Bun B is working on an album that he hopes to drop this summer. In the mean time, we asked the supreme lyricist to explain his Top 5 Producers of all time -- and why Swizz Beatz gets an Honorable Mention nod, too.
1. Pimp C
I think he’s probably the most underrated musical genius of our generation. I don’t think that people really realize how much what’s generically attributed to Southern music that was specifically designed and created by Pimp C. And I’m not just saying this of my partner. You can go to any of the major producers from the South right now, people that are credited with creating their own sound, and all of them will tell you that Pimp C was probably influential in that creation. I’m not saying that Pimp C created their sound. But Pimp C was a person that they went to and talked to when it came to really trying to help carve out their niche in the game.
You can ask Jazze Pha, Lil Jon, David Banner, Drumma Boy and they will tell you that Pimp C’s sound influenced them. I can’t describe his sound. Most people they tend to call it “Southern fried, funkdafied gumbo” and all that old type of silly shit. That has nothing to do with anything. It’s good music. That’s the way I would describe it. It was music that stood the test of time. It was rap music that was respectful of the music that came before it, which I don’t think a lot of producers really are.
2. Marley Marl
He had the 808. Marley Marl’s music was special to me because it was East Coast music that had bottom in it. A lot of East Coast hip-hop music nowadays is not centered around the 808. It’s sad to me. I think because of the fact that in a lot of the South music the 808 was so predominant, the generation after Marley Marl just did not want to sound like what other regions were doing. So they let the 808 go. But what they don’t realize is that they were the people that really helped to bring in the 808 drum into hip-hop. It was New York. I’m not saying that East Coast producers don’t have drums. A lot of East Coast producers have incredible drum patterns in their songs, whether they sample them or create them themselves. But, a lot of it is lacking that bottom.
3. DJ Premier
I would say that even more so than Dr. Dre, his sound and his music is easily the most identifiable in hip-hop, period. You instantly know what a Primo track is and you can say that without identifying specific elements or patterns that exist within a Primo song that would label it that. It’s just a certain sound and a certain feel, a loop from a certain part of a song, the way it breaks down, you can tell, “Oh yeah. That’s a Primo.” A person like him can go out and produce a Christina Aguilera and still come back and do groups like the NYG’z. He’s one of the people that understands the balance.
He always makes sure that no matter how much music that he does for people that’s going to get a lot of radio play, that’s going to have a big budget video, that’s going to be performed on tours across the country and around the world, that he still makes hip-hop for dudes that may never leave the block. And he still makes it with dudes that may still never leave the block, which I think is even more telling about his character. You don’t have to be an A-list artist or a dude with a big budget to get a Primo beat. You’ve just got to be real to what you’re doing.
4. Mannie Fresh
I think Mannie Fresh is one of the most consistent people within his sound as far as hip-hop’s concerned. When you go to Mannie Fresh, you’re going to get exactly what you want from him. It’s not going to be an argument about, “Oh, well I need it to sound a little bit more like this.” He’s one of those producers that when you go to him for a track, you know what you’re going to get and he knows exactly what you need. It’s going to have elements of songs that he’s done before, but it’s still going to be personal to you. That personal touch that he puts on it isn’t just within the track. He’s also a person that can come in and will give you a hook that will make sense to his track. He can help. If it’s hard for the artist to find the middle ground between the Mannie Fresh track and his personal sound, Mannie is a producer that can help you find that middle ground.
He’s not the type of dude that sells you a beat and says, “Good luck with that.” He’s very personally involved with the entire process. And, he doesn’t work with you if he doesn’t like you and I don’t mean that as in if he doesn’t like you as a person. Mannie likes everybody. He’s a very personable person, very easy to get along with. Most of the people he works with end up being lifelong friends of his. He can tell if your character really isn’t all that. It’s not about your money. Mannie Fresh is very big on character and he’s a very good judge of character, too. Any friend of Mannie Fresh is a friend of mine.
5. Mr. ColliPark
I’ve got to go with ColliPark for longevity. At the core of it, he’s still making music for that same artist. ColliPark, or Smurf as I call him because I’ve known him that long from his DJ Smurf days, he’s always been in the party. He’s always understood what that house party, skating rink, block party vibe was. He understands that the records that grow organically from these movements tend to blow up nationally. There’s a lot of records that really started at barbeques and in back yards that blew up nationally and a lot of those records, over the last 20, 25 years have ColliPark’s name on it. That goes for a lot of the early stuff going on in the ATL to the stuff that was going on in Miami during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, back to what’s going on even today with the movement in Dallas.
A lot of people really tried to label it regional and he was one of those people that was willing to put his name and his stamp and his power behind it to prove that these records and these movements would connect with a nationwide audience. He’s done it over and over again. No one would have ever thought that Ying Yang Twins, based on their perception of the artist and the group, would be more than a regional act. It was something that Colli saw in those boys.
It’s the same thing he saw in Soulja Boy and any of these kids. He’s been doing it for a very long time. He had a great eye and ear for talent and at the end of the day, he understands that the people in the party might change but the party don’t change. DJs will always play the records that the people will jam to and he’s got a good sense of what the DJs are playing all over the country.
Honorable Mention: Swizz Beatz
It’s amazing how Swizz Beatz reinvents himself without reinventing himself. The Swizz sound has evolved through time yet distinctly remains Swizzish. The same driving elements that made you want to dance to those DMX records are the same elements that he brings to the Jay-Z records to the Cassidy records. It’s the energy that only Swizz Beatz presents.
That energy has been able to transfer from the early ‘90s all the way to 2010 and 11, and not only be relevant but still be at the forefront. Swizz Beatz’s production has never been in the background. It’s never been meddling music. It’s always been at the forefront of not only hip-hop tastes, but popular tastes and that’s not something that’s very easily attainable. Very few people have been able to do that.
People like Timbaland, people like Jermaine Dupri and I think Swizz Beatz is one of them. But I think Swizz is doing it on a very, very high level right now. Even when Jermaine Dupri does records with Mariah Carey and stuff like that, they impact on a worldwide and on a global spectrum and that’s cool, but when you talk about hip-hop, I think Swizz Beatz’s sound is something that’s more hip-hop based that became popular, as opposed to as song that was designed to be popular.
Same thing with Timbaland. He made great pop records that transcended hip-hop, but that’s because he wanted to make big music. I think Swizz Beatz is one of the best people making big music right now.