In 2020, hip-hop has no signature sound. Back in the day, the genre could perhaps be identified by distinct drum patterns and melodies that were made in a certain year, but now, anything goes. We live in a time where some of the most bold, talented producers in the game are creating beats with limitless potential. Over the last 12 months, hip-hop producers proved just how lucrative the pool of talent is as the beats they've crafted have been certified as streaming hits and chart-topping successes.
For some producers, full projects were the way to solidify their stamp on 2020. Hit-Boy, a Grammy Award-winning audio architect, executive produced albums for Nas (King’s Disease), Big Sean (Detroit 2) and Benny The Butcher (Burden of Proof) this year. On these offerings, he effortlessly ricocheted between different chord progressions, sample packs and drum kits to create revered collections.
The same goes for the trap savant Metro Boomin, who challenged himself to keep his sound fresh this year. Housed on the long-anticipated Savage Mode 2 album with 21 Savage are Metro's beats like “Runnin,” which will make you want to catch a body, and “Steppin On Niggas,” a soundscape to inspire anyone to grab some cardboard and start breakdancing.
And before we jump into this entire list of producers, OG’s like The Alchemist have refused to fade away as well. He’s only getting stronger with time and projects like Freddie Gibbs’ Alfredo, which recently got a 2021 Grammy nom, is a testament to that amongst the other prolific beats he's shocked life into.
There are plenty of names that are worthy enough to crack this top 50 list, and even more aux chord go-to songs that prove why they should be in this discussion. So today, XXL highlights 50 of the best beat curators in 2020. You can peep some of your favorites below.
Heard in the jubilant co-production of Big Sean's "Deep Reverance" with Nipsey Hussle this year, it's evident that Hit-Boy has been in beast mode all 2020. He started the year off taking home a Grammy for Nipsey's “Racks in the Middle” featuring Roddy Ricch, and continued to apply pressure by executive producing entire albums for Nas (King’s Disease), Benny The Butcher (Burden of Proof) and Sean Don (Detroit 2). With a run that features additional link-ups with trap rappers like Lil Baby ("Catch The Sun") and R&B legends like Brandy ("Baby Mama"), his crown for, arguably, the producer of the year is propped up by the versatility he possesses.
Metro Boomin came back in 2020 like he never left. The St. Louis-bred, Atlanta-living producer handled the entirety of the production (and tapped a few other producers for assists) on the long anticipated Savage Mode 2, which was well worth the wait and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart in October. Among the 15 songs on the album, the haunting �����Runnin,” the boombox joint “Steppin on Niggas” and the flip of 50 Cent's “Many Men” on the track of the same name left 21 ample room to make his modern day murder music.
Jetsonmade surged to the top 10 of the Billboard charts with DaBaby's "Suge” last year, and now, the 23-year-old producer found his way back toward the top again with co-production on Jack Harlow’s “Whats Poppin.” If that song (which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100) and its remix (which features Lil Wayne, Tory Lanez and DaBaby), didn’t convince you, perhaps it's his co-production on J. Cole’s “Lion King On Ice” or Playboi Carti’s “@ Meh” that will do the trick.
After nearly 25 years in the game, The Alchemist's sample-based sound is still eminent. In 2020, the sonic manipulator brought to life Freddie Gibbs’ Alfredo, Boldy James’ The Price of Tea in China and Conway The Machine’s Lulu—all revered efforts on top of his own project, The Food Villian. The California native is still as good as he’s always been, further demonstrated on songs like Jay Electronica's "The Neverending Story" with The-Dream and Jay-Z, co-production on Eminem's "Stepdad" and Gibbs' "Something to Rap About" with Tyler, The Creator.
SethInTheKitchen kept the kettle hot this year. The rising producer is most notably responsible for laying the pulse of DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s hit song “Rockstar,” which spent seven weeks as the No. 1 song in the country in 2020, and received three 2021 Grammy Award nominations for its impact, especially during the months of quarantine. This is only the beginning for Seth, and he's got a massive start.
