The Nas classic Illmatic showed how you can hand pick an all-star line up of producers to craft a soundscape that can perfectly fit the picture that the lyricist is trying to make. But what happens when a producer tries to do the same and assemble a line up of different rappers to make their point over his beats and then try to shape that into an album? Hit or miss is usually the general consensus and for whatever reason, it’s tough for a producer to make the same kind of noise whilst essentially playing the same game. A lot of the time they fail when it comes to consistency and employing rappers based on name value rather than what they can contribute to the vision. Here are five of the top albums that follow this mold:
The Alchemist – 1st Infantry: The 2004 solo debut by The Alchemist had a guest list that both underground and more mainstream fans would salivate over. While the hip-hop world was certainly no stranger to the man that had laced beats for Defari, Terror Squad, Pharoahe Monch, Capone-N-Noreaga, Dilated Peoples, Mobb Deep, Nas and Ghostface Killah among others before dropped his first attempt at a solo album. 1st Infantry boasted more of the same gritty street level, good quality hip-hop music from his usual collaborators. The chemistry between ALC and the MC’s chosen for the record was so organic and natural that the record really did feel like a collaborative album with everyone on the same page, rather than a handful of songs that happen to all have the same beat maker.
Statik Selektah – Extended Play: While this wasn’t his first crack at making a production album it is definitely a fan favorite. Dropping 12 years after he first hit the scene with fellow Boston native Reks the thing that sets this record apart from a lot of other production albums is the fact that it merges several eras seamlessly with collaborations like the Raekwon, Joey Bada$$ and Black Thought laced “Birds Eye View” and Smiff N Wessun teaming up with Flatbush Zombies on “Camouflage Dons”. A near perfect ode to the soulful and hard-hitting essence of East Coast Hip-hop.
Pete Rock – Soul Survivor: The soul brother Pete Rock dropped his first solo effort in 1998, 4 years after The Main Ingredient with C.L. Smooth to quench our thirst for the laid back minimalistic jazzy hip-hop that was seemingly lacking in the late 90’s. Whilst sprinkling his own vocals on a handful of songs, an all-star consisting of Kurupt, Kool G Rap, Big Pun, Prodigy, Tragedy and several Wu-Tang Clan members also joined him throughout the release to make sure things stayed fresh but consistent.
Jake One – White Van Music: While Jake One wasn’t a household name, he had contributed to albums from the likes of 50 Cent, Evidence, De La Soul, G Unit, and Mix Master Mike before the release of his 2008 production album White Van Music. The Rhymesayers release was a brilliant blend of backpacker purist favorites like Slug of Atmosphere, Little Brother and two separate MF DOOM tracks and the hardcore styling of artists like M.O.P., Freeway, and Busta Rhymes. Since then he has continued to walk that same tightrope having provided audio backdrops for J. Cole, Drake and The Weeknd.
DJ Skizz – High Powered: Although he’s been around for over a decade DJ Skizz’s name has really come to light as the producer behind the mysterious Your Old Droog whom you may remember from the Nas alter ego rumors that were circling around his self-titled debut (which is quite the flattering comparison). This year he dropped a short production album of just 7 tracks, which seems to be the thing to do at this point in time. While people will check this out due to the Westside Gunn, Conway and Freeway track ‘Dead Wrong’ and the hard body title track that features Vinnie Paz, Lil Fame and Jakk Frost there are certainly hidden gems from YL and Starker, DITC’s Milano and Nems, Willie Da Kid, Planet Asia and Crimeapple and the ever respected Detroit veteran Ty Farris. This is certainly worth checking out for those interested in a little something old and a little something new. It is certainly proven that chemistry and artistic vision is far more important than name recognition when it comes to crafting the perfect compilation album.