Marley Marl

One of hip-hop's first (and finest) superproducers, Marley Marl was an early innovator in the art of sampling, developing new techniques that resulted in some of the sharpest beats and hooks in rap's Golden Age. As the founder of Cold Chillin' Records, Marl assembled a roster filled with some of the finest hip-hop talent in New York: MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shanté, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, and Masta Ace. His production work for those and many other artists generally boasted a bright, booming, and robust sound that -- along with his ear for a catchy sample -- helped move street-level hip-hop's sonic blueprint into more accessible territory. Most important, though, were his skills as a beatmaker; Marl was among the first to mine James Brown records for grooves and also learned how to craft his own drum loops through sampling, which decreased hip-hop's reliance on tinny-sounding drum machines and gave his '80s productions a fresh, modern flavor.