Marley Marl is one of the best to ever do it. If you know what a hip-hop superproducer is, then Marley is the blueprint.
The production guru got his feet wet alongside his cousin, the legendary Mr. Magic. He was the turntablist alongside Magic on Magic's hit radio show Rapp Attack on WBLS in New York. Magic's nickname was "Sir Juice" and the name was soon applied to the various rappers that were starting to get some love on his show.
Marley would produce classic work for MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Biz Markie, Kool G Rap and Craig G--and they were mostly showcased on Cold Chillin' Records. By the late 1980s, the Juice Crew was becoming one of hip-hop's most prominent collectives. To cement his rep as a superproducer and the crew's legend, Marley released In Control, Vol. 1 in 1988, a compilation that highlighted his production and the crew. The album included the hit single "The Symphony," a posse cut that was hailed as an instant classic.
At the dawn of the 1990s, Marley would go on to multiplatinum success outside his Juice Crew productions. He produced one of the biggest hip-hop albums of 1990 in LL Cool J's Mama Said Knock you Out. Marley also produced Bell Biv DeVoe's 1991 hit "She's Dope" and worked on TLC's smash debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip in 1992. Throughout his career, Marley would produce hits for Da Youngstaz, Lords of the Underground, Nas and more.
In celebration of Marley Marl's stellar reputation, we picked our 10 favorite Marley Marl productions.
"Jingling Baby" (Remix) LL Cool J
Marley Marl has an amazing resume, but one of the highlights of his career is his work on LL Cool J's critically-acclaimed third album Mama Said Knock You Out. And one of the best singles was this remix hit, an umptempo party jam that showed LL could still make you move.
"She's Dope" (Remix)Bell Biv DeVoe
Bell Biv DeVoe stood out from the other New Edition spinoff acts as an R&B act that was fully embracing hip-hop sounds and image. Even Bobby Brown had never tapped a rap producer for a single, and this new jack trio leaned on Marley for their hit 1991 track--another ode to a sexy woman.
"Ain't No Half-Steppin'"Big Daddy Kane
Kane's debut album Long Live the Kane is a classic and it announced Kane as one of the preeminent rappers of the late 1980s. It's the best work that Marley and Kane did together--especially this "laid back track" that was a hit for Kane in 1988.
"Mama Said Knock You Out"LL Cool J
LL had been derided by critics and fans in the late 1980s, as hip-hop had gotten more hardcore, aggressive and dead serious--while he was rapping about "Big Ole Butts." He bounced back in 1990 with this monster of a single, which featured Marley given the veteran rapper a push back into the more hardcore territory of his 1985 debut.
"Around the Way Girl"LL Cool J
Another hit single from Mama Said Knock You Out was this smoothed-out dedication to the girls from the neighborhood. LL's love songs had a tendency to go sappy, but not here--Marley gives him a gorgeous backdrop. And LL actually sounds sincere.
"The Symphony" The Juice Crew
The song is legendary. Marley wanted to cement the Juice Crew and he succeeded with this classic posse cut; a showcase for Crew members Masta Ace, Big Daddy Kane, Craig G--and a legend-making verse from Kool G Rap.
"Young Gifted and Black" Big Daddy Kane
Kane got seriously topical on this Albert King-sampling banger that reflected his Islamic leanings and the social consciousness that was becoming more and more prevalent in popular hip-hop artists of the time.
"Gyrlz They Love Me"Heavy D & the Boyz
Heavy D teamed up with Marley Marl for this hit single from 1989, which featured Heavy and The Boyz doing what they do best; combining fun hooks with rhymes about how charming the late Dwight Myers could always be.
"The Music Man" Masta Ace
Masta Ace was the most underrated member of the Juice Crew, and Marley gave him some of his best productions. A clear example is this classic single, which highlighted Ace's uniquely clever approach to lyricism and Marley's knack for infectious grooves.
"Road To the Riches" Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
G Rap and Polo were the most street-oriented act in the Juice Crew. G Rap specialized in tales about crime, drugs and gangsters--and Marley launched the template for G Rap's career with this classic from his debut album. A cautionary tale and one of Marley's most distinctive productions, it became a standout moment for all involved.