Footnotes: Four Producers To Watch

Footnotes is where we take a deeper look at the music surrounding our magazine's featured artists. In this issue we caught up with four new producers—Mike Will Made It, Paris Beuller, DJ Mustard and Chuck Strangers—working at the forefront of rap music, some freakishly inventive and others wisely deferential to the genre’s past. Here are songs to get to know them by.

Tyga, “Rack City” Careless World: Rise of the Last King (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal 2012)
DJ Mustard’s instrumental for "Rack City” incorporates only three hypnotically looped notes: A, G# and C#. Just that, marching drums and a recurring Hey. It’s not deceptively simple, it is simple. Instantly memorable. Anyone can hum the entire song, but more importantly, the basic melody can be retriggered from the deep recesses of your brain at any time: you’re walking down the street, some construction worker dings a sewer pipe in the same general key, and it’s back. Young Money’s wunderkind Tyga and the gaggle of high-profile rappers who hijacked the track for themselves weren’t so much the song’s pilots as they were the paint job on the plane; this beat was taking off regardless. DC

Future, “Turn on the Lights” Pluto (Epic 2012)
On “If You Knew What It Took,” a tender track from his 2011 Streetz Calling tape, Future promises fans that his voice will always be raspy and full of soul. Imma try to spit my lung up!, he yelps, and on “Turn on the Lights,” it sounds like he actually is. Wailing about the girl of his dreams while Mike Will’s steady snares cheer him on, Future’s voice cracks but never sags, so each wide-eyed proclamation of desperation seems a feat unto itself. In between the melody and the crushing downbeat, Will works in a tiny, percolating orchestra of 808s and pokes of synth, each note like a separate bulb clicking on. NZ

Lil Durk, “L’s Anthem” (Def Jam 2012)
Paris Beuller, the producer of “L’s Anthem,” isn’t doing anything unprecedented. He’s working under a similar rubric to Young Chop, Chicago’s big name in beats, but he puts a kooky spin on the city’s drill sound, as if he were trying out whatever bells and whistles he had lying around. The keyboards are real squishy, and there’s a gong and a wheezing airhorn, too. It goes by at a medium pace, and Lil Durk attacks with a slow boil. “L’s Anthem” is Durk’s first official single after signing his Def Jam deal and, like Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” did for Young Chop, it could become a calling card. MS

Joey Badass, “Summer Knights” 1999 (Internet 2012)
Chuck Strangers did the beat on this track from Joey Bada$$’s 1999 mixtape like he’d time-traveled to the New York City of his elementary school years. From the repeated xylophone cascade to the ephemeral field recordings of conversation, “Summer Knights” is oozing with nostalgia for the late-’90s golden era of low-key hip-hop, the time of Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It sounds pretty fresh in its simplicity, but when Bada$$ tells us that, it’s been a minute since they seen a style with no gimmicks, you’ve got to wonder whether making music that sounds like something old is really the same thing as doing something new. EF

Footnotes: Four Producers To Watch