Tae MilesThough he’s more so known for his soulful vocals, divergent flows and poetic storytelling, Tae Miles is also a phenomenal producer. One listen to the Lorine Chia assisted “RainDance.” from The Adventures of the Wahoo Village Warrior proves that Tae is a master of melody and emotion in production. The beat is so warm and loving, sending the listener to a place that you just don’t reach in music these days. It feels like a warm glass of milk at your Grandmother’s house, or for me, spending the day with my father. It feels familial, so much that I spinned it at my family reunion. From the smooth chords, to the bass during Lorine’s verse, that takes the bassline from Pretty Ricky’s cover of Jodeci’s “Stay” (intentionally or not) and flips it on it’s head. He also invokes 2001-era Dre on “SAID+DONE” and takes the minimalist approach on the album’s closer, leaving out drums and using synths to drive the melody. Miles keeps company with talented producers like Mathaius Young and Sulyiman, but his sound is the purest when every part of the record was conceived by him.
Rio The MechanicA producer with a unique sound and identity is hard to come by. It’s hard to tell why. Maybe it’s because there are so many sounds that it’s hard to have an original thought. Or maybe the thought of tagging onto another popular, successful producer’s sound is just an easy way out (a la “Fancy”, “Classic Man”). Because originality is rare, it’s extremely rewarding to find yourself listening to a song that has (Prod. Rio the Mechanic) in the title, because you know it won't sound anyone else. He’s cultivated his own sound of chill beats with smooth drums. The sound is distinctly Cleveland, and he (along with his friends and frequent collaborators: Talk Chickens, Slim Slater, 100 Band Xan etc.) have been working hard to get their just due.
Big DukeBig Duke is the quintessential OG. If you know anything about King Chip’s music, you have seen Big Duke’s name and you’ve heard his sound. The SLAB Ent. producer has worked with The Game, Casey Veggies and Fredo Santana, among others, but he’s known for being on the forefront of Cleveland music, dating back to the mid-2000’s. From 2008’s “Now I’m Bout 2 Ride” to 2013’s “WWNWHNM”, Big Duke’s relationship with Chip has never weakened, as they provided the second-generation sonic blueprint for Cleveland, following Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s reign in the 90’s. Besides Chip, Duke has produced for other Cleveland artists like MGK, as well as the Everything Ezzy standout track “Catch It”.
Trap Money BennyTrapMoneyBenny is no amateur. The young musician has an extensive production discography that includes Gucci Mane, Fredo Santana, Chief Keef, Yung Gleesh and Key!, but it doesn’t take much searching to see his support for and collaborations with fellow Cleveland artists. Bankie Iz, Shawn K, Tezo and Ezzy have all released bangers produced by Benny, and he could be attributed to helping mold some of the sounds for the city. From co-producing Shawn K’s signature record “Instant” with Relta, to producing the introspective single “Bet That” for Ezzy, one of the faces of The Land.
Clockwork MuzikA past collaborator of Billard's, Clockwork Muzik has become one of the most recognizable names in the Cleveland music scene. The producer has worked with OG’s like King Chip, Krayzie Bone and Ray Cash, as well as young guys like Ripp Flamez and Lil Cray. Clockwork is also one of the more seasoned producers in the area. A stroll through his SoundCloud page shows his versatility, with instrumentals spanning from EDM to R&B, with everything else in between. His production on KPT & Snoop Dogg’s “How it Goes” goes for a big sound, though he goes for sparse minimalism on the Wave Chappelle cut “Deez” with features from Billard and Rico Love.
16 yr oldOberlin based producer 16 yr old is more than a producer. Besides being a producer, he’s also a DJ, and an arbiter of great new music, often putting his fans onto undiscovered records by underground artists on his SoundCloud. The 17 year old beat maker started releasing tracks 2 years ago;his Young Thug “Stoner” remix put him on the map, quickly gaining over 20,000 plays and a new following, anxious to hear what direction he would take. Since then, he’s doubled down on his sound, collaborating with fellow producers and starting his KeyWorld producer collective. Last October, he released his debut project Slayer, a collaborative effort with Oregon artist DIVINE, which received an overwhelmingly positive reaction. He also produced the Hurt Everybody track “Inertia”, and an alternate version of “Grow Up” for EriQ LaRon and Slim Slater. It’s safe to say that 16 is representing the Cleveland area well.
100 Band Xan
Producer and engineer 100 Band Xan is a hard worker. In 2015, it's easy to find producers on Twitter that aren't as official as they claim to be. From the guys that run scams and lie about credits, to the guys that always post about their beats and never get any placements. The proof is in the pudding for Xan, as a quick scroll through his SoundCloud page reveals the expansive list of placements he's gotten in the last year alone. From collaborations with NicX, Slim Slater, Talk Chickens, and Joey Sap, to producing entire projects for Eriq LaRon, Sted Lee and Lo Life Lane. Xan has proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with, thanks to his slick sound and unstoppable work ethic.
