Producers have always been important, they define the sound of a track or album and are half of the equation. They are usually the composer of the beat and without a good producer your not doing ****. Ask Cannibus aSK kwali.
Just voicing my opinion but today producers do most of the work because rappers have become spoiled letting the beat determine the success.
rap may not be dead but it sure is a lot less interesting than it used to be.
i used to love rap up until around the early 90's- it had humor, charm, quirkiness and style. even when guys were talking about how they were 'the best' and 'put all others to shame', it still felt kind of tongue-in-cheek. but since then it's just been getting harder and harsher, way more 'in your face' and edged with violence and ill-will. and a lot less intelligent.
the only time rap interests me anymore is when it's from other countries... where it's being combined with some local form of music that makes it a hell of a lot more interesting than the ever-changing parade of hacks can make it in this country.