The music producer in Hip Hop is usually underrated and doesn't receive the shine that he or she deserves. Houston is no different. Houston might be worse. Producers here have been laying the musical soundtrack that the rest of the industry is following for awhile and, while some producers have managed to get their individual acknowledgements, as a whole Houston producers (and producers in general) are not highlighted enough. Here, in no particular order, are just a few of the many that put out some excellent work over the past year.
June The Genius
Instagram: @junethejenius Produced By June
June the Genius made his mark producing YFN Lucci’s 2016 hit “Key to the Streets” and then proceeded to produce hits for YoungBoy, MoneyBagg Yo,Travis Scott, Lil baby Roddy Ricch, 2 Chainz. Drake and more. An Acres Home native, June James, started in the band at the age of 14. His passion grew as he continued through school eventually winding up at Texas Southern University where he founded a music group composed of producers, engineers, song writers and DJ's called the Hit Cartel. With new music coming from acts like Latto, James is showing no signs of stopping.
Julian is a Dallas native but has resided in Houston since 2010. He has become synonymous with the rise of Megan Thee Stallion helping to lay the musical foundation for her success. His sample of "Is It Love This Time" by Immature became one of Megan's first major hits, "Big Ole Freak". Since then he has gone on to produce hits like "Savage", "Body", "Cash Shit" and more. You can feel the duo's chemistry every time a song starts with Megan yelling "And if the beat live you know lil ju made it." He's not just working with Megan though. Expect to hear more from Lil Ju in 2022 as he continues to work with artists like 2 Chainz, Trapboy Freddy, Gucci Mane and more.
Back in 2019 we put Beat King on our who-to-watch-in-Houston list and received some pushback. The overall response was that he had been doing what he does for the last ten years and had reached about as far as he was going to go. Then the pandemic happened and a bunch of kids discovered a decade of his music on TikTok. Beat King is an undeniable talent and it's nice to see the industry catching up. Whether you are listening to hits from his Club God Mixtape series or watching his brand of equally humorous/raunchy marketing, Beat King's infectious, Memphis-inspired beats will always catch your ear. His musical ability not only applies to him but also other artists crafting hits with Queendom Come, Dj Chose, Erica Banks, and more. His ear has also helped to find newcomers like Big Jade, and he now appears to be putting his talent behind singer Talameisha and rapper Big Trouble. If you're tired of Beat King now you're not going to like what the future has in store.
Greyling Poats II has been producing from his hometown of Missouri City for over a decade, working alongside veteran MC's like Paul Wall, Bun B, and Big Moe while also helping to craft the newer class members of the 2010 Houston rap scene like Delorean, Rob Gullatte, Dougbeezy, Bigg Fatts and more. He has an ear for soul samples and story telling and his music is often peppered with audio clips from movies and television. His self proclaimed style is country rap tunes and with a catalog of impeccable albums like Delorean's Nights At The International Ballroom and Bigg Fatt's Memoirs of the Kitchen Staff, Pugtunes is creating a Houston sound that feels equal parts familiar and new. He recently produced tracks for Big Pokey's long awaited return, Sensei, and is currently working on a clothing technology aimed to put control in the hands of the musician called Perfect Attendance. LaNell Grant
Instagram: @lanellgrant Produced By Nell
LaNell Grant has provided the musical soundscape for Alief's Tobe Nwigwe to shine. The two have created a sound that has allowed them the freedom to create their own lane. She has produced Tobe From The Swat, The Originals, More Originals, and recently went across the country for the group's MonuMINTal Tour. The two have embraced the Houston Hip Hop ethos, rejecting the mainstream and staying independent — a gamble which has paid off. Grant and Nwigwe have created a sound and an image that allows them to perform across the nation and incorporate their families into the show.
DJ Young Samm spent the early part of his career honing his craft and making sure he was ready when opportunity presented itself. When Slim Thug tapped him to DJ for him on tour Samm was more than ready and now you know his tracks when you hear Slim yell "Got Damn Samm" as the music starts. Samm is currently working alongside Slim, continuing to cultivate their Texas sound, while also producing his own albums, like this year's The Streets Is Mine. His latest compilation features Yung Martez, Paul Wall, Marqus Clae, Rizzoo Rizzoo, Beat King, Fat Pimp, Mr Wired Up, and more. Tony Dark
Instagram: @tonydarkmusic The Legend of DB Looper
In 1971, D.B. Cooper hijacked a Boeing 722 flying over the northeast United States with $200,000 worth of extorted money and then jumped out the plane and parachuted somewhere over Washington state. Did he live or die? No one knows. The FBI searched for him for 45 years and found nothing confirming his fate. Is Tony Dark that elusive? No. You can catch him with the Waxaholics or Djing for artists like KvngDavid7 or Mickey Woods Jr. So why bring up Cooper? Because Tony's recent album, The Legend of D.B. Looper, featuring C-Red, Doeman, Sundown, Brice Blanco, and others shows the diversity in Houston music. Providing a soundscape for a lyrical showcase (I'm not doing a verse of the year list but if I was C-Red's verse on Horizons would be on there...way up there) Tony's mix of breakbeats and snippets from old movies display his creativity.
