Meet The British Rap Producers Ready For The World Stage
British rap is an amazing place right now. With a thriving underground and an ever-increasing appetite from audiences, the homegrown scene is finding support...
Some of this article was originally published on June 21, 2019. New entries include Ceebeaats, Young Chencs, Swifta Beater, Rxwntree, TSB, Quincy Tellem and more.
British rap is in an amazing place right now. With a thriving underground and an ever-increasing appetite from audiences, the homegrown scene is finding supporters in big places, and a lot of this is down to the talented guys behind the boards.
Illford producer 808Melo found international fame as one of the emissaries bringing UK drill Stateside to help sculpt its Brooklyn counterpart, North LDN’s Inflo is a hit-making producer for SAULT, Little Simz and Adele, and South London native P2J made his mark on projects by Dave, Wizkid and Burna Boy, not to mention Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack. UK rappers like Giggs, J Hus and Skepta have all found international audiences in recent years, which is in no small part due to the growing number of scene-pushing producers we’ve been blessed with today. These talents are creating unquestionably British beats and taking them global without toning down its identity.
Cross-pollination with jazz, grime and Afrobeats, as well as the knowledge that you can get some pretty out-there productions in the charts these days, has made the scene the perfect playground for some incredible producers. Creativity and inventiveness is at an all-time high and the effects are rippling not just through UK music, but the world.
The Complex UK music team decided to put together a list of producers whose names we predict will be up in lights, on the world stage, in the coming months and years. Dive in below.
At just 17 years old, Ceebeaats has accomplished a hell of a lot in a very short space of time. One of the brightest production talents in UK drill, Digga D’s Silver-certified single “Woi” (which she co-produced with M1OnTheBeat) is always the first track to be mentioned, but she’s also been supplying beats for Charlie Sloth’s Fire In The Booth and has become an in-demand remixer. However, in the small number of interviews she’s done so far, Ceebeaats has made it clear that there’s far more to her creative palette. Even her drill productions suggest a desire to experiment, weaving in threads of Afrobeats, R&B and more traditional rap tropes. For now, those experiments still maintain a drill backbone—particularly her remix of Giveon’s “Still Your Best” and her on-the-fly edit of Amerie’s “Why Don’t We Fall In Love”—but there is clearly a deep hunger to spread her wings, so watch her fly. —James Keith
Since 2018, Young Chencs has been turning heads with placements on projects by Yxng Bane, D-Block Europe, M Huncho, Ghetts and more, but his position in the scene has been solidified more recently by becoming a key component to Central Cee’s sound and trajectory, producing the Wild West hit-maker’s singles “6 For 6” and “Little Bit of This”. Already this year, the Kettering native has achieved two Top 40 singles and two Silver-selling albums, and this hot streak is bound to continue for one of the most sought-after producers as we step into a new year. —Mimi Itseli
Until recently, the name M1OnTheBeat, besides instantly invoking the sound of his world-famous producer tag, was synonymous with UK drill (alongside his teammate MKThePlug). He’s left an indelible mark on the oft-maligned sound, helping to shape the sliding bass sounds and hi-hat triplets alongside the likes of Ghosty, AV and 808Melo, but there’s been a change in the air lately. Although he hasn’t turned his back on drill completely, in the past year, Hackney-born M1 has started to broaden his horizons considerably, taking the lessons learned in drill and blurring the boundaries that separate it from rap. On one side, Potter Payper, Chip and KSI have all benefited from the cinematic chill of his rap beats, but on the other, he also recently dipped back into his drill bag for the orchestral grandeur of Headie One’s “2 Chains”. We doubt it’ll be too long before M1OnTheBeat’s influence finds a steady place in the mainstream. —James Keith
Birmingham-born Swifta Beater makes nothing less than hits. The platinum-selling producer earned his stripes in the grime and bassline/4x4 scenes as far back as 2005, but his standing in British rap is also one of great respect. We’ve all heard his infamous Brum-and-proud producer tag on grime bangers like Jme and Giggs’ “Man Don’t Care” and Jaykae’s “Chop”, but he’s also one of the most musically-inclined rap producers out today, blessing everyone from Mowgs and Mist to Krept & Konan and Blade Brown with his midas touch on the buttons. Don’t be surprised if you hear his lairy tag on works by US rap’s biggest in the next year or two. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
TSB, formerly known as TobiShyBoy, injects a vibrancy and melodic colour that’s come to define UK music in the 2020s, but he’s been hard at work for just over a decade now; his first credited production came in 2009, on a track called “Shut Down” for Lioness’ Roarness project. Working tirelessly since then, his first major break came with his contributions to J Hus’ modern classic, Common Sense, repeating their magic together on follow-up Big Conspiracy. Contributions to Dave’s Psychodrama, MoStack’s Stacko, and singles for M1llionz, NSG, Headie One, Loski, Stormzy, Tion Wayne, DC and countless others followed, and he can now officially call himself a Platinum-selling producer. He also released his own debut single, “Jagged Edge”, which saw him join forces with M1llionz and Unknown T to solidify his trademark R&Drill sound, this time with his own name above the door. —James Keith
