When you listen to a hit song, the first thing that comes to mind is the sound; it’s the first thing you notice. But it is not the first that gets your praise or appreciation, at least not on the first listen. Even when the brilliance of the sound is acknowledged straight away, music listens often delay the appreciation until they have assessed the artists. In many of the situations where listeners have immediately recognised the brilliance of the sound, many times, it is still the artist that gets the credit. It is why over the years, little was known about the ingenuity of music producers until many of them started coming out and stamping their feet on the ground.
When it comes to great sound, what makes great music is first the quality of production before the talent of the artist or their vocal skill. It is why producers deserve their flowers, regularly too.
That said, the list below comprises the name of absolutely brilliant brains behind hit songs in no particular order. I leave it to you to decide who appears where on your list.
- Rick Rubin
- Dr D.R.E
- Max Martin
- Pharrell Williams
- Mike-Will-Made It
- Nile Rodgers
- Kanye West
- Mark Ronson
Born Dean Josiah Cover, Inflo is arguably the most mysterious producer on the planet. Although not as legendary as many names on this list, on his day, inflo would hold his own against anyone on this list.
Apart from producing three standout tracks on Adele’s album 30, Inflo, based in London, produced the majority of three top-tier albums in 2021 (Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz, Mother by Cleo Sol, and Nine by Sault). Each project has its specific tone and instrumentation to cater to the strengths of its vocalist. Recently awarded the Brig Produce of the year, Inflo is incredibly multi-talented and scarily creative with his sounds. He can go from momentous and extravagant to restrain and simple with ease. He has proved this range tenfold in 2021 and has had the best year of his career thus far. So if there is anyone on this list we can tell you to watch out for in the coming years, it’s Inflo. Inflo represents the present-day range of young music producers and their potential to eclipse the achievement of older producers.
If you were looking for a man who embodies the term “creator”, Rick Rubin defines the term in every word. He is a super-producer who helped popularise hip-hop in the 1980s through his Def Jam Records. For those who listened very much to hit songs in the 80s, Rubin was the brain behind hit songs from artists including Run D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy.
His unparalleled ingenuity at thinking outside the box has seen him produce for some of the biggest names in music across different eras, from Tom Petty and Metallica to Kanye West and the Dixie Chicks.
Perhaps Rubin’s influence on music is better defined by the that far back in 2007; Time magazine listed Rick Rubin as one of the 100 Most Influential People In The World. Do you know how good you have to be to move from the desk of consoles right into the list of most influential people in the world?
I sincerely do not think there is a more popular name in music production. I knew about Dr Dre’s superior ingenuity and master creativity even before I learnt a line of Western music. His name alone was an inspiration to many young producers. From the corner of his studio and the quality of his works, we can safely say that Dr Dre influenced a generation of music producers and lovers.
His early work with N.W.A solo rap career alone makes him one of the most seminal musicians of the last 30 years. However, more recently, he’s arguably become better known for his business acumen.
Not to mention the success and continued success of his Beats by Dre electronics company, Dr Dre has, through his Aftermath Entertainment label, paved the way for Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent, to name just a few. Dre D.R.E is a legend, and he is arguably the first name anyone would mention when ranking producers.
Born Karl Sandberg, this Swedish producer has single-handed helped design the teenybopper explosion that came through at the end of the last century. He helped transport the explosion into the new century and kept reinventing sounds to produce hit after hit. If there was ever an individual that embodied cross-genre brilliance with continued permutations to stay on top of his game, then it is Max Martin.
Associated with Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, and The Weeknd, this super producer is known for his hooks and choruses that have defined the music of stars that have, in their own right, defined the mainstream music industry for the past twenty years.
Perhaps one work of his that defines his legendary status is Taylor Swift’s super album, “1989”, which till today, remains one of the biggest albums of the 2000s era. With three Hot 100 No. 1 singles, all co-produced by Martin, and an album of the year Grammy, 1989 remains a monumental definition of Martin’s brilliance and explains while the Swedish is in a class of his own.
