Producers are the backbone of music. They are the connectors, the creators, the magic makers. Whether it’s someone on their laptop in a cramped studio apartment or in a state-of-the-art, multi-room studio, producers are tasked with managing all elements of a song and bringing them together in a beautiful state of euphony. As with previous years, NEST HQ’s recognitions for production are not solely measured by sales or social followings. Rather, the list of producers below shines light on those continually bettering their craft, opening new doors for music, and inspiring others to do the same.
Review the 10 best producers of 2016 below.
NEST HQ’s Best of 2016: Producers
*10 artists listed in alphabetical order
Baauer’s technical prowess and ear for cool samples have been known to the producer world for some time now, which is why it’s such a shame that in the mainstream he’s been pigeonholed, his influence reduced to the cultural effects of “Harlem Shake”. In the music world he’s done far more than that, and now that a couple years have gone by since that massive success, he’s been able to get out from under its footprint. His 2016 album Aa took a slot as one of NEST’s best albums of 2016 for its slick merging of his gnarly talents with the contributions of his featured artists, and he’s since kept up the energy with singles like “Paauer”. His shows also dominated the scene this year: his performance at HARD Summer was one of the hardest I saw this year. Baauer’s had a big year, growing from a respected sound designer with a few big novelty tracks into one of the central leaders within his trap-meets-world hybrid genre. — NR
“All I do is work”, echoes the voice of DUCKY, the musical project of Los Angeles-based producer Morgan Neiman, in the first Club Aerobics release, the label which she co-founded alongside SUSPECT BITCH and Bianca Oblivion and let me tell you, she is not kidding. A champion of adorable yet relentless hyper club music, Ducky consistently pushes the boundaries of dance music and exists in a lane of her own. She’s been absolutely killin’ the game this year releasing banger after banger on Activia Benz, TREKKIE TRAX, and Dim Mak, but that’s not all — in her strongest work to date, she made her debut on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs with Don’t Give Up Yet, personally my favourite release of the year. Her RAVE TOOLZ outlet has skyrocketed in popularity, which is described as “DUCKY AND FRIENDS’ EDITS AND ORIGINALS TO HELP U KILL THE RAVE”. With a heart of gold, she’s as genuine as they come we expect DUCKY to be an essentially unstoppable force in 2017. With great honor, DUCKY, is one of two producers in history to make the jump from NEST HQ’s Who To Watch to Best Producers. — CS
Flume positively soared through 2016 on a massive gold star. His sound, lush chords with space-filling synth saws, is frequently imitated and adapted, and this thoroughly unique and revolutionary style set the tone for what many now call the “Flume Sound.” His second studio album Skin, first teased in January, had some of the craziest features of any electronic record this year, touting Vic Mensa, Allan Kingdom, Little Dragon, AlunaGeorge, and even Beck amongst others. The record reached Top 10 in five different charts. Flume went on to take home eight awards at the ARIA Music Awards, including Album of the Year and Best Male Artist. As if a stellar album wasn’t enough, he released a B-side record titled Skin Companion EP 1 in November. What makes Flume so great, however, is his consistency and established musical voice. It’s easy to pinpoint a Flume tune, and they almost always grab your attention. — NB
What can we say about the enigma that is josh pan that we haven’t already? The man seems to operate on an alternate plane of existence, and in doing so, josh continually creates music we didn’t previously even know we’d like. In this year alone, he released the calamitous anthem on OWSLA titled “Platinum”, he executive produced a 14-minute ‘Opus remix’ for “It G Ma” featuring 10 rappers & co-producers, and, much to his admirers’ excitement, josh honed in on his own vocals for many of his productions including “20 Gauge” and “IDTM”. In my line of work, a lot of people ask me who I’ve been listening to recently or to name an artist that I’m particularly excited about. For all of 2016 (and even before that), my answer has been josh pan. — JB
2016 has been a massive year for Kaytranada, whose highly anticipated debut album 99.9% came out in May. In an interview with The FADER in April, the Haitain-born, Montreal-raised artists revealed for the first time that he’s gay and spoke about how coming out to his friends and family gave him the levity he needed to finish the record. The final product is a wild blend of house, hip-hop, R&B and breaks full of A-list collabs that pay homage to Kay’s complex, experimental roots while moving him within reach of the pop sphere. From Kay’s earliest remix of Janet Jackson’s “If” that blew up on SoundCloud in 2012, he established himself as an artist who is anything but derivative. Finally in 2016 he got the chance to flex on the music industry and shows that he’s getting pretty damned close to hitting 100% of his creative capacity. — MH
