Here at Idolator, one of our favorites tasks is gauging the larger trends of mainstream music culture. With hip-hop and R&B increasingly driving the zeitgeist (oh hai Beyonce!), there are few better ways to chart pop’s 2013 narrative than to take a closer look at the beat-makers who stepped up their game and came to define the sounds of the past twelve months.
From mega-trap to hazy nihilism to radio-ready stickiness, hip-hop and R&B in all its forms flourished this year, and the following breakout producers were instrumental in the movement.
Love him or hate him, Macklemore’s platinum-selling sophomore album The Heist was ubiquitous in 2013. The album’s stadium-worthy production was exclusively crafted by 25-year-old Seattle producer Ryan Lewis who, up until The Heist, had few credits to his name. As conflicting as it can be to really throw support Macklemore, it’s really hard to nitpick Lewis’ boisterous, multi-layered work that set new standards for what pop-rap could accomplish. From the skittering hi-hats and playful horn hook on “Thrift Shop,” to the freight train piano figure, handclaps and tambourine hits on “Can’t Hold Us,” Lewis constructed tight songs appeared to roll downhill, gaining momentum with each pass. At this point, he seems poised to become a ’10s version of will.i.am, dominating the Hot 100 with every beat he drops, and becoming just as polarizing along the way.