PyrexxzMost rap fans that live in the Cleveland area have heard “Sloppy”, “Same Crew” or “Biggie”, three of Ray Jr.’s biggest regional hits. The two most recent records of those three are Pyrexxz produced “Same Crew” and “Biggie”, and they both share strong similarities. They employ infectious loops, but sparse production that gives space for Ray to spit without being overpowered. If I was asked to compare Pyrexxz & Ray’s chemistry, I would say they’re Cleveland’s DJ Mustard & YG, making club anthems that have a vibe that resonates with the city. But a large difference between Pyrexxz and Mustard is that Pyrexxz has a wider reach sonically. On Jose Figuarolla’s “Leaning”, Pyrexxz creates an ethereal soundscape, as well as going full Zaytoven on Boomane’s (or trap Danny Brown?) eclectic single “Millions”.
BillardRising spitter Billard is known for his extreme presence on songs and high energy flows, but one of the most overlooked elements of his artistry is the fact that he produces most of his own records. From “Anxious”, the cut that DJ Taco Bennett used to have a Cleveland House of Blues filled with teenagers moshing and jumping, to “All Eyez On Me”, the MGK assisted track that’s reached over half a million plays, to “Mike Jones”, the breakout 2 minute song that Billard asserted his dominance with.
With production credits including Kid Cudi, King Chip and Lorine Chia, the 21st Century sound of Cleveland can be attributed to Rami Beatz, among others. On the Man on the Moon II bonus cut "Maybe", Rami teams up with Emile to deliver a vibed out journey, which he also does for Big Sean on "Experimental". The Lakewood native has used his experimental, often futuristic sound to deliver an abstract canvas for artists. On 2008's "Ask About Me", a classic Cudi and Chip collaboration, Rami and Dez flip the popular sound of the time on it's head, adding woodpeckers and synths to a haunting melody.
Nate FoxMany people may not be aware of the fact that Nate Fox has lived in Cleveland, which is understandable. In an interview with Complex, the producer stated that he “moved from Cleveland to Pittsburgh to work this construction job, make a bunch of money” shortly after the release of Chance the Rapper’s groundbreaking project Acid Rap, which he produced four tracks on. Fox has made a name for himself with his soulful sound, producing for Big Sean, Kehlani, Lucki Eck$, Lorine Chia and Lil Wayne. Now he’s apart of the Social Experiment band with Donnie Trumpet, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair Jr. and Chance the Rapper. Their debut album Surf was released as an iTunes exclusive, earning over 600,000 downloads and 10 million track downloads in one week.
Cleveland native Yonni has recieved mainstream success by working with artists like Trey Songz and Lil Wayne. Specifically, Trey Songz' single "Say Aah", which reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and earned Yonni, along with Trey and the other producers of Ready a Grammy nomination in 2010. Earlier this year, Yonni released "Snapchat", with features from Leon Thomas, Eric Bellinger, Rayven Justice & A Roc over his own production. But besides producing for artists, Yonni has releases kits through his website to give young producers the tools to become successful in their own right.
There's a classic trope in hip-hop of the rapper turned producer, or producer turned rapper. How an artist evolves to touch more than one base of the creation of his music, and how it can lead to more personal art. Cleveland Heights born, Indiana based artist Mathaius Young produces his own songs, as well as mixing them. His artwork follows a tasteful aesthetic loyally, and his sound is easily recognizable and original. What sets Mathaius apart from the pack is his off kilter drums and unique samples, as used in his latest single "GO". He co-produced Tre Capital's insane single "City Going Crazy" with Eestbound (the man behind Travis Scott's "Antidote") as well as three cuts on Tae Miles' latest album, including the infectious, soulful "INTERLOOD". Mathaiaus has revealed plans to release a full length LP in 2016.
LA ReidThough he’s from Cincinnati, LA Reid’s contributions to music have been too significant to ignore. Before he became an industry modul, Reid was a musician and music producer, with credits spanning back to 1977. The legend has produced for Babyface, The Whispers, Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, TLC, Toni Braxton, Outkast, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. But beyond the beatmaking, L.A. Reid has fulfilled the true role of a producer, helping oversee projects by Nas, Mariah Carey, Jay Z and Kanye West as an executive producer. As an executive at Def Jam, Reid has also been responsible for the successes of Bon Jovi, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
Will Lampley is a connoisseur of Cleveland music, and a new contributor for I'm From Cleveland. Follow him @willcDPR.