Check Out These Top Ten Apple Music “Behind the Boards” Playlists To Teach You All About Hip-Hop

Though Tidal is making major moves to secure its stronghold on the music streaming game (and Spotify is still Spotify), Apple Music is holding its own with excellently crafted playlists, including “Behind the Boards,” the series that spotlights music’s hottest producers. For me, the playlists are the platform’s biggest selling point, allowing fans to digitally “dig through crates,” exploring producer catalogues and the original sources of their signature sound.

However, selecting ten playlists for this list quite frankly gave me anxiety, to the point where I had to phone a friend (thanks, Cory). If you disagree with my final choices, just know my editor made me do it. [This is true—Ed.]

The Neptunes

Nobody could touch “The Neptunes sound” in the late ’90s and early millennium, and this selection of classics, from Snoop Dogg to Mystikal, shows why. Bang on a table to the “Grindin’” beat for old times’ sake, will you?

Just Blaze

Just Blaze (and his purported Blazettes) ripped through the ranks across different regions, but his soulful production and energetic drums so perfectly epitomized the grit of New York’s streets as he became the go-to-guy during Roc-A-Fella’s reign. “Pump It Up” will forever hold a spot in New Jersey’s rap hall of fame, and “Welcome To New York City” still gets me pumped with patriotism, capturing the triumphant spirit of the Big Apple after the September 11 attacks.

DJ Premier

Hip-hop and Premo production just go together—there is no separation. With legendary cuts from Nas, Jay Z, Gang Starr, Biggie, and others, DJ Premier’s production of hard-hitting beats and chopped samples will give you a crash-course in hip-hop’s raw roots.

Puff Daddy and The Hitmen

One of the most iconic eras in hip-hop music was the Bad Boy era in the late ’90s. From his early days with The Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy told us Bad Boy’s movement wouldn’t stop, and decades later, it still hasn’t. With unforgettable singles from Total, Ma$e and the rest of the Family, this playlist masterfully revisits a time when Puffy and his Hitmen (including Stevie J before his reality TV endeavors) has us dancing to hip-hop that just felt good.

Dr. Dre

No Apple Music hip-hop list would be complete without Dr. D-R-E. Besides his business dealings with Apple, Dre has cemented his place in music as hip-hop royalty, from his days with N.W.A and his trademark laid-back production, most notably featured with The Doggfather, Snoop Dogg.

Metro Boomin

Thanks to his monster work with Future over the past years and his well-documented trust issues on wax, Young Metro has risen to the top of the hip-hop playing field. For those in tune with modern youth culture, this playlist of aggressive, bass-heavy beats is irresistible, and a time capsule of today’s South-driven trap rap.

DJ Dahi

Dahi’s star is rising fast, marked by substantial placement on major recent albums like Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise, Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo & Youth, and Wale’s The Album About Nothing, as well as his work on assorted T.D.E. releases. His sharp, complex style of production on some of hip-hop’s current biggest hits makes this playlist an absolute must-listen, especially if you enjoy hard beats compounded by even harder lyrics.

J Dilla

Though his music is now often celebrated and discussed, J Dilla didn’t get the proper appreciation he deserved while he was still alive. This playlist of gems from artists like The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, Common, and De La Soul, showcases the importance of his infectious, melodious production to the core of hip-hop.


Boi-1da has somehow managed to emerge from the shadows to take over the game one hit at a time. Though his origins stem from work with Toronto’s golden child, Boi-1da has grown to become the guy with a diverse range of sonic offerings to call on—an important skill for total domination and longevity in music. If you want to stay up to date with what’s cool right now, just follow his playlist.

Kanye West

While “new Kanye” is currently Tidal’s darling and most active spokesperson, “old Kanye” lives on Apple Music. This playlist celebrates Kanye’s former high-pitched, soul-food-Sunday, sample-loving production of yore, showcasing songs that you may not have even realized Mr. West produced, like Ludacris’s “Stand Up.”

One to watch: Vinylz

If you’re looking for a bonus, Vinylz’s swift rise to the top of the music charts these past few years can’t go unmentioned, and as a result, his bouncy, bare-boned beats (some of which he co-produced) have made room for a playlist of hits worth checking out.

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