There is always buzz about rappers who are changing the sound of the rap industry, but the latest wave of Atlanta producers may really hold the key to revolutionizing the genre.
In the midst of a generation of rap listeners that seem to have an insatiable thirst for all things new and different, producers like Metro Boomin, FKi, Honorable C.N.O.T.E, Childish Major, Ducko McFli and Sonny Digital seem to be the go-to guys for a hit.
It feels like everything 23-year-old Sonny Digital touches turns to gold. He even caught the eye of perhaps the biggest rapper in the game right now—Drake.
He was recently signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label and is the mastermind behind major rap hits like 2 Chainz’s “Birthday Song” and Future’s “Racks.”
More recently, he co-produced ILOVEMAKONNEN’s “Tuesday,” which quickly became the new theme song for college students across the country.
“Tuesday” is still one of ILOVEMAKONNEN’S biggest hits to date but it’s something for which Sonny deserves some major credit.
He explained that, much like Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, he has helped launch many new artists to success. While he doesn’t get as much credit for introducing the new talented musicians to the rap game, he also doesn’t seem to mind the fact that some people are overlooking him.
Instead, he seems amused by the fact that once they start doing their homework, any music lover will come face-to-face with the reality that Sonny is responsible for some of their favorite rap songs.
“It’s fun,” he told Billboard. “When they do their research though, they realize I did all the songs that are in their iPhones.”
Even younger than Sonny is the St. Louis-born producer, Metro Boomin, who has already made his mark in the rap industry.
Metro Boomin may only be 21 years old, but after he formed solid relationships with Young Thug, Gucci Mane and Future, nobody is questioning the young producer’s skills.
Of course, producing a few hits is hardly enough to secure a lasting spot at the top of the hip hop totem pole. The music industry, especially rap, is incredibly trendy. In the rap space new artists and producers skyrocket to fame with one or two hits and quickly fade away from the public’s interest.
“That’s the thing about hip hop—it’s too trendy,” Metro told Billboard. “They can’t wait to go on to the next thing.”
That’s not what Metro is all about though. He hopes to have the type of longevity that will make him comparable to super producers like Timbaland and Pharrell Williams.
“I’m not looking at it like that,” he said. “I’m looking at it like Timbaland and Pharrell. I’m gonna be around.”
Nobody will have to talk to Atlanta duo 1st and Raye Rich, better known as FKi, about hip-hop’s trendy nature after they teamed up with rap group Travis Porter.
The rapping trio put out hit after hit and dominated the airwaves before suddenly vanishing from the charts and the radio circuit.
Travis Porter may have fallen into the shadows but their FKi-produced hits, including “Make It Rain” and “Ayy Ladies,” are still booming all around the Atlanta night scene.
Now 1st and Rich are going beyond the club scene and producing hits for major artists like Ludacris, Travis $cott and Iggy Azalea.
While FKi found their success through the club scene, it was an underground hit that brought Childish Major into the spotlight.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the song, “U.O.E.N.O” was a 2013 smash hit that was impossible to escape.
Many producers come under fire for producing too many hits that sound similar, but Major seems to be full of surprises.
After “U.O.E.N.O” took over rap charts, he teamed up with artists like Future, Juicy J, Jeezy and is even working on a project with The Internet.
It’s clear that Major can work with almost anyone he wants at this point, but even with national recognition as one of the year’s brightest producers he keeps his fellow Atlantans in mind.
“I love working with Two-9, I think Jace (of Retro Sushi) is one of the most underrated artists out…” he told Billboard.
Then there is Nashville-born producer Ducko McFli, who is new to Atlanta but has already worked with two of the city’s most popular rap newcomers.
Migos and OG Maco, quite frankly, were expected to be one hit wonders at best but both artists quickly proved naysayers wrong.
With the help of Ducko McFli, OG Maco put out another hit that further solidified his spot in the rap game.
“F*** Emx3” put Ducko McFli on the map as it was one his first times branching out from working with Atlanta’s own Two-9.
That relationship with Two-9, however, is perhaps one of the most important contributors to his success.
It allowed McFli to connect with super producer Mike WiLL Made-It and eventually led to him being signed on to his Ear Drummaz label along with rap trio Migos.
McFli says it’s the perfect place for him to be in right now.
“It’s a good fit because I’m able to continue working with Two-9, and learn from someone who I’ve looked up to for the past few years,” he said during an interview with Billboard.
Now he is working on a collaboration mixtape with 10Deep as well as projects with Rich Homie Quan and Snootie Wild.
Of course, no conversation about Atlanta-based producers would be completed with Honorable C.N.O.T.E.
It’s almost impossible for many Atlanta-raised music lovers to even say the producer’s name without mimicking the sensual tone of his famous tagline.
For the last seven years he has been pushing the boundaries of rap and now has one of the most impressive resumes of any Atlanta-based producer.
He has partnered with a diverse set of rappers including Lil Wayne, B.O.B, Flo Rida, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Trae the Truth, Rick Ross and many more.
He is also the mastermind behind “Freak No More,” one of Migos’ most popular records to date.
According to him, it’s no surprise that Atlanta is producing the next wave of great producers.
“The feel of the city is electrifying, everyone is eating,” he said. “…They’re all workaholics.”
It’s something to which he attributes his own success.
Honorable C.N.O.T.E says he is one of the many workaholics in Atlanta and he’s constantly pushing himself to do something new and different with his projects.