Producers have arguably one of the most important jobs in music. When an artist wants to brainstorm an idea for a new song, it isn't uncommon for them to get paired up with a songwriter or producer to help get the creative juices flowing. It's also common practice for a rapper to enlist the help of a close confidant whose opinion they trust.

Collaboration is what makes the best art possible, and when a rising rapper or even a hip-hop superstar has financial and societal pressure to put out good art, why would they not bring people on board to help them out? These days, it seems like it's rare to see just one producer on a track. Production credits look like an actual tracklist with the amount of people contributing to one release. So, why is this the case?

There Are A Lot of Cooks in the Production Kitchen

Many of the world's biggest artists will have numerous people in the studio with them, whether it be songwriters, engineers, producers or other creative confidants. Even Drake has previously acknowledged how much he benefits from colluding in the studio with other writers.

"How do I get better? I push myself really hard," Drake said in an interview back in 2013. "I have great opinions in the studio like me, 40 and Hush we all sit in the studio... I try not to sacrifice any bar. I'll sit there on the last two lines of a verse for three, four days if I need to."

Hush, real name Anthony Palman, is a well-known songwriter and is credited as a writer on almost every song on Drake's Nothing Was The Same album.

The same argument can be made for producers. While each track may have a main producer who cooked up the initial beat, collaboration is what makes an instrumental really shine, which ultimately leads to more cooks in the kitchen and more credits listed.

In the winter 2024 issue of XXL magazine, Nik Dean told XXL that he had crafted part of the beat for Travis Scott's "Skitzo," which appears on his latest album, Utopia. However, the production credits include additional listings from Boi-1da, WondaGurl, Slim Pharoah and six others. This is because Trav implemented beat switches and other effects that embellished the initial instrumental shared. Regardless, Nik Dean maintains that having a Trav placement in his catalog of production credits made Nik go into "hype mode," especially since it also led to a Grammy nomination.

Read More: Metro Boomin Wins Producer of the Year For XXL Awards 2024

It's Fairly Easy to Get a Production Credit

But these small tinkerings also mean it can take very little to earn a production credit, especially in the era of sampling. Ethically speaking, even if a producer goes in and merely warps a drum or adds a synth, they're entitled to a production credit. This means the list of producers on one track can stack up quite quickly since most producers often have a credit requirement listed in their contract. The same can be said for flipping or sampling a song. Usually, the artist behind that track will be credited as a songwriter.

As noted by the music distribution company Amuse, the most common deal struck between an artist and producer provides a flat fee to the latter for their work, followed by net royalties. However, in the world of the internet, artists sometimes just pull a producer's beat off YouTube or a similar site and use it either without paying or paying a low fee. The same can be said about sampling, especially if the sample was never copyrighted.

Hardcore rap fans noted that Beyoncé's 2022 song, "America Has a Problem," uses the "Ahh" scratch intermittently throughout. As reported by The Hustle, this scratch is technically from Beside's 1982 song "Change The Beat." The scratch has been used by dozens of rappers in the years since its inception including Beastie Boys, Missy Elliott and Bad Bunny. While Beside is technically entitled to thousands of dollars as a result of the "Ahh" scratch, the legal infrastructure to protect sampling didn't start to exist until the early 1990s.

Listen to Beyoncé's "America Has a Problem" Featuring Kendrick Lamar

Listen to Beside's "Change The Beat"

During much of the 1990s, producers weren't properly compensated. DJ Shok took DMX's Ruff Ryders to court over unpaid royalties in 2021, and was awarded millions of dollars after claiming he made songs for over a decade for DMX, Big Pun and other artists without ever seeing a dime. This disheartening trend has unfortunately continued well into the 2020s, with young up-and-coming producers struggling to get paid their fair share.

Streaming has made this issue worse due to an increase in the volume of songs being released, with lawyers being unable to keep up with who gets paid.

"What you’re seeing happening with the streaming economy is there are a lot more records being released, which means a lot more collaborations, which means a lot more agreements,” Jordan Bromley, a partner at Manatt Entertainment, told Rolling Stone in 2020. "Frankly, the load of work for a lot of law firms is too heavy to handle. Producers’ clearances get put at the bottom of a growing pile."

If a Producer Adds on to the Beat, They'll Get a Credit

Despite these disputes, producer credits have continued to be sprinkled generously onto dozens of songs. Cash Cobain—who produced Drake's "Calling For You" beat alongside Yachty, PoWR Trav and others—recently told XXL he wasn't sure how it happens.

"I don't even know how it works," Cobain said. "People add on least on my end, I'll be in the studio, creating a beat and somebody else will be like, 'Let me add on to it.'"

This formula of layering producers on a song also hasn't stopped reaping big rewards for artists and labels alike. Each of the biggest rap songs from 2021 to 2023 had multiple producers on it.

  • Lil Nas X's "Industry Baby" featuring Jack Harlow produced by Drew Sliger, Roy Lenzo, Ojivolta, Nick Lee, Kanye West and Take a Daytrip (2021)
  • DJ Khaled's "God Did" featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne and Fridayy produced by DJ Khaled, STREETRUNNER, Tarik Azzouz and Fridayy (2022)
  • Doja Cat's "Paint The Town" produced by Earl on the Beat, Karl Rubin, Jean Baptiste and DJ Replay (2023)

There remains plenty of standalone artist and producer match-ups out there. One of the biggest rapper-producer duos in recent years is Ice Spice and RIOTUSA, but these songs make a compelling argument that collaboration breeds bigger records. So, while the public's perception of a rapper may diminish based on how many producers or songwriting credits are listed, isn't it more important that the song sounds good and that everyone gets paid?

Read More: Here Are The Best Hip-Hop Producers of 2023

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