R.A the Rugged Man stopped by VladTV to discuss current topics in hip hop culture such as Talib Kweli’s view on learning from the younger generation of hip hop artists maneuvering and overall state of rap.
One soundbite, (hence the title of the video) from R.A brought up an interesting question I wanted to delve into, is Kanye West an overrated beatmaker?
Check what R.A had to say (around 9:50, little before):
Now let’s get into it. First off, for this we will be primarily focusing on his pre- The College Dropout era production. I say this because if we’re judging Ye based on his skillset and success as a beatmaker/producer, this period of his career is most relevant if we’re debating if he’s overrated. It gets tricky favoring his own productions for his own albums as he tended to do post College Dropout, which we’ll get into after.
Kanye West (the producer): 1996-2003
Getting his first placements locally in Chicago producing for a rapper named Grav, Kanye got his start co-producing with one of Bad Boy Records star producers Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie (Hypnotize, Benjamins, 50 Cent’s early work). While he produced for well known artists in the late 90s such as Foxy Brown, Nas, Rhymefest, Mikkey Halsted and others, where he made his name and reputation as a producer was at Roc-A-Fella Records.
Roc A Fella era (2000-2004)
Alongside Just Blaze (my goat), Kanye West helped formed one of rap’s biggest production teams under the Roc. Incorporating a similar soul sample (slowed or sped up) style used by Wu Tang’s RZA, Ye cracked out hits not only for label acts but also non label acts during this era.
Ludacris “Stand Up” (2000)
Scarface “Guess Who’s Back” (2002)
Alicia Keys “You Don’t Know My Name” (2003),
Talib Kweli “Get By” (2003)
Jay Z “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”
Other notable joints: Jay-Z’s Takeover (Nas/Mobb Deep Diss), Izzo, Girls, Girls, Girls (Remix), Encore, Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity, Slow Jamz”
Post- The College Dropout Era
During this era, while primarily producing for his own projects, one of the key credits Ye has been given is changing the landscape of hip hop through two significant periods.
The College Dropout
Dropped near the top of 2004, where 50 Cent was the undisputed king of rap occupying the gangsta rap lane that dominated hip hop, The College Dropout helped mark the shift of the changing the landscape of music.The release of Kanye’s The College Dropout, was the beginning of incorporating more conscious themes in it’s lyrical and production scheme. In an era where gangsta rap dominated from lyrically and based in street oriented sounds and style, it was similar production Kanye gave guys like Hov, Beanie Siegel and others, that was used on his own project which led to massive mainstream success. Ye’s success from this album not only kicked start his career as an artist but also made it an acceptable lane have beats and lyrics referring to religion, confronting materialism and being true to one’s self that artists like Lupe Fiasco, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole occupy today.
808s & Heartbreak
The second, and probably most significant success and later influential to others in Kanye’s career as a producer is his co-production on 808’s & Heartbreak.
Initially heavily criticized upon its release, 808’s left an undeniable mark on the hip hop genre in terms of production. With significant players in development process such as Jeff Bhasker, Kid Cudi, T-Pain (yes that T-Pain) and the personal tragedies he went through, Ye helped influence another stylistic change in the genre that incorporated melody, emotion, and opening to darkest fears; production also incorporated using 80’s style synths, drum patterns and downtempo stylings. This release helped influenced Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi (after it’s release) and arguably the greatest rap-producer duo of Noah “40” and Drake.
Drake’s Freestyle over Ye’s “Say You Will
Non Artist Hits he Produced during this era: The Game’s “Dreams”, Common’s “Go”, Swagga Like Us (posse cut), Drake’s Find Your Love, Jay’s Run This Town, Cudi’s Make Her Say, The Throne’s “No Church In The Wild, Otis”
Is Kanye an overrated beatmaker?
I think Yeezy’s current status as a beat maker and producer overall is rightly rated among the general conscious. While I personally feel, he may not of broken enough artists through his production as someone like Dr. Dre, (meaning at his peak, and no Big Sean and Kid Cudi don’t count, to me their success is partly attributed by his cosign), his skillset at making beats and producing deserves the praise it receives. From chopping samples in creative ways and incorporating musicians to replay samples to capture the emotions, Kanye’s ranking amongst the producer greats in hip hop is warranted.