It’s easy to forget, in the age of Kanye, that DJs were the first stars of hip-hop. Those early Jamaican soundsystem battles weren’t won and lost on account of the microphone “toasters,” either; it was the producer behind the track who carried the real influence.
With the prevalence of SoundCloud and mainstream attention on EDM, the quiet guy behind the board is starting to get his due again. Even if he hasn’t backed a superstar, like, say Evian Christ, Hudson Mohawke or Clams Casino have, beat junkies like Ryan Hemsworth and Skywlkr are earning audiences on their instrumentals alone. Flying Lotus may be the best example here, a guy whose command of glitchy polyrhythms, knowledge of jazz and penchant for blissed-out R&B have become definitive for anyone working in the form.
Michigan producer Shigeto is, no doubt, a FlyLo acolyte, smattering his tracks with as many pops and clicks as the core pulse will accommodate, while demonstrating a sophisticated sense of harmony under minimalistic synth melodies. The tracks on his sophomore record No Better Time Than Now are dense and dark, so it’s unlikely you’ll hear any MC copping one and it’s just as well. This is beatcraft for the sake of beatcraft and it deserves to stand alone.