A funny thing happened when I went car shopping this past fall — I discovered that some newer cars are being made without CD decks.
I’m a millennial who lives in the past and still collects CDs. I’m a child of the 90s, damn it, and I intend to stay that way. So naturally, this revelation was horrifying to me. Fortunately, I was able to buy an affordable 2014 Chevy Cruze that allowed me to insert my physical copies of Illmatic and Trap Muzik while I navigate the winding, life-threatening roads of Western Pennsylvania. But the cold, harsh truth for people like me is that physical copies of albums are being phased out. As a fan, this is saddening. As a Hip Hop writer, this makes it harder to do my job. Let me elaborate.
Along with the cool photos, thank you’s and shout-out’s that come with the album booklets, there also are songwriting and production credits for each song. Unfortunately, this practice of providing credits hasn’t transitioned well into the digital age. You’d be hard-pressed to find production and songwriting credits for many new albums that are released digitally. And here’s why it matters. For HipHopDX’s reviewing purposes, we consider it essential to critique the production in each and every review. How the music intertwines, enhances, or undermines the lyrics can make or break a record. What would Chance the Rapper’s inspiring lyricism on Coloring Book be without the soulful, gospel-tinged production to back it up? But simply calling production exemplary or poor isn’t sufficient.
If You Were Reading This..: Where would the Hip Hop world be if this was never a thing?
Just as we critique rappers for their bars, we have to grade producers for their beats. It’s also beneficial to know all the various producers on an album. Was this a one-man show, or were there various cooks in the kitchen whipping up a batch of auditory goodness? Knowing that will help explain the album’s cohesion — or lack there of it. These are just a few reasons why we need to have the producers’ names in our reviews. The point is, the reviews are better for it.
Last year, Young M.A didn’t have to go far past her NYC concrete jungle background for her breakout hit, “Ooouuu,” as she recruited U-Dub of NY Bangers to blast her into superstardom. The blistering record went on to be named HipHopDX’s 2016 Beat of the Year and when asked whether or not relatively new producers have an uphill battle for recognition, U-Dub was rather calculative with his response.
“For producers, it’s more than just getting credit for the beat (which should be a given), it’s also how we market ourselves and put food on the table,” he tells DX via email. “That’s why now more than ever, in the age of Youtube and digital sales, it’s up to us as producers to make sure we take the necessary steps to get credited for our work.”
The fans also suffer for lack of production credits. Say you’re in love with a beat. You can’t get it out of your head, and you really want to know who manned the boards behind it to check out more of their production. You go to look online, and the credits are nowhere to be found. Where we as Hip Hop journalists with connections can sometimes reach out and get the credits (those this isn’t always the case), you lose out because the artists and companies behind them didn’t take the time to post the credits onto a website. Combing through the streaming sites isn’t any more efficient, as they tend to list all producers, composers and songwriters underneath the credits section and call it a day.
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It goes without saying that the producers and songwriters are cheated. They worked on this music, but the public doesn’t necessarily know about it. Sure, if there’s a production tag at the beginning of the song (Metro Boomin want some more?), or if it’s a major producer and the sound is distinct, we may know who made that beat. But often, the beatsmith who made the music and songwriters who collaborated with the rappers will get cheated out of proper recognition. Especially when the producer is still making a name for themselves.
And that’s not to mention mixers and everyone else who plays a role in bringing the album out. They deserve their due.
We’re in the digital age, and there are many great things about that. Music is more accessible than ever. But artwork and liner notes — including cool thank you’s to Lil So and So’s mama and especially the production and songwriting credits — shouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. A travesty U-Dub looks to prevent each time he sells a beat.
“For me that means, adding an intro ‘tag’ or ‘signature,’ requiring written credit in my contracts, and hopefully, having a unique and identifiable sound,” he admitted. “Ideally, the artist and producer should be able to complement each other in such a way that they make the best record possible while leaving the producer’s credit clearly visible.”
Young M.A “OOOUUU” (Prod. By U-Dub of NY Bangers) (Official Video)
The tireless and appreciated efforts of WhoSampled.com notwithstanding, it’s time to bring liner notes and artwork into the digital age. Making music is a team effort, critiquing it is an important practice, and listening to it is an enjoyable and meaningful part of life.
If we don’t know who created the music, everybody loses.
U-Dub and the rest of the NY Bangers’ production can easily be negotiated and sold via their website, www.newyorkbangers.com.