For so many people, 2020 has been a down year filled with all the complications associated with COVID-19, but for the Multi-Platinum and Grammy Award-winning producer Hit-Boy, his trajectory has been nothing but upward. From this year’s projects
with Benny the Butcher to his production work with Nas, Jay-Z and Jay Electronica, and Big Sean, respectively, many people within the industry feel that Hit-Boy has checked all the boxes for Producer of the Year.
While it’s been nearly 10 years since Hit-Boy (signed to Universal Music Publishing) collaborated with Kanye West & Jay-Z on “Niggas in Paris,” in just under a decade, the Roc Nation managed producer/writer has built an impressive discography, having working with Travis $cott and Beyoncé, to Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, to the late Juice Wrld, and the late Nipsey Hussle on the single, “Racks in the Middle,” which won a Grammy Award earlier this year for Best Rap Performance. MIQ was fortunate to chat with the Southern California-based Hit-Boy, who not only stays on a constant grind, but has remained grounded through his successes and losses.
Can you talk about your work ethic and the expectations artists have
when collaborating with you? Do they typically pick the beats or
tracks you have in mind for them, or do they go in other directions?
I’m very motivated when it comes to work. You know a lot of artists are coming to me…and they think of me on a high level. They come to me for a reason, you know what I am saying? I want to create songs that artists want to put out immediately, or feel like they gotta do a video to…something that’s bigger than just making a song, but like it’s a real movement, something that really touches the culture.
As far as creating goes, yeah, I like to be kind of over-prepared. It can’t be, “Oh, let me
listen to their last hit and try to make something like that,” that’s when I would get stuck
in a box. Now, I go into the studio and make something that I feel…I just take it from there.
I try to have as many dope beats as possible and in the lane of something I feel the artist could possibly want. You know as a producer or creative you can never pinpoint what the artist wants, because someone could be feeling totally different from anything they ever made before.
When I did Benny the Butcher’s album, the first song we did ended up being the outro to
his album, you know “Legend.” It’s a lot of people’s favorite song on the project. It’s crazy and I knew we were catching magic with the first joint.
This question kind of overlaps the previous ones, but when you work with some of these big artists like Beyoncé, Drake, Travis Scott or Ariana Grande, how do you prepare to go into a big session with them? Are some of these in person sessions are they mostly through email?
I mean most of it is hand to hand and them pulling up to my studio and working with me, but there are still some songs that come out through email. But most of the stuff is in person. When I’m working with someone, I try to think and use my imagination. I try to think, ‘what would just be the illist shit?’ and really just use my imagination and try to do something that sounds big.
You have such a versatile catalog, from the real gritty stuff with Benny to the big hits with Kanye, what is your favorite type of track to produce? Do you like the big hits or the grittier cuts?
Man, I don’t even look at it like that. Because you can’t always call it. I just like making
music. I mean the big hits bring in the bread and that’s a whole different ballgame. But
sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh, this song is outta here’ and then it doesn’t go anywhere, and I’ll
be like confused. Then there are other songs that make it real quick and it turns up. I don’t really put too much effort and energy into what’s going to be a super mega hit.
It’s been nearly 10 years since you did the “Paris” track with Kanye & Jay-Z. Can you reflect on how that collaboration changed things for you?
It introduced me more into the Hip-Hop space…just being acknowledged on that level
and being recognized as a true creative in that realm, that was crazy! Obviously, that wasn’t an easy album to get on and everyone wanted to be on there. Any producer would have wanted to be involved on that album, so for me to make one of the biggest joints on there, I wasn’t even personally ready for that. It just happened and I learned a lot. I didn’t know what was coming and I didn’t know the high expectations that would be on me after I made that song. Now, I’m just on autopilot making crazy joints every day.
What’s it like being managed by Roc Nation and having a regular connection with Jay-Z?
I know that you have said in previous interviews that the Blueprint was one of the
first albums you ever bought, so it must be a good feeling to come full circle. It’s unbelievable, any time I link with him and make music with him, shit is still just surreal
“Racks in the Middle” with Nipsey Hussle. Can you talk about what you remember about working with Nipsey and what you miss most
What I miss most is the energy he brought to the studio when he was here. His presence was felt. Nipsey instinctively knew what kind of energy the music needed to have…just the process of making the music, he’d be in there choppin’ like ‘I’m not just a rapper, I’m a songwriter,’ that’s the stuff I think about!
You have done a lot of co-production work, too, who are some of the people that you like working with personally?
Lately just my homies, my homie Corbett, super dope producer and writer from Cincinnati. My homie G Dav and my boy G. Ry, he produced the “Laugh Now Cry Later” joint for Drake and Durk; we’ve been down for years.
Can you name your favorite producers of all time that show through in your music today?
Dr Dre, Battlecat, The Underdogs, Timbaland, Kanye, Pharrell/The Neptunes; those are some of the top ones for sure.
What is some of the equipment and software you’ve been using lately; are there any new toys you like producing with?
Definitely FL [Studio] and using virtual instruments and a mini keyboard. I’ve been keeping it really simple and just dig for the sounds and samples and chop it up on FL and Pro-Tools to record vocals.
How do you feel about producers rapping and that vibe?
Do what you do, shit, I was rapping before I thought I could make beats. I just really took the time to get nice at the production and get good at the recording. If you do music, writing a song or whatever, go hard.
OK so something that’s recently come across the industry is Clubhouse. Have you tried it yet and what are your thoughts on it?
I get asked that every day, nah, man I ain’t done it yet. I’m kind of late on shit like that,
honestly. I ain’t really got time to be sending voicemails to people. But I know it’s poppin because everyone is asking me about it.
You came up in the Inland Empire of Southern California, which is not too far from Los Angeles. How was it for you coming up in a more remote area where the music industry is not really thriving?
I’m from Pasadena and the Inland Empire. I spent half my life in Pasadena and then half
my life in the Inland Empire. So, I’m kind of from both. I was outta the way, so I was able to lock in and just focus on music. But when I turned 18, I was driving all the time. I was fulltime coming to Hollywood every day and just trying to meet people. I always had the same kind of passion. If you really want it, you gotta go after it.
You recently had a son. Can you talk about how that’s changed things for you?
Man, that’s been the best and it’s crazy because he came right when the quarantine
was happening. So, I had nothing but time on my hands. It’s been perfect, versus you know me having to fly everywhere and working with people. I’ve just been in my studio and going back home so it made it a simple process to be with him and still be locked in at the studio. I can be with him and still stay focused on the music. I feel like he brought
me great luck, like ever since he’s been here, I’ve had amazing luck.
Lastly, is there anything you want to plug that you’re working?
I’m always developing different acts, but right now, I’ve been focused on my own project that I’m really excited about. I just put out my first single featuring Big Sean and Fivio Foreign, titled, ‘Salute.’ It’s got a crazy video and it will be a crazy movement. It’s my song!
Interview Conducted by Jake Crates