Metro Boomin is one of two to return from last year’s Best Producers list for two years running because he built on his successes while also breeding new ones. After his star-making turn on last year’s collaborative Drake/Future mixtape, he continued working with both those artists, producing tracks on EVOL, Views, and Purple Reign, as well as for every rapper around, including: Young Thug, French Montana, 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne, Ty Dolla Sign, Boosie Badazz, ScHoolboy Q, Lil Uzi Vert, Waka Flocka Flame, Usher, Gucci Mane, Tinashe, Post Malone, The Weeknd, Curren$y, and that’s only a partial list. Most importantly of all, though, was his collaborative EP Savage Mode with 21 Savage, establishing the rapper and also cementing their relationship. Maybe his influence becomes most apparent on “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. I”, one of Metro’s four contributions to Kanye West’s The Life Is Pablo, when even Kanye slows the track down to luxuriate in the 23-year-old’s now-iconic producer tag: “if Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you”. — NR
It’s hard to discuss the newfound love of syncopation and spacey beats amongst SoundCloud producers without mentioning Mr. Carmack. The multi-instrumentalist is by all accounts a savant. His extensive knowledge of music and production is the driving force behind his insane output, which includes a charity record with Djemba Djemba for the people of Standing Rock, a pop-up shop in LA’s Chinatown, two handfuls of collaborative singles, a youth music seminar, too many show dates to count, and several full-length records. We listed him in last year’s Best Of Producers, but the man is completely unstoppable; we had to feature him again. You can learn a thing or two from his work ethic and creative passion. If you asked him for advice, he’d probably tell you to work hard on being yourself and never stop. — NB
It’s hard to believe at the end of last year, REZZ was preparing to embark on Destructo’s widely acclaimed Ship2Ship Tour, acting as the first introduction of her characteristic ‘slow-paced techno meets dubstep’ sound to many. Since then, the girl’s had a big year releasing not one, but two EPs on mau5trap, launching her debut headlining ‘Rezzurection Tour’, joining forces with Malaa for the collaborative ‘Lunatic Tour’, and not to mention, performances at almost every festival circuit from Movement to HARD Summer to Shambhala. Her name is frequently echoed among the likes of Gesaffelstein and Bassnectar, and while her ascension might appear rapid, it’s not without countless hours of untold, hard work. REZZ is representative of everything we stand for here at NEST HQ, from her positive outlook to unwavering determination and genuine interest in her fans. Like Ducky, REZZ is the second of two producers in history to make the jump from NEST HQ’s Who To Watch to Best Producers. — CS
The Social Experiment
The Social Experiment made its official debut last year with the 16-track LP, Surf, which saw five musically endowed friends and creatives – Nico Segal (fka Donnie Trumpet), Chance The Rapper, Peter Cottontale, Greg Landfair, Jr., and Nate Fox – come together in an exhibition of organic collaboration. Surf was heralded by outlets like Pitchfork and Stereogum as one of 2015’s best records, and just one year later, the group came back even stronger with their impeccable work on Chance The Rapper’s Grammy-nominated Coloring Book. And while additional producers like Kanye West, Brasstracks, Lido, and Kaytranada are credited in the liners to select tracks off of Chance’s third mixtape, it’s The Social Experiment who are found as producers for the majority of the record, creating the overwhelming sense of cohesion that 3 projects. With The Social Experiment now an undisputed two for two in full length records since last year, it’d be a disservice for this talented group of young producers to be absent from this list. — JB
We have Germany’s Virtual Riot to thank, in part, for dubstep’s impending revival in the coming year. His sound design, technical prowess, and creative output all indicate that he will be sticking around the electronic scene for quite a while. It’s only been about five years (he’s only 22) since he launched his Virtual Riot moniker and he’s already released several albums and EPs, had numerous charted hits on Beatport, and produced several sample and preset packs for up and coming producers keen on his sound. He also hosts a music production tutorial on his YouTube page. Virtual Riot is leading the neo-dubstep revolution with a non-traditional sound that destroys everything in its path to make way for a multi-lane highway of skill and influence. — NB