Hailing from Missouri City, Texas Ryan Rayford has always had an ear for music. He spent the early part of his career splitting time between rapping and producing, being a lyricist under the moniker hasHBrown and producing under the name Jett I Masstyr. He was one of the founders of Space City Beat Battle, which helped bring focus to the production community here in Houston. After his rap group, T.H.E.M, broke up Rayford began moving more and more in the direction of producing, crafting instrumental albums like LAX and ThereAreNoWords and even put together a compilation album, the underrated Decorative Pillows. This last year he teamed up with DashTheGoat to create Meechie, a 70's soul sample inspired journey where DashTheGoat could display his lyrical prowess. Look for more from Jett I Massstyr as he continues to release albums and work with artists like Rob Gullatte in the upcoming year.
Norman Payne splits his time behind the boards as well as behind the mic. In 2011 he released "Pop That" alongside Brook Gang and charted at a national level. In 2012 he continued his solo career, releasing his debut album, Right Place Right Time, and continuing to produce for artists like Uncle Luke and Dorrough. His production work continued to grow and since that time he has created tracks for Kevin Gates, Kodak Black, NBA Youngboy, Akon but he still has time to create for himself. In 2020 he released Took Me Forever with the chart topping single "Thick" and an accompanying remix featuring Megan Thee Stallion. Right now you can hear him on the airwaves alongside Yung Pooda and Dre for their remake "Forever Tippin" which samples Mike Jone's, Paul Wall, and Slim Thug's break out single "Still Tippin'." You can also hear his voice all over TikTok because of his single "Minor Setback". Be prepared to hear a lot more of DJ Choose over the next year because there' a lot more to come.
DJ XO is another Houston producer that also spends his time behind the mike. He has worked with a bevy of artists including SlimThug, 21 Savage, The Game, and Blac Youngsta. His social media handles, XONOSLEEP, show his work ethic, basically putting in the air that he plans to outwork everyone until he achieves his goals. The work is paying off. His catchy Rizzoo Rizzoo and Sosamann assisted single "Out the Lot" off his 2017 album Like the Drug showed that DJ XO is more than capable of handling the national stage and now he is preparing to release his new album, Big Dreams, with it's lead single "Hood Hop". George Young
Instagram: @thegeorgeyoung Connect with George Young
George Young released The Loop in 2020, his return to music after a brief hiatus and the soundtrack of a day in the life of the Northside MC/Producer. He not only puts in work on his own albums but also lends his ear to others, mixing, producing and rapping on albums like The Smush Brothers Southern G Funk, Dash the Goat & Jett I Masstyr's Meechie, Rob Gullate's The Tortoise Theory, and more. Look more for George in 2022 as he continues to produce and mix for Houston and beyond.
Chatriy Evaughn began her career in music going across the country participating in beat battles. In 2015 she won the Spacecity Beat battle here in Houston and , after building more of her skills through competition, went on to Chicago to win the 2015 I Standard Beat Camp. She caught the eye of another producer, Mark Byrd, who, recognizing her talent, began helping her gain placements in the industry. She has since won IStandards 2016 Beasts of Beats competition and produced for artists like Cyhi the Prince, Big Krit, Paul Wall, Killa Kyleon, and Dante Higgins. She was in Atlanta, contributing to projects like Cyhi's No Dope On Sunday's, but has since returned back to Houston and established GODLVL music alongside acclaimed producer Mark Byrd and Houston lyricist Dante Higgins. She continues to work with other artists, lending her ear to George Young's excellent The Loop, while simultaneously laying the groundwork to establish GODLVL's footprint on music. The group has been slowly and steadily releasing soul sample driven music from Dante but expect to hear a lot more work from Charity in the near future. Bigg Cuz Beats
Bigg Cuz Beats is a Chicago producer that eventually made his was down to Houston. Loving the city and seeing the talent he began producing for local artist eventually linking up with Ken The Man. The two collaborated and created 4 Da 304's, a project that streamed so well and showed Ken's commercial success that it helped to lead to her current Asylum record deal. Bigg Cuz continues to work and build talent in Houston, working with Happy Boot's 365PR to create a monthly industry mixer aimed at connecting the city's talent in front the mic and behind the scenes.
Boi Dru and Snxxz3
Instagram: @boidruthecharmer@snxxz3@ncrowdrecords Connect With Boi Dru
Boi Dru and Snxxz3 (sounds like Snoozy) have been crafting out their sound over the last few years working together to create and build up Boi Dru's charm god sound. Releasing Charm God in 2019 and following up with a string of EPs and albums, including Call First, Voice Mail, Call Waiting, Don't Run Out, If We Make It, and this year's Night's In The Heights. Look for Don't Run Out 2 in the upcoming year and, given the amount of work the two put in, expect to hear a few more Ep's and albums as well.
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Houston Press contributor DeVaughn Douglas is a freelance writer, blogger, and podcaster. He is 1/2 of the In My Humble Opinion Podcast and 1/1 of the Sleep and Procrastination Society. (That last one isn't a podcast; he just procrastinates and sleeps a lot.)