If you’ve listened to rap in the last few years, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered the work of a loopmaker. With artists recording at a dizzying pace, the demand for beats is at an all-time high, so producers have begun outsourcing to a network of musicians who provide them with instrumental hooks for their tracks. As outlined in Pitchfork’s recent feature, these melodic loops—and the producers who make them—have become a fundamental, if largely underappreciated, part of the way today’s biggest rap songs come together. Though loops have become a rap industry standard, there’s still something of a stigma attached to them, obscuring the process for those on the outside.
Unlike big-name producers, who often rise in profile alongside their rapper collaborators, loopmakers often work at a remove from rap’s geographic centers, sending their work to producers over the internet and hoping for placements. Their names can be found in co-production credits on some streaming services (though not on Apple Music), but it might take digging through social media and watching production tutorials on YouTube to know where their specialties lie. Some have earned recognition for their distinct melodies, but many are still relatively unknown to casual listeners, despite their crucial contributions to major songs. These 14 producers are among the top talents in the international loop scene. You may not know their names, but you definitely know their music.
Toronto producer Frank Dukes helped pave the way for the modern loopmaker economy. In 2015, frustrated with sample clearance issues and unfavorable publishing splits, Dukes launched the Kingsway Music Library, a bank of samples he creates from scratch and licenses out to other producers. His work ranges in sound from ’70s-inspired funk, like his collaborations with BadBadNotGood, to the futuristic, steel drum-like melody line on Travis Scott and Young Thug’s “Pick Up the Phone.”
Kevin and Tim Gomringer, the German twin brothers who make up the production duo Cubeatz, have had a major influence on the American rap industry. After producing for a number of German hip-hop acts in the early 2010s, Cubeatz began sending packs of loops via email to producers like Boi-1da, Murda Beatz, Cardo, and Metro Boomin, who worked them into their beats. Cubeatz favor moody melodies with layers of effects, as heard in the minor-chord bells of Migos, Nicki Minaj, and Cardi B’s “MotorSport” and the haunting melody of 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’s “No Heart.”
Wallis Lane is the duo of Los Angeles-based producers Farsi and Nizzy. They landed their first major placement on Drake’s Scorpion in 2018, providing the warped vocal sample that anchors “Is There More.” Since then, they’ve contributed to songs by Travis Scott and Post Malone, as well as worked closely with prominent producers like Sevn Thomas and Jahaan Sweet. Many of their samples have a shadowy, film-noir-like quality.
Even within the producer community, the name Minor2Go is little-known. Still, the German producer has quietly provided the melodies for many hit rap songs in the last two years. He uploads his loops—mostly comprised of minor-key piano and guitar lines—to looperman.com, a site where producers can download and use loops with no royalties or other strings attached. His melodies have ended up in songs by Drake, Migos, A Boogie, Lil Peep, and more. More than half of the songs on Polo G’s gold-certified 2019 debut, Die A Legend, were made with royalty-free Minor2Go loops.
Though it may seem like Minor2Go is leaving a lot of money on the table, he doesn’t seem to mind. In an interview with The FADER last year, he explained why he doesn’t seek compensation. “Let’s say one of my loops has 5,000 downloads, then maybe one of those will make a hit tune out of it without giving me any credits,” he said. “I don’t forget about the other 4,999 guys.”
Rex Kudo co-produced Post Malone’s 2015 breakout single “White Iverson” and has been working closely with the rapper ever since. The L.A. resident often works with instrumentalists and singers—as opposed to strictly creating melodies from scratch on the computer—and puts filters and effects on their recordings to create somber melody lines. His loops tend to include catchy vocal samples, like the ones heard on Roddy Ricch’s “Die Young” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Dark Queen.”
Pvlace, the self-proclaimed “Michelangelo of Melodies,” is part of a wave of German loopmakers to follow Cubeatz into the American rap market and find success. In 2018, after paying someone on Twitter $100 for Southside’s email address, he sent a pack of melodies to the 808 Mafia boss, who liked them so much he signed Pvlace to the production team. His loops, especially the ones he shares with Southside, tend to be dark, but his sample on Future’s “Goin Dummi,” which sounds like feedback-heavy guitar strums manipulated into individual notes, is hopeful and uplifting.
Star Boy, Outtatown, and Loesoe
Star Boy, Outtatown, and Loesoe are members of the Dutch production collective Hyperpop. Over the past year, they’ve co-produced songs for Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Keed, and DaBaby and worked closely with the Philadelphia production group Working On Dying. Uzi’s Eternal Atake offers several examples of the trio’s upbeat, Europop-like melodies: Star Boy’s glitchy chords on “I’m Sorry,” Outtatown’s driving loop on “Celebration Station,” and Star Boy and Loesoe’s aggressive synth line on “Futsal Shuffle 2020.”
Los Angeles’ Jasper Harris broke through in 2019 as the man behind the twinkling melody of DaBaby’s “Vibez.” The melody was part of the first pack of loops he sent to North Carolina producer Jetsonmade, which also included the flute melody of Roddy Ricch’s “Start Wit Me.” Elsewhere, Harris’ loops have featured frantic arpeggios that help build momentum, like on Denzel Curry’s “Carolmart.”
Deskhop, a North Carolina native signed to Jetsonmade’s Spaceboy label, is the producer behind the bubbling melody of Playboi Carti’s recent single, “@ Meh.” His other co-production credits with Jestsonmade, like South Carolina rapper PG Ra’s “Still Showin’ My Ass,” have similarly wandering melodies that often alternate quickly between high and low notes in a chord and complement Jetson’s signature bounce.
E-Trou is part of the Internet Money production collective’s dedicated team of loopmakers. He can often be seen hosting beatmaking tutorials on the group’s YouTube channel, adjusting claps and kicks on FL Studio (the go-to software for producers) in the corner of the screen. His loops are relatively minimalist, like the piano melody on Lil Tecca’s “Did It Again.”
Hagan is a producer from Chicago who’s recently scored placements with NBA YoungBoy, Lil Baby, and Rod Wave. He often works with guitar presets, and his melodies lend themselves to the sort of emotional crooning that’s become the go-to style for many of the South’s rising rap stars. The reversed guitar lick of NBA YoungBoy’s “Lil Top” is the sort of simple but catchy instrumental hook that shows his melodic loops at their most effective.
Seph Got The Waves
Seph Got The Waves, from Woodville, New Zealand, is a bit of an outlier in the loops scene. His primary tool is his guitar, and he’s contributed soulful riffs to songs by Rod Wave, NoCap, and Trippie Redd in the past two years. His riffs skew toward the emotional and world-weary, though his recent flamenco-inspired melody on Mozzy’s “Pricetag” is a fun change of pace.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork