I was having a look at some hip hop albums on Wikipedia and I noticed that on the track list, there's often a "writer" column and a "producer" column. I can see who the writers are, but what are the "producers"? Is that the equivalent of lead vocals in rock music? What is their role exactly?

(Edit: sorry i tried to add the tags "hip-hop" and "producers" to this question but none were available. I don't think the question is about theory of music but couldn't find a better tag.)

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    IMO this is too basic, the answer is covered by dictionaries/Wikipedia.
    – user28
    Mar 17, 2012 at 19:49
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    @WheatWilliams - The point is that this is too basic; it can be answered by a simple search on Wikipedia. (It really should have been closed as "general reference", but that close reason doesn't exist on this site.) Mar 18, 2012 at 21:07
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    +1 this is a good question. Please re-open this and we need better answers than wiki. Googling does not help me understand what a music producer does? What exactly does "overseas the creation of an album" actually mean?
    – KMC
    Mar 19, 2012 at 1:10
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    Do they select music engineers or do they engineer the music themselves? Do they control the tempo of the music and organization like a a conductor in a orchestra? Or do they re-arrange a song structure or lyrics, or instruct the singer how to interpret a song like a director in making a film? We NEED to re-open this question. Why did this get close? I am sure someone who actually have music producing experience can give us some more "exact" answer instead of a general view that people find on google or wiki. Stackexchange is supposed to be better than wiki!
    – KMC
    Mar 19, 2012 at 1:19
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    I read the Wikipedia article but it didn't quite answer the question. The question is specifically about hip-hop music, where producers seem to have a more important position than in other music albums. You'll never see a "producer" column on rock album track lists (at least on Wikipedia) but there will always be one on rap albums. I'm wondering why. Maybe someone involved in hip-hop music might be able to say more than what can be found on Wikipedia.
    – laurent
    Mar 19, 2012 at 13:43

7 Answers 7


All kinds of music recording require a producer. It is not specific to hip-hop.

Do you know what a movie director is? Movies require a screenwriter, actors, and camera-operators, but they also require a director. The director is the person who manages everything and provides the final word in artistic direction.

A producer is to a music recording what a director is to a film.

It varies a great deal from recording to recording, but a producer is generally paid to manage a recording session or album. They either take a fee up front or they earn a percentage or royalty of the proceeds from the recording. A producer is in charge of renting the studio, paying for session musicians, managing the schedule, and keeping the project on schedule and on budget.

The producer is often the final authority on all the decisions about what songs are recorded, how they are arranged, and how they will sound. If the music you are listening to sounds a certain way, it is because the producer decided that is how it should sound. The producer put together a team of musicians to record that sound that he wanted, and the producer got the project completed.

Producers are particularly important for "solo artists" who don't have a band. A producer might select each of the songs on an album (written by many different writers), come up with musical arrangements (often with the help of a professional arranger or beat-maker) hire all the musicians backing up the artist, and personally supervise every step of the recording process, approving or disapproving of various steps and doing things over again until they get them right. Producers are usually also involved in engineering the recordings and mixing them down.

In many forms of pop music and in many cases the end result and the "sound" depends much more on the producer than on the "artist" or band.

If there is a record label involved that is advancing many thousands of dollars to an artist or act to finance a recording, then the producer is under contract to the record label and is given the task of making sure that the final recording is delivered in a fashion that pleases the record label and the people advancing the money, so they can sell the recordings. Reliable producers who can deliver hit records can become quite wealthy, more wealthy than the "artist" whose name is on the record.

Part Two

Laurent, I suspect producers are mentioned more prominently in hip-hop because hip-hop producers often make the beats themselves. We used to call them "DJ"s, short for "disk jockey". Thus, the producer is making almost all of the music himself while the rapper is, well, just rapping. And it also has to do with image and marketing. If fans see "Dr. Dre" or "Jay-Z" on the label, they care more about that name than they do about the name of the "artist" rapper. This is just my suspicion; I don't know much about hip-hop.

  • This is the classic definition of producer (someone that provides the money and decisions). In the Rap music genre, though, producer is more used to refer to beatmakers. It can also be used for the "money-giver" but in the OP's case it's referring to who created the beat/instrumental.
    – Alenanno
    May 23, 2013 at 10:25
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    DJs aren't producers. DJs play music, and may remix tracks, including instrumentals and acapellas, to make new songs out of old, but they don't produce raw original material. "Producer" in hip-hop, as well as in most electronic music, especially EDM, generally refers to anyone who creates original tracks, but producers can also produce remixes. Of course, an individual can be both a producer and a DJ (and that is quite common, especially in the EDM scene). Plenty of scope for blurred lines there.
    – naught101
    Dec 15, 2014 at 3:43

Basically the Producer, in Rap music, is the term to refer to beatmakers, those who make the beat, the music base or instrumental track that rappers use to rap on.

So if you see

Song - Artist (Prod. by Random guy)

Random guy made the beat used by Artist. There is no reference to "money being given to support the project". The Producer can be the same guy who gave the money, but it's not included in the definition.


