BUT First let me explain the difference between a producer and a beatmaker. A producers job is to be involved with the arrangement, instrumentation and sometimes lyrics of a song. They take a good musical idea and turn it into great art with depth character and appeal(the good ones at least). Some are just really good at making hits. A beatmaker is someone who creates a skeleton for a rapper to spit over. Its where a lot of producers start out. Its like the difference between Souljah Boy(beatmaker) and DJ Toomp(producer)...
you may know this guy as the drummer of The Roots. Thats because he is. He's probably a guy that you know you've seen before and would recognize but not know where from. He is definitely one of the best producers out right now. He was responsible for Al Greens 2008 album "Lay it Down" Jay Z's Unplugged joint and Pharrell's unreleased Out My Mind album where he re-vamped the original "In My Mind" and if you haven't heard that shit...get on that.
Questlove's musical library is so vast, he can draw inspiration from damn near any genre. He is one of the best drummers alive and he's the bandleader of one of the best bands EVER(not arguable) in The Roots so he has great musicians at his disposal.
One of the most highly regarded producers ever. You might remember him as the white dude with th e long ass beard sitting in the car with Jay Z on the "99 problems" video (no that was NOT one of the members of ZZ Top). Apart from working with Jay Z he is one of the pioneers of hip hop with his production of Run DMC, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys in the 80s. He is also really active in rock and has produced a lot for Slayer and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Johnny Cash.
He was there when hip hop was new and has adapted since then. Not a beatmaker at all, he takes a bigger picture look at a song.
This dude is all around dope. One of my favorites. Couples sampled beats and synthesizers where most producers pick one or the other. His drum programming is some of the best and he has a great use of static sounds and vocals to create depth in his beats. Although his Songs About Girls album wasn't the best, the production was sick as is most of his tracks with the Black Eyed Peas. He's also assisted Kanye on tracks and produced for Common and John Legend among others.
He has appeal commercially without losing the integrity of the music.
This Jewish cat from London started as a DJ doing parties for Diddy before coming out with his first ablum "All That Fuzz"(which flopped but whatever). Most famous for his production of the critical and commercial success, Amy Winehouse's, "Back to Black", he is also a well respected hip hop producer. He signed DC rapper Wale in 2007 who he produces for and he did production for Nas' album "N word" with one of my favorite tracks "Fried Chicken". He has this raw style, live band-ish almost analog sounding tone with old school horns and live drums as a signature.
His drums are sick but simple, he uses strings and horns which is hard to do and he's a multi instrumentalists playing keyboard drums and guitar which always helps.
He rose to prominence in the hip hop world and set a trend among young producers with the remix album "The Grey Album" where he mixed Beatles "White album" tracks seamlessly over the a-capella version of Jay Z's "The Black Album"....genius. He has also worked with the "anonymous" band Gorillaz, MF Doom, and blues rock band "The Black Keys". Now he's working with Cee Lo Green as 1 half of the band Gnarls Barkley. He's got an unmistakable style, his drums are super complicated, and he uses samples like no other producer I've ever heard.
His blatant disregard for the rules of how hip hop is supposed to sound like...enough said.
Here are some honarable mentions ( i really didn't feel like writing a bunch more) with my opinion of there best work.
Best Work: I cant say...but he is one of the best samplers of all time...this dude may sample 6 songs to make one...GENIUS!
Best Work: Everything he touched RIP
Best Work: The Listening, Little Brother
Best Work: Future Sex Love Songs, Justin Timberlake (classic)
Best Work: Late Registration (i love to argue this one with people...be my guest)