REVOLT TV presents 'The Produce Section,' a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, 'The Produce Section' is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition, we cover producer Stevie J, who was one of the go-to boardsmen during the latter half of the '90s. Born and bred in upstate New York, Stevie J got his entry into the industry working with R&B group Jodeci, providing background vocals and live instrumentation. But, his claim to fame came when he linked up with Sean "Diddy" Combs, who enlisted the neophyte for Bad Boy Records' in-house production squad, The Hitmen. Quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with, Stevie J earned a reputation for generating infectious backdrops for the likes of Mariah Carey, 112, Tevin Campbell, Faith Evans, JAY-Z, Eve, Brian McKnight and the Jackson family. However, the works that define his career are his contributions to seminal albums from The Notorious B.I.G. (Life After Death) and Diddy (No Way Out), the latter netting him a Grammy award in 1998.
While Stevie J's reinvention into a reality TV star and entertainer has become his main focus in recent years, the producer's legacy as the creator of some of the more memorable beats of all time remains intact.
In our latest installment of our series, we celebrate and highlight 11 of Stevie J's most iconic beats that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. "No Time"
For Lil Kim's grand entrance as a soloist, Diddy phoned in Stevie J to supply the budding superstar with the kind of record that would make a big splash. The producer accomplished that and more with his work on this track, which presented the Queen Bee as rap's official "It" girl and topped the U.S. Rap Songs chart for nine weeks. Based around a sample of "The Message From the Soul Sisters" by Myra Barnes," this song ranks among Stevie J's most recognizable bangers.
For his first breakout hit as a member of the Bad Boy family, Stevie J crafted this breezy track for crooners 112, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart. Built around a riff of KC & the Sunshine Band's 1975 cut " I Get Lifted," this beat was blessed by a classic guest verse courtesy of The Notorious B.I.G. It's a sleek offering that was among the more memorable R&B cuts of 1996.
Flexing his ability to create hits for R&B's elite, Stevie J delivered this subdued selection to Mariah Carey for the singer's Butterfly album. Pairing solemn keys with staccato percussion, the beat-smith works his magic yet again, scoring what would become one of Butterfly's biggest records.
Of all of the classic songs he's had his hand in making, one that looms large above the others is this epic salvo, which Stevie J molded into a triumphant instrumental that creates instant pandemonium and touches the hearts of men. Bill Conti's "Going the Distance" gets reworked by the producer, who bolsters the track with live instrumentation, revamping it into the anthem it's known as today.
5. "I'll Be Missing You"
When tasked with coming up with the backing track for what would become the greatest tribute rap song of all time, Stevie J delivered the goods with this heartfelt composition. Drawing inspiration from The Police's classic 1983 single "Every Breath You Take," the Hitman revamps the original with live instrumentation, resulting in a record that is one of the biggest of his career.
6. "Mo Money Mo Problems"
Stevie J delves in the vaults and flips Diana Ross' 1980 hit "I'm Coming Out" for this party-starter. Released as the second single from Life After Death, this ditty topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks and is proof that Stevie J had the Midas touch during the prime years of his peak.
7. "Notorious Thugs"
Piano keys run wild as Stevie J lets the beat build on this soundscape from The Notorious B.I.G.'s sophomore set, which pairs the late King of New York with Thugs-N-Harmony. Rife with drum kicks, claps and strings, the instrumental gets navigated in riveting fashion.
8. "You're Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)"
Drums from The 5th Dimension's "The Rainmaker" comprise the foundation of this closing number from The Notorious B.I.G.'s swan song Life After Death. Stevie J, who combines the sample with eerie synths, piano keys and other wrinkles; scores another collaborative effort with Brooklyn's beloved don, capping off one of the greatest rap albums of all time.
9. "Nasty Boy"
Stevie J brings out the synths on this composition from Life After Death, coaxing one of the raunchiest performances of The Notorious B.I.G.'s career. Taking cues from the sounds coming west coast and south, Stevie J powers the track with bouncy percussion, resulting in a slick backdrop that broadened Biggie's regional borders.
10. "Just Wanna Please U"
One unsung gem from Stevie J's catalog that deserves its flowers is this heater the boardsman produced for teenage R&B songstress Mona Lisa. Lifting a riff from "Crab Apple" by Idris Muhammad, and pilfering drums from Biz Markie's "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz," Stevie J cooked up yet another indelible selection from his prolific mid-'90s run.
11. "Ride or Die"
In 1998, Stevie J crafted the instrumental for this standout cut from JAY-Z's Vol 2... Hard Knock Life album, which saw the Hitmen member crossing enemy lines. A subliminal diss record aimed at Bad Boy Records star Ma$e, who was among Hov's earliest rivals, the song is not only memorable for its slick jabs at the Harlem rep, but Stevie J's work behind the boards.
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