First, some background from the Wikipedia article on "Record producer":

A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to, gathering ideas for the project, selecting songs and/or musicians, coaching the artist and musicians in the studio, controlling the recording sessions, and supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering.

And specifically for the music producer:
(as opposed to executive producer that handles the finances)

The music producer's job is to create, shape, and mold a piece of music.

Many artists are dependent on music producers to help with the production to more or less extent, from finding suitable material to include on a record to creating arrangements for the music etc. How much the music producer need to do is depending on how much the artist have resources do him/herself.

In the hiphop genre, the artist usually have a very big part in the music creation, both lyrics and sound deep into the technical stuff required in a production scenario. It is also often not just the main artist in the group that contributes, but the entire group, as the music often emerges through a collective process. The hiphop artists have very personal music where they are very specific on how they want things to sound.

So the artists in hiphop handle themselves the different things that are normally a music producers responsibilities. This is why you here often see that the artists themselves are listed as producers.


Producers are not hip-hop specific, but work across all genres of music.

A simple and very explanatory excerpt from Wikipedia's page on music producers:

an individual working works within the music industry, whose job is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. "production") of an artist's music

They can provide a very valuable direction or creative angle for an album, and work closely with the artists and engineers to produce the final work.

Update for @KMC - they make, or help to make creative decisions, sometimes including:

  • Order of tracks on the album, and sometimes which tracks should be included on the album
  • Overall feel of an album - should it sound more polished or more raw?
  • Guiding the album creation to make it suit the target market, and sellable.

Executive producers are also decision makers, but they are focused on the distribution of media and merchandise, tours, publishing and promotion etc.

I don't really know how to describe this any more simply - they are like film producers, in the same sort of 'creative oversight' way - and the Wikipedia page is pretty self explanatory.

  • Hmmm... but is it really the same within the hiphop genre? I mean I know what a "producer" is - it's the guy who brings money. But in hip-hop albums, it seems there's always several "producers", who often include the main artist. And often "producers" are actually singing on the album (see for instance en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slim_shady_lp where Dr Dre sings wherever he is the "producer"). So does being a "producer" means something different in hip-hop music?
    – laurent
    Mar 17, 2012 at 16:32
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    @Luke: I don't understand why you copied and pasted from wiki, then voted to close this question. Saying a music producer overseas the creation of music is just as meaningless as saying a CEO manages a company. In fact, many people know jack about what music producer does.
    – KMC
    Mar 19, 2012 at 1:47
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    @Dr. Mayhem: this does not answer the question at all - what exactly does "oversees" and "manage" consist of. What's the difference of this than saying music producer produce the music. No offense guys, I support this question to be re-open and we need to invite better answers to this question.
    – KMC
    Mar 19, 2012 at 1:48
  • @Laurent: I think you should edit you question and add the contents of your comment here, as this is an important aspect of why you asked this question in the first place.
    – awe
    Mar 20, 2012 at 6:13

Quite simply, the Producer is the person who wrote the music (and perhaps the vocals). The term is commonly used on the electronica genres and their derivatives (yes, that includes Hip-Hop).

Contrast this to a DJ (one who mixes works others create).


Clearly, not many hip hop fans frequent this board. The Wikipedia entry for this is clear and concise as to what a Hip Hop producer is.

Hip hop production is the creation of hip hop music. Though the term encompasses all aspects of hip hop music, it is most commonly used to refer to the instrumental, non-lyrical aspects of hip hop. This means that hip hop producers are the instrumentalists involved in a work. Modern hip hop production uses samplers, sequencers, drum machines, synthesizers, turntables, and live instrumentation. A hip hop instrumental is casually referred to as a beat, and a hip hop producer is casually referred to as a beatmaker. However, in the studio, a hip hop producer also functions as a traditional record producer, being the person who is ultimately responsible for the final sound of a recording.


The more traditional producer term applies to some, but not all producers, and to some but not all tracks. It depends on when, where, a track may have been conceived and/or recorded, etc. To get the exact information of how much involvement a traditional hip hop producer had to do with the actual recording of a track outside of the beat one would have to consult the credits of the particular album.

Further more, many more famous and better paid hip hop producers are not single entities. They're more or less, the head of a team of sound engineers. More than likely, the more famous and well known hip hop producers will be more involved with a track than a lesser known producer as they have the resources, personnel, and know how to take on more traditional producer roles.

Examples of producers are The Neptunes, Just Blaze, 9th Wonder, Kanye West, Diamond D, etc, etc.

To sum it up, as other's have said, including the wikipedia, they're the ones that make the beats. And although they may do other things when talking about Hip Hop and Hip Hop production people are referring to the beat maker and nothing else.


In urban, computer-based music styles, the man at the computer calls himself a 'producer'. He's the main man, who puts it all together artistically and technically.

In other styles of music, the Svengali function can be greater or lesser. 'Producing' a classical recording may be primarily obtaining funding and engaging the right musicians. (But someone still has to be in the control room deciding which takes to keep.) Or with a pop band which likes to 'rehearse in the studio' the producer may have a lot of musical input.

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