Nondescript rappers have nothing to exhibit when left to their own devices. Selfish creation is the scourge that "pay-per-beat" producers work so hard to maintain. Therein lies the problem. A rethinking of the rapper-producer relationship would require one side to apply pressure tactics in negotiation. Of course, the chosen eight making up our list of "Breakout Producers Of 2018" don't fall in either category, because they were successful on two fronts: First, they settled into a sustainable groove - to which the "gig economy" did them no favors. Next, in importance, they all have that something special, responsible for the reversal of fortune they incurred in 2018.

Fundamentally speaking, the producer, even on his worst day, is the foundational element to any hip-hop record -  therefore the threshold for success is undeniably different for them as an "artist," due to a model of scarcity. There are more rappers than producers, which begs the question: why can't producers simply go on a work stoppage if their artistic conditions aren't being met?

The few producers who narrowly missed the cut are close to seeing their value taken for granted, for the very last time. Three names to look out for NEXT YEAR include Quay Global who is signed to Quality Control but misses out to his close resemblance to a member of the Top 8 - 16yrold, a post-millennial with ties to the distorted underground is also deserving of a mention. Lastly, the least known of the bunch (on a commercial scale) is Ron-Ron, the architect of the revamped LA sound spearheaded by rappers like Shoreline Mafia, 03 Greedo, and Drakeo the Ruler.


Tay Keith

Tay Keith is very deserving of gatekeeper status on this list. The sudden apparition of "Look Alive," was a portentous occasion for everyone not named Drake, who was in Memphis tracing the genealogy on his father’s side. But in doing so, Drake inadvertently put the focus back on the Memphis scene after seeing it reduced to a sample-base in contemporary culture (Project Pat samples and such.).

The “Memphis Slap” as Tay Keith has come to label it, was born out of bonelike sediments - minus the ghoulish vocal sampling imposed by local legends like Three 6 Mafia. In Tay Keith, Memphis has a new delegate, albeit one with a specialty formula sought by many outside the city limits.

Before the Drake-over took effect, regional superstars like Yo Gotti, MoneyBagg Yo, and Blac Youngsta were hitting him up on a B2B level. Fast track to December, and there isn’t a stone left unturned without Tay Keith’s name scribbled over it. Short of calling Tay Keith’s turnover rate a renaissance moment in Memphis rap, Tay Keith might just be the essential cog needed in defusing all the tension in the local scene propagated by Yo Gotti and Young Dolph.

Key Credits In '18:

Travis Scott - "Sicko Mode" ft. Drake
BlocBoy JB - "Look Alive" ft. Drake
6ix9ine - "STOOPID" ft. Bobby Shmurda.


D.A. Doman

David "D.A." Doman is no stranger to hip-hop circles, but maybe less so in the general sense. Doman’s preference of "clearer harmonies," differs from the other entrants on this list, owing itself to a multitude of experiences that fall outside of hip-hop. With Tyga’s comeback story of interest to an impassive fanbase, the impetus was on Doman to create a memorable sound capable of uplifting our spirits for more than a second-at-a-time. Both "Dip" and "Taste" were like a Godsend to an artist whose punchline style knows no jurisdiction, allowing Doman to institute a formula that has worked for them in the past, albeit with the slightest modern "retouch."

D.A. Doman has spent so much of his career catering to dance records/culture, that eventually the nightlife setting became the first habit of mind when he sits in his workshop. The simple who, what, where applies to everything in life, including making music that crawls down your spine in an unspeakable way. D.A. Doman is to 2018 what Timbaland, Scott Storch, and Just Blaze were to Y2K era.

Key Credits In '18: 

Kodak Black - “ZEZE” ft. Offset & Travis Scott
Tyga - “Taste” ft. Offset
Tyga - "Dip" ft. Nicki Minaj.


Turbo The Great

Gunna and Lil Baby made themselves indispensable in 2018 to the point where the “invisible third” member of their collusion forced himself into the conversation. No one person is greater than a solid team effort, yes. But if you had to reward one producer for making the “guitar loop” the natural successor to the flute as the single-”hottest property” in hip-hop, it would be Turbo The Great, no-questions-asked.

Turbo’s percussive style became synonymous with Lil Baby’s own, and together they became the cause célèbre for the guitar-driven sound. And though there is no formal letter to prove it credible, Turbo is largely responsible for Lil Baby’s learning curve as an artist, no less than Gunna. Artistic development is a task that often goes uncredited on a producer’s resume - Turbo knows this all too well. 

Key Credits In '18:

Gunna - "Sold Out Dates" ft. Lil Baby
Lil Baby & Gunna "Drip Too Hard"
Travis Scott - "YOSEMITE" ft. Nav & Gunna.


Kenny Beats

2018 was the year Kenny Beats learned to spread the wealth of his talents across an unlevel playing field. After departing from the game in dramatic fashion -for the EDM World, Kenny Beats returned at double-strength with new ideas. After canvassing the hip-hop World for the right fit, and growing bored in the process, Kenny Beats re-emerged a powerhouse producer by letting go of “impatience,” doubling down on his overall musicianship, and by sampling cultural dissonance courtesy his travels.