The Neptunes, Liquid guitars, rattling percussion, intoxicating synth tones, followed by a four-stab count-off, and often punctuated with a keyboard sound like a dying firework, sound familiar? That’s Pharell William!
With 13 Grammy awards, a handful of Billboard Awards, MTV Awards, B.E.T. Awards, and others, there is nothing anyone can add to describe the brilliance of the American rapper turned producer. While he didn’t single-handedly run The Neptunes, there is no doubt about his ingenuity and the fact that he wasn’t just the face of the record label but also the brain behind it. Although “Happy” remains his most well-known song and production, his list of successful songs includes The Carter’s “Apeshit”, Ariana Grande’s “Blazed”, Frank Ocean’s “Sweet Life”, and “Ain’t No Doubt About It” from Game of and Justin Timberlake, among others.
Timbaland, born Timothy Z. Mosle, is one of the producers who defined his era in the American music industry. Developing his signature sound in the early 1990s, Timbaland quickly became one of the most sought-after and often-imitated Hip-hop and R&B producer. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Timbaland used original beats, rather than samples, to create rhythms, complementing them with quiet background rapping and other obscure unusual sounds.
Timbaland transcended genres to produce hits for Jay-Z, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Beck, Bjork, Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, and Madonna. Although not as involved in the game as he used to be, Timbaland still belongs in the top bracket of any list when talking about the best in the game.
Regarding Artists who are masters at mixing and mastering different instruments across different genres, Mike Will ranks high on any list. In addition, Mike Will uses various production equipment to create beats. Originally from Georgia, Mike Will has produced multiple singles certified gold or higher by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.), including Beyonce’s “Formation”, Young Thug’s “With Them”, and Future’s “Move That Dope”.
According to the Billboard, Mike Wil almost single-handedly took Gucci to the top on Rae Sremmurd’s Hot 100 No. 1 smash “Black Beatles,” which beautifully paired Sremmurd’s off-kilter melodicism with Mike Will’s affinity for vaguely menacing production. There are no doubts that Mike Will belongs in the exclusive class of G.O.A.T. producers.
The legendary Nile Rodgers is the co-founder of Chic, who almost single-handedly gave rise to the development of Hip-Hop as a genre. His music was the first on the scene, and other artists like Daft Punk have since defined them as a significant influence in the emergence of Hip-Hop as a music genre.
He’s written and produced records selling over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide, working alongside Bernard Edwards to make classic Chic hits such as Everybody Dance.
Everybody knows Kanye West’s genius, but not everyone knows that beyond the voice we hear in his song, Ye, is a god in the studio. Associated with monster hits from Jay-Z, Common, and Pusha T, Kanye has managed to get himself in a position where you cannot but mention his name in the conversation of GOAT producers, rappers, and modern Christian music.
Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.),” and “Takeover” are only two of the many songs that not only define Kanye’s sound but also plot the paths for West’s success over the last two decades. His auto-tune productions at the end of the last decade are significantly different from the 90s industrial and Chicago drill.
If you’re one of the people who have come to love and appreciate the sound of Bruno Mars, then you owe Mark Ronson his flowers.
Ronson gave life to Bruno Mars-fronted works that came out to be known as “Uptown Funk!,” which would go on a mazy run of 14-week atop the Hot 100. Perhaps the more notable success of Mark Ronson through Bruno Mars and many of his other works is his permanent slot in a lifetime of wedding-DJ playlists. How about his instantly iconic, soul-stirring work with the late Amy Winehouse on Back to Black?
With a signature sound of Brassy soul and cracking hip-hop drums, with a little bit of ’60s girl group flair, Ronson belongs in the top echelon of the best music producers in the world.
So there go our top 10 music producers worldwide in no particular order. While a handful of absolutely brilliant producers are missing from this list, we can tell you that this list has the most versatile of the music producers we have ever seen in the music industry. But who is the best of them all? You be the judge of that.