The beats come first. Then rhymes and life.

A drum track or synth line that worms its way into your brain and refuses to relent can often make the lyrics feel secondary or complementary. If the beat is on point, the song can stick—on your playlist, in your car, in the club.

So, while the 2000s and our easy streaming habits would gradually (and sadly) bring an end to liner notes and devouring song credits, that certainly doesn’t make the hip-hop producer any less valuable. Just ask the last MC to spit a hot 16 over a dud of an instrumental.

While the past 19 years have been filled with wonderful rap music, and some dramatic stylistic shifts within, the following 45 producers have put in the greatest and most influential work behind the boards since the turn of the millennium.

A few big names carried forth or evolved their breakthrough careers established in the 1990s, but a legion of fresh producers—armed with a sharp ear and updated digital technology—have also made their mark and have enriched and shifted the sonic landscape, one kick drum at a time.

Behold, XXL's picks for the most important hip-hop producers since the year 2000, listed in alphabet order. —Luke Fox

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