When you ask a little girl what she wants to be when she grows up, if the answer is "a singer" or "Britney Spears" (hey, it was the 90s at one point in time), you smile and nod your head approvingly, and perhaps ask her to sing you a song. Then, one day, that girl grows up and ends up becoming a professional recording artist, with thousands, maybe millions of fans, on a nationwide tour, and we music enthusiasts rush to our keyboards to review her latest single. But what about the girls who answer "I want to make music"? The ones who created the songs that those first girls now get to sing, and receive all the accolades for. Now, those girls-those are the girls I want to bring to the spotlight and praise. Because if you think that being a woman in the music industry is hard- try being one that barely gets talked about.
Whenever you hear a song and it gives you that "feeling", that indescribable chill that runs not just through your spine, but through your veins, engulfing your entire being in a storm of emotions that only you can distinguish- who do you thank? The artist's vocals play a large part, sure, but what you are really feeling is a reaction to the production. The way that the keys, rhythms, and various nuances of the beats hit your eardrums is a courtship between you and the song. Or rather, between you and the producer.
Now, we've all heard of famous names like Timbaland, Pharrell, Quincy Jones, Missy Elliott, even. But in this piece, I'd like to highlight the top five female producer names that you should know, because chances are you've already heard of them without ever knowing their names.
Canadian-born producer Wondagurl (Ebony Naomi Oshurinde) has been a household name since the age of 15, after winning the Beat Makers Competition in Toronto. She didn't let her age nor status curb her enthusiasm, sending beats off to Drake and Travis Scott over social media, which believe it or not, worked. Travis Scott quickly passed on the beat to non other than Jay Z, which became the song "Crown" off the Magna Carta Holy Grail album.
Since then, she has collaborated on other celebrated and well-known projects for Rihanna, Drake, Lil Simz, SZA, and many more. Did I mention that she is still only 23 years old?
Another Canadian talent is the singer-songwriter-visual artist-producer Grimes. She has been producing and releasing albums since 2010, but her real breakthrough was the 2012 Visions project, which graced us with gems such as "Genesis" and "Oblivion". Not tied to any one genre or checking any one "box", Grimes consistently dances around dream pop, R&B, electronica, and hip hop, resulting in a unique sound that can only be described as hers. When speaking about her music production, she rightly points out: "I won't want to be the face of this thing I built, I want to be the one who built it." And if that's not all, she also designs all of her album artwork, and even directs her own music videos.
To be honest, I don't even know where to start with Linda Perry. From humble beginnings in San Francisco, singing her songs on city streets, to becoming only the ninth woman ever to be nominated for the Producer of the Year (non-classical) award at the Grammys. This woman is not only a force to be reckoned with, but one that you cannot live without in the studio.
You might recognize her work in the success of such artists as Christina Aguilera, Pink, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, James Blunt…the list honestly goes on and on. Or you might better recognize her as the raw, powerful voice behind 4 Non Blondes. And yes, before you ask "what's going on"- she did also produce their songs.
Producer, songwriter, and entrepreneur Shakari TRAKGIRL Boles is building the next frontier of successful women in the music industry, specifically in production and business roles. Taking it upon herself to share not just her knowledge, but also her time, TRAKGIRL has engaged in multiple speaking engagements and producer clinics, hoping to encourage more women to enter the industry and force the scales to move. But knowledge and experience are not the only aspects of the business that she is fighting for. She has also managed to start her own fashion line, Pay Us Today, which promotes fair pay for creatives and producers, as well as shining a light on fair business practices.
Let's not forget what started this all- her talent behind the producer's chair. Describing herself as being "born to do music" after growing up in a family full of musicians, TRAKGIRL has not disappointed. Having worked alongside talented artists like Jhene Aiko, Omarion, Belly, and Luke James to name a few, she has quickly solidified her name as an invincible musical force.
Closing out this impressive list is music composer-producer-singer-songwriter Lydia Ainsworth. After completing her Bachelor's degree in music composition in Montreal, she continued to pursue her love for the subject in New York City, where she finished her Master's degree in musical composition, and started working on her first album, Right From Real.
Right From Real accentuates her extensive musical knowledge with intricate compositions that intertwine with dreamy pop melodies. Since then, she has released one more album, and is on the verge of releasing her third, Phantom Forest on May 10. Oh, let's not forget that she has composed the score for a film- The Woods– while still still in university.