The artiste usually receives most of the fame, attention, and glory when it comes to music. They’re the ones that get the appreciation when people listen to the track and nod their heads in enjoyment or go to concerts and scream their names. But, for lack of better parlance, they’ll just be yarning dust without the music producer’s efforts.
Because you see those extra effects that give a song that pomp and pizzaz, those sounds and accouterments that you might register only subliminally but altogether give the track flair, that’s all the music producer. They’re the unsung heroes of the music world. Yet you never see anyone screaming their lungs out for Pheelz, The Mr. Producer, or Sylvia Massy at a concert (that’s even if they knew the name of the producer who mixed and mastered the song).
Quite unfair, if you ask me since without them, the artiste will probably be sounding like a Nursery two pupil who was called out in front of the school to sing the national anthem. So, without further ado, let’s check out some of the best music producers.
Best Producers in Nigeria
Charity begins at home, right? As always, my list is in no particular order since it is not in me to downplay someone’s talents.
It’s nigh impossible to miss a Sarz-produced track, seeing as it starts with the iconic Beats by Sarz or Sarz on the beat calling card. Born Osabuohien Osaretin, Sarz is a Nigerian music producer whose first full credit production work was See Drama for Lord of Ajasa in 2007. Since then, he has produced different club bangers and hit songs and worked with top-flight artists like Reminisce, Wizkid, and Goldie. He was formerly signed to Trybe Records but currently runs his solo brand.
You cannot name yourself legendary and not be good at what you do. The sibling duo of Uzezi Oniko and Okiemute Oniko, who call themselves Legendury Beatz, are that. Extremely good. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t know that they were two until you read this because I didn’t. See what I said about music producers being underappreciated?
Legendary Beatz made international headlines in the Nigerian recording industry less than a year after they started their journey with the critically acclaimed Azonto, which Wizkid performed. Since then, they have been noted for their extensive work with him and for producing consecutive strings of hit songs. They have also worked with other top-flight artistes like 2face, Banky W, Sheyi Shay, and Chidinma, as well as foreign ones like the American rapper Wale and British rappers Yxng Bane and Tinie Tempah, and Urbano Latino artiste Bad Bunny.
A.k.a. the Wicked Producer, Udomboso John Saviours, rose to fame after producing the critically acclaimed single Story For The Gods for Olamide. His efforts on the albums Street OT and 2 Kings earned him a nomination in the Producer of the Year category at The Headies 2015 and Nigeria Entertainment Awards that same year. He would then go on to win the former the following year.
He currently works with Hit Factory Studio, which is affiliated with YBNL Nation, and produces for members of the record label, as well as other artistes like Kizz Daniel and Dammy Krane.
If you’re not old enough to remember when Mo’ Hits was a thing, then you should be reading this with respekt! They were one of the biggest acts to emerge from the Nigerian music scene in the 2000s, and Don Jazzy, along with D’banj, was the brains behind it.
Known for his recognisable introduction, “It’s Don Jazzy Again!”, Michael Collins Ajereh is a producer who isn’t afraid to let his voice be heard, as he regularly performs background vocals for artists he produces. He produced some of D’banj’s biggest works like No Long Thing in 2005 and The Entertainer in 2008. He also produced Wande Coal’s Mushin 2 MoHits, an album that has been described as one of the best to emerge from Nigeria.
After his split with D’banj in 2012 due to artistic differences, Don Jazzy announced the formation of Mavin Records that same year, saying, “I see Mavin Records being the power house of Music in Africa in the shortest possible time.” And boy, isn’t that true! From singles like Dorobucci to Take Banana and Oma Ga, and with a plethora of artistes like Reekado Bankz and Tiwa Savage (not with the label anymore), Ayra Starr, Korede Bello, Rema and Di’Ja, Don Jazzy and his label are still making waves in the music scene, and don’t seem like they intend on stopping soon.
Philip Kayode Moses, who bears the sobriquet The Mr. Producer, rose to prominence in 2012 when he helped Olamide produce First of All and Fucking with the Devil off of the album YBNL, which led NotJustOk to name him as one of their Top 10 Hottest Producers in Nigeria for that year. In 2013, he helped Olamide dish out the album Baddest Guy Ever Liveth, in which he is credited to have produced all but one song, which earned him a nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2014 Nigeria Entertainment Awards and The Headies of the same year, the latter which he won in 2020.
Recently, his exploits have taken him to international waters. His single Finesse with Bnxn (formerly Buju) became an international success. It earned him his first entry into the UK Afrobeats Singles Chart at number one, the Billboard Global 200, and UK Singles Chart. He also signed a record deal with Warner UK in March 2022.