Whether it was as the sole producer on album as “scene-specific” as Vince Staples FM!, or through the confluence of ideas generated by his partnership with Rico Nasty, Kenny Beats realized that camaraderie is the difference between an organic studio relationship and the prevailing “mail-order” production system. It doesn’t always take a World tourney to encourage a change in perspective, but when it does, the playing field feels a lot more even.

Key Credits In '18: 

Vince Staples - “FUN!” ft. E-40
YoungBoy Never Broke Again - “Traumatized”
Freddie Gibbs - “Death Row” ft. 03 Greedo.


Cubeatz

The Cubeatz production duo of twin brothers Kevin and Tim Gomringer are the ideal byproduct of America’s culture of imports, given what we know about cultural integration. Cubeatz are super unusual in that regard: German-bred, but with an incredible “non-linguistic” feel for Black American culture. And to make things even more unusual, they only consort with American hip-hop acts, all without the “lived experience” that we take for granted in North America. Cubeatz do a great job of interpreting hip-hop culture with respect to the rules of engagement (in America).

Music can and will undergo weird cross-mutations on a global scale, but until the hip-hop community in America feels adequately supported, there is no need to dignify anyone’s attempt, be it a Gemini-act from the NorthWestern part of Europe. But Cubeatz are an exceptional case unlike the musical miscarriages the lie on its borders. In 2018, the duo's paw-prints were left all over, often disguised as collaborative efforts with more established producers like Hit-Boy and Murda Beatz.

Key Credits In '18:

Travis Scott - "Sicko Mode" ft. Drake
6ix9ine - "Fefe" ft. Nicki Minaj (co-produced with Murda Beatz)
SOB X RBE - "Paramedic!" ft. Kendrick Lamar.


Wheezy

Wheezy’s inclusion on this list will raise eyebrows, particularly among those with a far too personal commitment to all things Young Thug. For all intents and purposes, Wheezy has his foot in two inferences of ATL rap. Given how much responsibility Wheezy took upon himself with Thugger’s Barter 6 project, you would think he'd done enough to break out right there and then - but Wheezy was ultimately forced into a waiting position like the rest of the artists under Young Thug’s tutelage. So in a lot of ways, Wheezy only “broke out” when he stepped into the light, after years of absorption had taken effect.

It all breaks down to a perfect circle: Wheezy made himself invaluable to Thugger, after being introduced the YSL-head by Peewee Longway, who was at the time, the very center of ATL rap communion while Gucci Mane was imprisoned. Several years later, the adjustments Wheezy made to minimize his production style would endear him to Drake, who as you'll likely remark, is behind a majority the “breakout moments” in 2018. Wheezy’s work on Lil Baby’s "Yes Indeed" is a pretty good place to start, if you missed out on the Barter 6 the first time around.

Key Credits In ‘18:

Meek Mill - "Going Bad" ft. Drake
Lil Baby - “Yes Indeed” ft. Drake
Young Thug - "Chanel (Go Get It)" ft. Gunna & Lil Baby


Take A Daytrip

Read the fine print if you must, Take A Daytrip’s “Mo Bamba” stencil dates back to a makeshift studio session in 2017, when David Biral and Denzel Baptiste were finicking with "turn up" music in a way we hadn't heard before. The simple chord progression on Sheck Wes’ viral hit “Mo Bamba” is in fact, only the introductory statement from these two SoHo residents and their growing list of clients.

In fact, Take A Daytip or daytrip in short, found a sustainable groove within the “industry” by becoming incredibly receptive to the needs of the artists they work with - never more apparent than in their efforts with Juice WRLD, whose music strongly depends on emotional retention. Without the appropriate instrumental plug-ins, Juice WRLD's music would be fruitless, or less imaginable to the rest of the WRLD. Then without as much as a blown whistle, Biral and Baptiste are off the races with one of their other clients, this time with direct orders to blow the bass right out the system. 

Key Credits in '18: 

YBN Cordae - "Kung Fu"
Vince Staples - "Home"
Juice WRLD - "Legends"


ChaseTheMoney

"ChaseTheMoney, ChaseTheMoney" is perhaps more prominent a tagline than its purveyor could have ever hoped. The St. Louis-native is within an arm’s length from the chosen few who willingly scratch his back. ChaseTheMoney, only a few months removed from reaching the legal drinking age in the United States, found a roundabout to the big KIDS table by posing with an odd cast of characters - "irregulars" like Valee and Zmoney who share his vision of a “dust-filled” trap-rap for the ages.

ChaseTheMoney is part of a growing contingent of auteurs bucking the current trends from the inside-out. Fighting the urge to co-opt a “dark motif” wasn’t fully scalable in 2018, because the demand was set by another St. Louis-native you might be familiar with, Metro Boomin. Now that Metro has his sights set on a more “comprehensive” production style, ChaseTheMoney along with Tay Keith, are next in line to fill those shoes on an intuitive scale. 

Key Credits In '18:

JID - “Off Deez” ft. J. Cole
Valee - “Skinny”
Smokepurpp - “Nephew” ft. Lil Pump.