(3) The Death of Executive Production

The Executive Producer is usually the least important individual on the actual production of an album, but the most important in the PRESENTATION of the album. As odd as that may sound, when one considers that the individual usually does have some hand in the production of the music contained on said album, but also has other non-musical duties as well.
Such as...
  • Minding the budget
  • Legwork to secure promotion of the album
  • Choosing which songs make the album
  • The order in which those chosen songs will be presented
People who make the name "executive producer" one worth striving to achieve in spite of being a largely figurehead title to hold have always been DJ Premier (Gang Starr, others), Large Professor (Main Source), ?uestlove (D'Angelo, Common, The Roots), MC Serch (3rd Bass, Nas), and Prince Paul (3rd Bass, De La Soul, himself and many others).
Cheapening the title, though, have been the number of Diddy's albums "executive produced" by Biggie, or the fact that Kiam Holley (Capone) "executive produced" Noreaga's first solo album, while his only real involvement was a couple of phone skits from jail. Let us not forget the Charles Hamilton fiasco of last year, in which he named the late great J. Dilla the executive producer of his album. Keep in mind that many of you had to pause and say "who?" when I said the name Charles Hamilton, and all I can say is that he is the dude that Mary J Blige's stepdaughter punched in the face.
Oh, and he further fucked the whole process by claiming that he had paranormal contact with Dilla, who passed before Hamilton even got on.
Needless to say, I do not like Charles Hamilton's music, nor his tactics.

There was a time where the executive producer was quite naturally an individual closely related to and/or involved in the making of an album. Someone who had made some, most or all of the beats is a natural first choice, which is why De La Soul's first albums were so perfectly presented, with little need for the fast forward button.
Think of The Roots' albums before the last two (comparatively speaking), the albums were in the right order, correct songs chosen and you were even given a treat and a collection of funnies if you read the liner notes, especially WHILE listening to the albums. Hell, that even applies to the live and best-of albums as well, so long as you made sure you had a retail copy of it.

At the risk of -- but not personally caring if I do -- coming off as an aging asshole, it seems to me that the tenets of even ATTEMPTING to make a cohesive album these days is lost on anyone actually making music. Even those who have done it before.
The new standard of album releases to hip hoppers is the mixtape, which I have discussed at length recently. In addition to being the "get shit on the street NOW" approach to release of product, it also greatly dumbs down the necessity of creativity as well, since these are not necessarily "albums" so much as they are promotional tools. The problem, though, is that this approach is all that these new and young artists seem to know, so when it DOES come time to make an album all you have is a mish-mash collection of songs that probably were better served to the mixtape circuit with guest appearances by weed carriers and dorm room production.
So long as someone can say "YEEEEAAAAAAAHHH!" along to it and the drums are big enough to make ghetto chicks want to shake their asses then all is well, no?


The "mixtape-before-the-album" becoming the "mixtape-as-the-album" approach to this is becoming a bit of a drag on things. Further dumbing down of the genre, so to speak.
Again, what with the amount of product actually making it to the streets/internets, we cannot ignore or declare hip hop as "dead," as some so seem to want to put it. No, hip hop is not dead, it is alive -- though my conscience will NOT allow me to declare it "alive and well."
One of the tenets of what makes the hip hop that we -- or at least I -- love, though is dead and in the grave. So much that the aforementioned, who were among the most effective with it, are either laying fallow from their own volition, being ignored or conforming to this new standard.


Unknown said…
First off, let me say, great article, and that I totally agree with you. In an era where 360 deals restrict artists from realizing their full monetary potential in other areas of entertainment, such as movies, merchandising, tours, etc., you have to understand the motivation behind allowing "your man" to carry the executive producer title vs. a label rep., who doesn't give a damn about the product...and his only concern is the label's bottom line and his job.

Executive Producers, a la Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Prince Paul, and the RZA, etc., actually spend quality time in the studio with the artists and discusses the overall vision of the product. The record industry is, historically, one of the largest and most lucrative industries, however, there are no education prerequisites or special credentials needed to obtain or hold executive positions, hence the expression, surrounded by idiots.

Your average rap artist/fan today can't tell you shit about what we know as hip hop. You stated that even the elders of the game are conforming to the today's rules of engagement to stay "relevant." Jay-Z, for example.

If you ask your average college student who their top 5 MCs of all time are, most will name artists from 2000 on.

The problem with that is, just like in our community, the elders did not pass down the knowledge and the principles of the culture were replaced with the "get money" mentality. While getting money is the goal, artistic expression took a nosedive.

How does that relate to the Executive Producer?

In my humble opinion, no one wants an album nowadays, but everyone wants songs.

Case in point, an album with 15 songs, will cost $.99/song. Yet the album will cost $7-$9, on average.

So, artists, today, have grown accustomed to doing what's good for the streets and the clubs, which is their base, and will also keep their position as a rapper secure.

Who better understands that aspect of today's climate, than "your man?"

In closing, "Pants on the Ground's," Larry Platt, prove that we’re all one missing tooth and one song away from everything we've ever dreamed of, i.e. stardom and fame.

As for mixtapes, artists like Yo Gotti make a living (750k to 2 mil yearly) off of songs that the label will never touch.
Please accept this response to you article as only a part of the conversation that is needed to change the current state of our culture.


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