Typically, the first port of call for most producers from East London is the grime scene, where the sound was born, and this was true for Hackney’s own Rxwntree. A classically-trained musician, Rxwntree built up his credentials working with grime vets like Scorcher, Big H, and President T, but that eventually moved into him engineering, mixing and exec-producing for some of UK rap’s finest—namely MoStack, from his 2017-released Top 20 debut, High Street Kid, up to the present day. Often teaming up with like-minded creators, Rxwntree’s passion for production shines bright on the 2AndaQ podcast, which he does with NYGE and Quincy Tellem, where he shares invaluable gems for up-and-comers. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
21-year-old Gotcha is breezing through the drill scene. Starting his impressive run by producing Digga D and Russ Millions’ “Mr Sheeen” in 2019, Gotcha made £500 from the track—which was a motivation for him. The Thornton Heath native trusted the process and now boasts a No. 1 single in “Body”, a monster of a hit by Russ and Tion Wayne. He also produced “Keisha & Becky” for the aforementioned pair, and “Gun Lean” for Russ—two of the drill scene’s biggest hits to date—as well as working with the likes of Rondodasosa, Unknown T, Jack Harlow, ArrDee, Luciano, 22gz and OneFour. Now a multi-platinum producer, Gotcha is undeniably one of the most important figures in the British rap sphere. —Mimi Itseli
Ghosty by name, Ghosty by nature: the bulk of this East London producer’s work will spook you out of your boots, which has become his USP. Ghoulish vocal effects and menacing 808s tend to creep up on most of his creations, which has seen him work with everyone from Dave and Headie One to Loski and M1llionz, and he’s managed to build a sturdy career out of standing out from the pack in that respect. Predominantly a drill producer, Ghosty has mastered his craft and has played a big part in the Brooklyn drill movement, so it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world taps in to this legend-in-waiting. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
Quincy Tellem came in first as the go-to-guy for M Huncho, but he’s so much more than that these days. When the very first lockdown hit, he shut himself away in his studio and he hasn’t stopped grinding since. It’s a dedication that’s served him well; in the past 18-plus months, the North West Londoner has become one of the most in-demand talents in the game. Headie One called on him for chunks of EDNA and Too Loyal… For My Own Good, and he’s also whipped up instrumentals for the likes of Abra Cadabra, Youngs Teflon, Keeya Keys, Potter Payper and Nines. Quincy’s career is moving at quite a pace today (three collab projects are in the works and he’s currently being requested overseas), and it’s all very deserved. —James Keith
If you’re looking to create a culturally impactful UK rap hit, Steel Banglez is the man that can. Stepping out via grime in the early noughties—working with none other than his neighbour, D Double E—Steel, a native of East London, soon found his home in the road rap sphere, working closely with the likes of Yungen and Cashtastic very early on. Speaking with Complex last year about his stint in prison, it was there Steel realised music was his one true calling, and in 2015, upon meeting then-unknown rappers MoStack and Mist, his career took off with only success following him ever since. Crafting his Afrobeats, trap and grime-pinched soundscapes with pop sensibilities, Steel Banglez’s work is mass appealing while staying true to his underground core, and with a growing list of Top 40 hits to his name, it’s a formula that’s clearly working in his favour. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
Hailing from Newham, East London, JAE5 honed his production skills while attending classes at Ape Media, a youth development scheme which helps keep troubled young people off the streets. It’s there that he met J Hus, and their pioneering partnership arguably changed the course of Black British music history. He worked extensively on Hus’ debut LP, Common Sense, and added his golden touch as executive producer on his chart-topping Big Conspiracy. JAE5 is a versatile producer, not tied to any one genre or sound, and is influenced by everything from Ghanaian Hiplife and Afrobeats to gritty New York City rap. He won a Grammy for his work on Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall LP and is now stepping out with his own solo material, the first being the Skepta and Rema-assisted “Dimensions”, a groove-laden drop that taps into Nigerian alté music. JAE5’s journey to greatness will likely inspire generations of producers to come. —Robert Kazandjian
His name may have shot up recently following his work on slowthai and Skepta’s “Inglorious”—which was cold, intense, and strangely melodic—but JD. Reid has been making waves for a while now. He’s been called “London’s answer to Timbaland”, and while there are shortcomings to the comparison, he’s definitely working a futuristic, hard-to-categorise sound and collaborating with a similarly broad variety of artists, from the UK jazz scene (Henry Wu, Fatima) to rap (Kojey Radical, 808INK) to grime (D Double E, Ghetts) to pop (Mabel, Katy B). His mixtape last year, Tree, was a deeply impressive statement of intent: luxe, intricate beats that perfectly complement the span of artists in his arsenal. And there’s so much more to come—we hear a collaboration with Flohio is in the pipeline—but for now, look back on JD’s body of work and get up on this talent. —Tara Joshi