Sunday Ginikachukwu, also known as Masterkraft, started his professional career with Kennis Music and has worked with artistes like Banky W, Timaya, Flavour N’abania, Wizkid, and Sound Sultan, among others. He has also produced numerous hit songs, including Jasi with Banky W, Girl with Bracket featuring Wizkid, Chinny Baby, and Kwarikwa (remix) with Flavour N’abania and Fine Lady with Lynxxx.
Top Music Producers in the World
I initially didn’t want to make him go first because it’d have been too obvious. But with six Grammys and many other awards, he does not deserve to sit at the back.
Born Andre Romelle Young, Dr. Dre started his career in the ’80s with World Class Wreckin’ Cru and later found fame with the gangsta rap group NWA. In the early ’90s, Dre was an important figure in the crafting and popularizing West Coast G-funk, a subgenre of hip hop that used a synthesizer foundation and slow, heavy beats. His debut studio album, The Chronic, in 1992 made him one of the best-selling American music artists, and the single Let Me Ride earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance.
He founded his record label, Aftermath, in 1996 and signed Eminem in 1998, and their relationship since then has been the proverbial power couple of the American music industry. Also, his advocate for the use of E-mu SP-1200 and the Akai MPC3000 has made them the weapons of choice for many hip hop producers (I don’t know what those are, but they do sound like weapons indeed).
While Dr. Dre was starting out and making waves on the West Coast, Frederick Jay Rubin was kicking up a storm of his own on the East Coast. Initially starting with a hardcore band hose, his attention soon moved from performance to production. He co-founded Def Jam Recordings and American Recordings and helped popularize hip-hip music with the Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Geto Boys, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC (which makes you wonder what people were listening to before he came along).
Apart from hip-hop, though, he has also worked with several top-selling artists from other genres, including heavy metal (System of a Down, Danzig, Slayer), country (Dixie Chicks, Johnny Cash), and alternative rock (The Cult, Weezer, Red Hot Chili Peppers). His production style is a fusion of hard rock and rap.
The number of female producers in the music industry sits at just 12%, but even in the overall population, Sylvia Massy sits in the top percentile. Hailing from Michigan, she started pursuing music after moving to San Francisco, then to Los Angeles, where she worked at Larrabee Sound and Sound City (no, not our own. they have another in America).
Her first success as a producer was in 1993 when she produced Los Angeles’ Alternative Metal band Tool’s debut album Undertow, which went on to become triple-platinum selling. She also has a long working relationship with Rick Rubin and has worked with him on projects with System of a Down, Johnny Cash, and Red Hot Chilli Peppers, among others.
Massy, in addition to being a producer and engineer, is also proficient in art mixing. She is a visiting professor at the Berklee College of Music, teaches at Abbey Road Institute and other colleges, and has also received the MPG Inspiration Award, an award from the Guild of Producers. She is also an author.
If I mention Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Avril Lavigne, and The Weekend, you’ll automatically start humming some of their songs while probably sounding like a bush baby (no offense intended, but you know it’s true). Nevertheless, this is the man responsible for producing those songs that you’re doing your lyrical best to murder.
A multi-Grammy award winner, Kal Martin Sandberg started his early career with the Swedish Ace of Base, Army of Lovers, and the Rednex and rose to international fame in 1996 when he produced Backstreet Boys’ self-titled debut album. From there, he produced some of the ’90s best chart-topping hits till the present day, and his run to the Billboard No. 1 is only surpassed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. His exquisite taste in pop music has put him on the top of the ladder, and he is one of the most sought-after producers on the planet today.
When your work has sold over 500 million album copies and 75 million singles copies worldwide, it’s a safe bet to say that you’ve achieved your dream to become the most famous music producer on the planet. But at the age of 69, Nile Rodgers doesn’t seem interested in hanging his… boots? Mic? DJ turntable? Anytime soon.
With a career spanning over 50 years, Rodgers has released as much music inside the studio as he has outside. He produced the milestone album for Diana Ross, Madonna, and David Bowie’s best-selling album Let’s Dance. His career expanded in the ’90s and ’00s to include film soundtracks and video games, and his work in the last decade includes Get Lucky, a collaboration with Daft Punk.
Rodgers is famous for his “chucking” guitar style, with Rolling Stone commenting in 2014 that “the full scope of Nile Rodgers’ career is still hard to fathom.” He is the chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and a three-time Grammy Award–winner.