Wheezy’s on another planet at this point. Repping YSL Records, the 28-year-old producer continues to reign as a trusted source for generating trap ballads. You can thank him for making Lil Uzi Vert's “Strawberry Peels” with Young Thug and Gunna, co-producing on Future’s Travis Scott-assisted “Solitaries,” and Lil Baby and Young Thug’s Hardy Brothers-style performances on “We Should.”
Supah Mario was working as a janitor before he scored big and copped production credits on Drake’s More Life project. Since then, his momentum has been steady. The South Carolina-raised producer added astronomical production value to Lil Uzi Vert’s LUV vs. The World 2 standout “Silly Watch," as well as co-production on “Myron” and the nostalgic Backstreet Boys rewrap “That Way.”
When you hear the producer tag, “Cook that shit up, Quay!,” your ears have likely become accustomed to listening to some fire following it. Some of the standout work Quay Global has done this year would be Lil Baby and Gunna’s “Heatin Up,” NLE Choppa’s “Narrow Road” featuring Lil Baby, DaBaby’s “Peep Hole” and co-production on the City Girl’s 2 Live Crew rework “That Old Man.” Chef Quay has been busy.
Argentinian producer Z3n hit the states by way of the tidal wave he’s initiated in the world of hip-hop over the past few years. The emerging producer played a role in blossoming YNW Melly’s track “Suicidal.” The 2020 remix features the fallen legend-in-the-making Juice Wrld and cracked the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, something that Z3n has done before with tracks like “Don’t Cry” by Lil Wayne and XXXTentacion.
Alongside his producer-in-rhyme Keyz, Ayo secured his first-ever No. 1 song by co-producing Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s hit “WAP” The controversial track, also co-written by the pair, broke a record for having the most streams in a week (93 million) and was the talk of the media everywhere from Twitter to CNN. Talk about cultural impact.
Lil Mosey’s feel-good record “Blueberry Faygo” has become a new school cleaning-the-house and cookout staple. The nod for its bubbly production, which samples a sped up version of Johnny Gill’s classic “My, My, My,” can be given to Seattle's own Callan. Only a few songs still find major success after being leaked, and they have to be that good to do just that, as this top 10-charting song did after hitting the ’net by leakers before its official January 2020 arrival.
Lil Uzi Vert put on for Philly by drafting producer Brandon Finessin to create beats for Uzi's sophomore album, Eternal Atake. With co-production on records like “Baby Pluto,” “Lo Mein” and “Futsal Shuffle 2020,” on top of additional credits on Future and Uzi’s collaborative tape, Pluto x Baby Pluto, Brandon Finessin has garnered enough noteworthy material to walk and talk like he’s in his prime. So far, he’s undefeated when it comes to his track record on wax.
Following Juice Wrld's tragic death last December, the first posthumous single his estate put out is “Righteous.” The guitar-driven track features production from Nick Mira and Charlie Handsome, who’s previously worked with everyone from Ariana Grande to Kodak Black. The Billboard Hot 100-charting song is the frontrunner in a slew of other quality Juice singles Charlie tag-teamed with Rex Kudo like “Up Up and Away” and the Halsey-assisted “Life’s A Mess.”
OZ has had his hands in most of Drake's drops this year. He started 2020 off by lending his "simple" stylistics on “Life Is Good” alongside Ambezza and D. Hill. And the paramount TikTok song “Toosie Slide," which sparked over 6 billion video creations on the platform. Even with those major wins under his belt, OZ continued to co-produce Drizzy and DJ Khaled's aux-cord gems “Greece” and “Popstar,” as well as Drake's own “Losses” and "Time Flies"—the latter of which OZ handled by himself.
Internet Money founder Taz Taylor made a lot of noise this year by positioning himself alongside the rap game’s most promising rookies. Taz has a long list of records he's either overseen or co-produced for artists like Trippie Redd ("Fuck Love"), Rich The Kid ("Plug Walk") and YK Osiris ("Worth It"), among others. This year, he worked with The Kid Laroi, Lil Tecca, 24kGoldn, Iann Dior and Ty Fontaine on Internet Money’s debut album, B4 The Storm. The collective’s most popular song this year is “Lemonade” featuring Don Toliver, Nav and Gunna, which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is a streaming smash with over 413 million streams. Taz co-produced that record with Nick Mira, Alec Wigdahl, E-Trou and Pharaoh Vice.