Meet Carns Hill, the Dr. Dre of South London. Producing for the best of the best in and outside of his Brixton Hill ends, Carns—who’s also cousins with bassline beatsmith DJ Q—made his presence known in 2015 during the rise of UK drill, where he put his distinctly British spin on the 808s-loaded Chiraq sound for the likes of 67 and K-Trap, while creating slower-paced gems for road rap vets like Timbar and Blade Brown. With a penchant for menacing keys and pounding bells, Carns Hill is currently in demand—and rightly so. His grind’s been inspirational to watch. “I try to be as different as possible,” he told TRENCH Magazine. “Whatever is popping or current, I kind of stray away from it and just do my own thing.” —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson
When your production credits include Popcaan, Nicki Minaj and Sneakbo, it’s arguable that you don’t need all that much introduction. But in case you didn’t know, The Fanatix are some of the UK’s finest—a London-based trio whose style spans pretty much every Black British music genre, but specialise in dancehall and rap. That seductive heat on Giggs’ “Baby”? Fanatix. The euphoric, lush keys of Ms Banks’ “Come Thru”? Fanatix. The hypnotic brass of Chip and Red Rat’s “My Girl”? Fanatix. They’ve previously been nominated for Best Producer at the Rated Awards, have garnered fans around the world, and did that very beaut remix for Stylo G with Nicki and Vybz, all of which is to say they’re very legit and very good. Odds are one of your songs of the summer is down to these guys. —Tara Joshi
Although he’s kept a low profile, the achievements of London producer EY probably dwarf most when taking into account recent developments from across the pond. From the days of crafting early mixtape tracks for Nines, EY’s polished and layered productions instantly stood out, and he would go on to produce the bulk of Krept & Konan’s double-mixtape drop, 7 Days & 7 Nights, from 2017. North America soon called on EY and he added the likes of Meek Mill, Swae Lee and Chris Brown to his growing list of credits—not least a co-production on Drake’s “Omerta”. EY’s stock is rising and we’re very much here for it. —Tobi Oke
The reputation of 169 has been enhanced by his uncanny ability to deliver frenetic, memorable production for today’s generation of UK rap stars. The scene received a major taste in 2016 when 169 meticulously reworked Prince Rapid’s classic “Pied Piper” riddim, offering up a new-age grime anthem in “Thiago Silva” for AJ Tracey and Dave. More recent endeavours have produced Headie One’s “18 HUNNA”, Dave and Fredo’s “Funky Friday” and even Canadian rapper Lil Berete’s early 2019 collab with Loski, “Go N Get It”. With further credits with the likes of Ramz and Craig David, 169’s burgeoning career as a singer is gathering pace to sit side by side with his rise as a sought-after beatsmith. —Yemi Abiade
iO’s hit-rate over the past couple of years has been unbelievable. Credits include Loski’s “Calm Down”, “Cool Kid”, “Live Like That” and “Forrest Gump”; Skepta’s “What Do You Mean?” with J Hus; “Leave Me”, “Sweet Cheeks” and “Spirit” for J Hus; “Disaster” for Dave; “Pushing Up” for NSG; “Again” for Young T & Bugsey, and the list goes on. Often collaborating with like-minded producers such as JAE5 (with whom he partnered with on his contributions to Common Sense) and TobiShyboy, iO has built a strong network of allies around him and has keenly positioned himself as one of the top names when it comes to crafting credible rap joints with commercial and critical success in equal measure. —James Keith
Applying the lessons he’s learnt in the underground to the mainstream, NYGE has put his stamp on a respectable chunk of the British rap scene. The South London producer made an astounding debut when he produced “Lock Arrf” for Smoke Boys back in 2015—an unlikely shot in the dark that changed the game forever. Since then, Ms Banks, House Of Pharaohs AJ Tracey, Lancey Foux, Yxng Bane, Suspect and more have all benefited from his astute balance of Afrobeats, rap and pop sensibilities. His beats are dark but club-friendly, minimal but filled with atmosphere. For anyone doubting the subtlety and nuance in UK rap today, point them to NYGE. —James Keith
When Da Beatfreakz’s increasingly recognisable tagline is sounded, a guaranteed banger is on its way. Blood brothers O1 and U1 have been climbing the ladder with their own melodic brand of UK rap and Afroswing, made more efficient by their own ability to pen songs. Giggs, Nines, Ms Banks, Little Mix, Jeremih and Jacquees have all been blessed with beats from the production duo, and they are set for more wins simply off the strength of their work ethic, an attitude taking them to the world and back as they attempt to build bridges between their London home and the rest of the globe. —Yemi Abiade
A favourite of the likes of Milkavelli, Cult Mountain and 616, London-based producer Sumgii is renowned for his leftfield rap productions that sit apart from the pack, but still fit well with a rhymer. His work with all those artists is of course worth checking out, but that goes double for his stacked SoundCloud page featuring beat tapes, experiments and remixes. Whether working with a rapper or just making his own instrumentals, Sumgii’s free-flowing mix of crunchy rap beats, funk bass and psychedelic melodies means that every single production is a surprise. You can never be quite sure where this prolific producer’s going to take you, but you can be sure it won’t be boring. —James Keith