beat for Drake’s “0 to 100,” the dusty arpeggio underlying the track’s first half was written by Dukes, who initially sent it to Boi-1da for Diddy. According to Dukes, Diddy passed on the beat, setting Drake up to record the greatest non-album track of his career.
- Top 10 Hits: 13
- Weeks in Top 10: 158
- Weeks at No. 1: 8
No producer’s beats bounce quite like those of Dijon “Mustard” McFarlane. Just 21 years old when the decade began, Mustard immediately made his mark on hip-hop with the club-ready Tyga hit “Rack City.” The LA producer remains a vital West Coast voice, crafting numerous hits for YG (“My N***a,” “Big Bank”), and Kid Ink (“Show Me,” “Be Real”). Even when Mustard wasn’t the producer behind the console, we felt his immediate influence with Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Jidenna’s “Classic Man,” taking direct cues from his nasty G-funk style.
Best Contribution: Playing off an angelic gospel sample provided by Kanye West, Mustard is in peak form on Big Sean’s “I Don’t Fuck With You.” His signature bass synths dance around buried club vocals and punchy kick drums. In the song’s second half, E-40’s offbeat delivery plays off Mustard’s upbeat track with a precision warranting a longer collaboration between the two.
6. Metro Boomin
- Top 10 Hits: 10
- Weeks in Top 10: 201
- Weeks at No. 1: 12
The youngest producer on this list, Metro Boomin (born Leland Wayne), didn’t hit the top 10 until 2015. Still, with just five years of mainstream service time, Metro, 26, has become a premier trap producer, working primarily with Future (“Where Ya At,” “Mask Off,” “Jumpman,” “Wicked”). However, it was his collaboration with Migos, “Bad and Boujee,” that topped the charts and created a cultural moment. Metro “retired from rap” last April, but he’s remained busy in 2019, producing most of Offset’s Father of 4 and contributing to James Blake’s Assume Form and Solange’s When I Get Home.
Best Contribution: Metro’s best instrumental is a tossup, but “Mask Off” certainly belongs in the discussion. The immortal flute sample from Carlton Williams’ “Prison Song” over a booming bassline and crisp trap hits provides an example of strength in simplicity. Metro rarely mixes up the loop throughout the song, but when the line “Oh my Lord, praise him be” hits in the second verse, it turns a bravado-filled drug track into a reflective prayer.
- Top 10 Hits: 11
- Weeks in Top 10: 194
- Weeks at No. 1: 37
Ajax, Ontario’s Tyler Williams, aka T-Minus, has been working with Drake since the superstar’s 2007 debut single, “Replacement Girl.” A stellar working relationship led to four No. 1 singles (“Make Me Proud,” “The Motto,” Nicki Minaj’s “Moment 4 Life,” and DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One”). While T-Minus’ chart-topping success peaked in 2011, he continues to create memorable songs, including Young Thug’s “The London” and J. Cole’s “Middle Child” and “Kevin’s Heart.”
Best Contribution: Though the record didn’t land at number one, T-Minus’ link-up with Kendrick Lamar on “Swimming Pools (Drank)” remains his most memorable performance. The GKMC single displays the power of collaboration in hip-hop. Originally intending to create something “sexy and exciting,” Williams recounts that Kendrick saw a different potential for the song, flipping the seductive, atmospheric synths into a conflicted battle with alcoholism and peer pressure. T-Minus’ breakdown and outro perfectly fit the song’s narrative with pounding drums and dizzying echoes as Kendrick reckons with his vices.
4. Mike WiLL Made-It
- Top 10 Hits: 14
- Weeks in Top 10: 184
- Weeks at No. 1: 18
Despite the pervasive sound of Atlanta in the 2010s, Mike WiLL Made-It (born Michael Williams II) is the only Atlanta-born producer on this list. He is one of his city’s greatest ambassadors, taking Atlanta nationwide in collaborations with 2 Chainz (“No Lie”), Ace Hood (“Bugatti”), Rae Sremmurd (“Black Beatles”), Eminem (“Fall”), and Kendrick Lamar (“Humble.”). In addition to racking up production credits, WiLL founded Ear Drummers in 2013, mentoring young artists (Rae Sremmurd) and producers (30 Roc). Though he’s been quiet recently, Mike WiLL is ready to return in a big way in 2020.
Best Contribution: Though “Humble.” received the initial praise with its barebones production, “DNA.” is the DAMN. track that truly showcases an emcee and producer at their peak. Mike WiLL creates a simple, yet powerful trap beat accented by foreboding guitars in the song’s first half. But the switch-up, built around a punishing bass and repeating Rick James sample, remains one of the album’s most memorable moments.
3. Louis Bell
- Top 10 Hits: 10
- Weeks in Top 10: 217
- Weeks at No. 1: 27
There is no Post Malone without Louis Bell. Facts only. The 37-year-old from Quincy, Massachusetts, wrote and produced half of the songs on Post’s debut album Stoney and every song on his next two releases. One of Bell’s signature contributions is Post’s foggy, reverb-heavy vocal production (“rockstar,” “Wow”). Though Bell often forays into the pop world, co-writing with Taylor Swift, Camila Cabello, and others, his focused collaboration with Post Malone is one of the most important relationships of the late 2010s.
Best Contribution: Bell isn’t the most multi-faceted producer in hip-hop, but he knows his strengths. Post’s “rockstar” encapsulates this quality with its layered pads, synths, vocal harmonies, and bass lines which create the dense haze we’ve come to expect from Post songs. While fellow producer Tank God provides the punchy drum tracks here, there’s no doubt Bell provided the emotion.
2. Noah “40” Shebib
- Top 10 Hits: 16
- Weeks in Top 10: 188
- Weeks at No. 1: 22
If there’s no Post Malone without Louis Bell, there’s no Drake without 40. Take it from the man himself. The OVO co-founder has mixed and recorded Drake’s records since the beginning of his career and has been instrumental in co-creating the sound of the decade. Though many of his credits are alongside other producers, Shebib ran the show all by himself on three top 10 hits—Nothing Was the Same track “Wu-Tang Forever,” Views track “9,” and A$AP Rocky’s posse cut “Fuckin’ Problems.”
Best Contribution: The Aaliyah-sampling beat on “Fuckin’ Problems” isn’t the most quintessential OVO sound, but the punchy drums in verse, coupled with the intensifying beat of the chorus, lays the groundwork for Rocky, Drake, Kendrick, and 2 Chainz to create one of the decade’s most exhilarating bangers.
- Top 10 Hits: 22
- Weeks in Top 10: 201
- Weeks at No. 1: 23
Squeezing in ahead of 40 is Toronto’s other premier producer, Matthew Samuels, aka Boi-1da. While Nineteen85 and Vinylz handle Drake’s smoother side, Boi-1da delivers the heavy rap beats: “Over,” “Forever,” “Summer Sixteen,” the list goes on. As if producing 14 top 10 singles for Drake isn’t enough, Samuels’ resume includes work with Eminem (“Not Afraid”), Cardi B (“Be Careful”), G-Eazy (“No Limit”), and Lil Wayne (“Believe Me”). He also became a mentor to OVO’s in-house producers, proving himself the most valuable production collaborator of the decade.
Best Contribution: Named one of Boi-1da’s personal favorites, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late standout “Energy” features a hard-hitting trap instrumental, offering a perfect soundtrack for Drake’s paranoia and anxiety. The reversed drum production, subdued kick beats, and subtle three-note synth riff toe the line between haunting, intimidating, and melancholy at once. Drake may have a lot of enemies; Boi-1da isn’t one of them.