The country was on tilt this summer because of the protests stemming from systematic racism and police brutality. Lil Baby was one of the first artists to put out music addressing the ways in which cops treat Black men and women in America with “The Bigger Picture,” produced by Noah Pettigrew and Section 8. The Grammy Award-nominated song became the sound of the movement. This was undoubtedly one of the biggest songs of the summer, as well as "We Paid" by Baby and 42 Dugg, which Section 8 also produced.
Chances are, before the coronavirus kept people in quarantine this year, you were hitting the scene, getting lit and screaming the lyrics to Drake and Future’s “Life Is Good.” Ambezza, a somewhat mysterious beat composer, co-produced the two-part banger. He also made his presence felt by offering his helping hand on 42 Dugg and Marshmello’s “Baggin,” Lil Keed’s “Kiss Em Peace,” and Young Thug and Chris Brown’s “Help Me Breathe” with Future.
The Fruity Loops come up has never tasted so sweet for people like Oogie Mane. Back in 2012, he was one of the aspiring producers using the pioneering technology to create his sound. Proven in his co-production for tracks like Lil Uzi Vert’s “Myron,” “Lotus” and Baby Keem’s “Hooligan," it’s safe to say that the Philly-bred producer has found what works best.
After establishing himself by working with big-time names like Juice Wrld ("Made It Work"), Roddy Ricch ("Feed Tha Streets 2 Intro") and Chief Keef ("I Need More"), KBeaZy took another stride this year with his services on 24kGoldn and Iann Dior’s “Mood,” co-produced with Omer Fedi and Blake Slatkin. Once the song climbed into the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, KBeaZy became the youngest producer in Billboard chart history to achieve that status. Flaunting more of his versatility, he picked up additional credits on Kehlani's "Toxic" and Lil Wayne's "Drag ’Em."
In case you didn't know, Travis Scott's DJ Chase B also doubles as an in-house producer for the Jackboys collective. While playing music on the .Wav radio show he co-hosts, he's hinted at a future collaborative project with La Flame. But in the meantime, Travis' longtime friend spent his 2020 proving what that project may sound like by co-producing on the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1-charting song “Franchise” featuring Young Thug and M.I.A. He's also co-produced on his own track, “Cafeteria” with Don Toliver and Gunna.
Keyz has made huge leaps forward on the Billboard charts as his time in the game transpired. With his accomplice Ayo, the beat-making duo most notably elevated to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 with production on Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s beast-of-a-record “WAP.” Aside from that, they also got busy on Jadakiss' Ignatius ("Need Your Best") and Bryson Tiller's Trapsoul deluxe ("Self Righteous") this year.
Every beat Mike WiLL Made-It created this year proves he only gets better with age. His stat sheet for 2020 includes top-notch co-production on Lil Yachty and Future's "Pardon Me," Big Sean's "Harder Than My Demons" and Gunna's "Dollaz On My Head" featuring Young Thug. No other songs are needed to prove that this man still possesses the power to make people rise from their seats with the flick of a few keys.
Plain Pat, the early manager of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, has stepped more into his production bag over the years. The Jansport this year includes co-production on Drake’s Scorpion throwaway “Deep Pockets” and The Scotts' self-titled song, which gave Kid Cudi his first-ever Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song and Travis his third behind “Sicko Mode” and “Highest in the Room.”
Omer Fedi has gotten really cozy on the Billboard charts in 2020. The multi-talented songwriter and producer earned the bragging rights for co-producing a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song: “Mood” by 2020 XXL Freshman 24kGoldn and Iann Dior. In summary with that, his help crafting The Kid Laroi and Juice Wrld's "Go" gave him another massive streaming hit, garnering over 154 million streams on Spotify.
Platinum plaques are now essentially a requirement for D.A. Got That Dope. After landing huge records like Chris Brown and Drake’s “Privacy,” Kodak Black's “ZeZe” and Tyga’s “Taste” under his belt, he made room to add a few more in 2020. He’s already scratched certifications off his list for co-production on the monstrous Eminem and Juice Wrld song “Godzilla," and for the entirety of G Herbo’s tribute to the fallen with “PTSD” featuring Lil Uzi Vert, Juice and Chance The Rapper. Now, he awaits his next with Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby’s most unique song to date, “Cry Baby.”
This year wasn’t Mustard's loudest or by far his best yet, but his energy was still felt in major ways on tracks like “West Coast Shit” by Pop Smoke (co-produced with Bongo) “Freak” by Tyga and Megan Thee Stallion (co-produced with Pliznaya) and “Y U Mad” by Wiz Khalifa (co-produced with Larry Jayy). Keeping things in the family, Mustard also notably got it popping with his day one friend for Ty Dolla $ign’s heat rock “Real Life” featuring Roddy Ricch.
Chopsquad DJ has etched his name into Chicago’s famous hip-hop history by working with artists like Chief Keef (“I Just Wanna”) and Lil Durk (“No Standards”). This year, he kept the energy consistent by scoring co-production credit’s on Juice Wrld’s “Wishing Well” and handling the entire beat design of King Von’s storytelling gem “Took Her to the O.” Chopsquad was also at the helm of Von's songs "Armed & Dangerous," "GTA," "Demon" and "Wayne's Story," among others. He even crafted beats for NLE Choppa’s From Dark to Light EP ("Body Catchers") and Trippie Redd’s Pegasus album ("No Honorable Mention").
Hitmaka has had one of the most successful rebranding stories in hip-hop history. Formerly known as Yung Berg, the sample savant spent 2020 doing what he does best: resurfacing older gems on tracks like T.I.’s “Moon Juice”—the sample used is Tha Eastsidaz and Butch Cassidy’s “G'd Up.” Though he's been in the game for decades now, the Chi-town-based producer also worked with rap newcomers this year like Mulatto for “Off Top” with 42 Dugg. And Tyla Yaweh on the DaBaby-assisted “Stuntin’ On You.”
Murda Beatz's producer tag is heard on songs just about as often as 808s are. In the last 365 days, the busy beat-builder housed his wide-ranging beats on Lil Baby’s double platinum album My Turn ("Forget That" co-produced with Tyler Armes and "How"), PartyNextDoor’s Partymobile ("Turn Up," "Nothing Less" and "Another Day"—all co-produced with Cardiak) and Ty Dolla $ign’s newest album, Featuring Ty Dolla $ign ("Tyrone 2021," created along with Ty). His limitless co-production was also lent to Polo G's "Beautiful Pain (Losin My Mind)," Mulatto's City Girls-featured "In ‘n’ Out" and Ariana Grande's "Motive" with Doja Cat.
As one of Quality Control’s most talented producers, who has tracks like the City Girls' “Act Up” attached to his name, Earl on the Beat spent 2020 on the same type of time. The Atlanta-bred producer created the beat for Lil Keed’s breakout song “Wavy,” Lil Yachty's "Oprah’s Bank Account” featuring Drake and DaBaby, and the City Girls’ “That Old Man” with Quay Global. Not to mention, his audible sound was all over seven songs on Yachty's Lil Boat 3.
We’ve all witnessed the way Pi'erre Bourne can effortlessly bounce between rapping and producing. On top of dropping the deluxe version of his The Life of Pi'erre 4 album this year, Pi'erre is also responsible for composing the car speaker-certified heater “Pain 1993” by Drake and Playboi Carti. The 27-year-old producer also shined with production on some of Lil Uzi Vert's best 2020 tracks, including "Yessirskiii" with 21 Savage, "Money Spread," "Bean (Kobe)" and "Wassup."
Aside from trending every few months on Twitter for people using his name in a word association game, Kenny Beats has been busy with the beats. The sounds he co-created— heard on Fivio Foreign and Polo G’s “Bop It,” Smino and J.I.D’s “Baguetti”, and Headie One’s “F U Pay Me”—all have beat depth that showcase why he was one of the biggest producers in rap during 2019. From his actions in 2020, it's evident that he's still good for making head-knockers.
A string god of sorts, Blake Slatkin has been making a name for himself by adding acoustic guitar properties to songs by Rod Wave ("Chip on My Shoulder"), Lil Tecca ("Miss Me") and, of course, 2kGoldn and Iann Dior ("Mood"). To this day, the latter's No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 song has to be unlawfully forced out of the top five at this point—it's been there for six weeks of the year so far. Slatkin got busy with Lil Bibby's Grade A Productions too, co-producing additional records for Juice Wrld (“Bad Energy”) and The Kid Laroi (“Without You").
When it comes to production, Tay Keith doesn't miss. This year, the Memphis-bred producer extended his talents to artists like Lil Nas X for "Holiday" (co-produced with Take A Daytrip), Megan Thee Stallion’s “Movie” featuring Lil Durk, and Blac Youngsta's “I Met Tay Keith First” featuring Moneybagg Yo and Lil Baby. He also served up the beat for Lil Baby's “Commercial” featuring Lil Uzi Vert. One of his best beats of the year comes alongside Mike WiLL Made-It again for Polo G’s "Go Stupid” with NLE Choppa and Stinna 4 Vegas. The beat is exactly that.
Even after working with the game’s biggest names (Drake, Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar) rapper-turned-producer Cardo still keeps an array of ideas in his cannon. This year, he helped make the beat for Drizzy’s Grammy Award-nominated, Certified Lover Boy album track “Laugh Now Cry Later” with Lil Durk. He doubled back with both artists, too, and co-produced Drizzy’s “Landed” and Durkio’s “Street Prayer.” A whole collaborative project with Larry June called Cruise USA was released, too.
Prior to this year, Big Sean was on a major rap break. 2020 marked the time of return for the Detroit rapper, and one of his first singles of the year was the Nipsey Hussle-featured tell-all “Deep Reverence.” Parts of the intoxicating beat can be appreciated by giving a nod to the same man who also helped create Lil Uzi Vert’s “Prices” and Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later”: Rogét Chahayed.
Masked-up DJ Marshmello has successfully merged himself into the world of hip-hop once again in 2020. The mysterious producer dropped two back to back Billboard Hot 100 top 10 songs with the late Juice Wrld (“Come & Go” and “Hate The Other Side” featuring Polo G and The Kid Laroi, which landed at No. 7), which both served as massive singles for Juice’s posthumous album, Legends Never Die. With a melodic, electric string-heavy foundation, “Come & Go” debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100, matching “Lucid Dreams” as Juice’s highest-charting song ever.
Seeing how he’s been creating music since the age of 12, calling Buddah Bless a well-seasoned vet would be an understatement. The near 30-year-old producer is actually getting stronger with time in a world where things could easily go in reverse. He kept the beats slapping (open hand) this year with Migos and YoungBoy Never Broke Again’s “Need It,” Pop Smoke’s “Snitching,” co-produced with Seth The Chef, Future and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Million Dollar Play,” created with Zaytoven, and “Shots Fired” by Megan Thee Stallion.
LilJuMadeTheBeat gets the first ticket in line whenever Megan Thee Stallion starts probing for producers. For two of her biggest songs this year (“Captain Hook” and the newly released “Body”), they were custom-made by none other than the Dallas-born creative who goes by Lil Ju. As the man who previously assembled the production for Meg's “Cash Shit” with DaBaby and “Big Ole Freak,” we can confidently say that he and Megan are seriously a force to be reckoned with. He lived up to the hype this year.
808 Mafia cofounder Southside hasn't let his foot off the gas yet. In 2020, he’s laid the preliminary groundwork for artists like 42 Dugg ("Been Turnt"), City Girls ("Pussy Talk"), Future ("Ridin Strikers," co-produced with CuBeatz, VOU and ATL Jacob) and Drake ("D4L" with Young Thug and Future). He even produced alongside Marshmello ("Been Thru This Before" featuring Giggs and Saint Jhn), adding more versatility to his already great repertoire.
Miami's own Smash David started the year off hot by bringing to life Rich The Kid's DaBaby-featured track "Sick," co-produced with 1Mind, and "Not Sorry" featuring Nicki Minaj. Showing off his ability to craft a beat of any mold, he went on co-produce YoungBoy Never Broke Again's "My Window" featuring Lil Wayne, Dej Loaf's "No Ceiling" featuring Gunna and Dave East's "Sexual" featuring Chris Brown. With his hands in a lot of studio sessions, he's been active and thriving this year.