The Boom Effect (by Ronda Racha Penrice)

boomin_fieldAtlanta Producer Metro Boomin Chats About His Here, Now and the Future

The Georgia Aquarium, the vision of billionaire and The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, isn’t exactly the center of Atlanta Hip-Hop. But this night, in late August, the top Atlanta attraction known for its beluga whales, is the stage for the talents of producer Metro Boomin (signed to Universal Music Publishing Group).

It’s the after-party for FX’s series Atlanta, which Donald Glover, who has also garnered some Grammy noms as rapper Childish Gambino, created, produces and stars in. The series, which has garnered critical acclaim and record-setting audience numbers since it’s September debut, is proof that television is finally catching up to what music has long known: Atlanta is a cultural epicenter. And, rightfully so, the producer behind one of Atlanta’s biggest artists right now, Future’s greatest hits, is curating the soundtrack of the evening.

At a young age, Metro knew Atlanta was Hip-Hop’s emerging everything. Back in his native St. Louis, he was enthralled with the infectious beats and energy coming from the city that may have birthed Dr. King and once hosted the Olympics, but was more meaningful to him as the home of OutKast, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Producers Zaytoven (OJ Da Juiceman, Gucci Mane), Shawty Redd (Young Jeezy) and Drumma Boy (Boyz n da Hood, Young Jeezy, Gorilla Zoe) caught his ear and inspired his own aspirations as a producer. Before he even had his high school diploma in hand, his beats gained enough attention for his mom to escort him to Atlanta to meet artists like Rocko (who went on to link him with Future) that he connected with online.

By the time he enrolled in Morehouse, his career in music was so demanding that he, in the vein of Kanye West, also became a “college dropout.” In the University of the Music Business, however, he rose to the top of the class, some would even argue that he’s at valedictorian status, thanks largely to his work with Future. “Karate Chop” with Lil Wayne, was Metro’s first major collaboration and it’s been followed up with “Honest,” “Jumpman” and “Low Life,” to name a few more chart-toppers. This year, his work, which includes the Future mixtape Purple Reign and several tracks on Kanye West’s critically-acclaimed album, The Life of Pablo, garnered him the top honor of Producer of the Year from BMI, an award presented to him at a fancy soiree honoring R&B diva Toni Braxton at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta.

Both the Georgia Aquarium and the Woodruff Arts Center are a long way from where the street or Trap music genre people label his work is supposed to go, but, exactly, where Metro sees himself. “People don’t understand,” he says. “They just try to downplay certain stuff because it’s popular. I’ve always been a music head and a fan who knows music history and everything so I don’t usually trip. When OutKast came out, people didn’t understand it. So they thought it was trash because it was really different and wasn’t what they were used to and what they liked. And now they’re like the greatest artists of all time. But people didn’t understand that at first.”

Good music is the key ingredient that Metro understands the most. And, even though a lot has changed since he was making beats as a kid in St. Louis, his love for music has not. It’s one so strong that, even during the times that many people would be out celebrating, he prefers to be in the studio. And great things happen a lot when he is in the studio. ”Jumpman,” he says “we did on my birthday in Atlanta. Then we put it on a mixtape.”

“Birthdays and all that are a blessing,” he continues. “If anything, I make sure I’m in the studio on my birthday.” And last year, “Jumpman” was the reward for his dedication.

“It’s a nice coincidence,” he goes on. “I’m not even going to say it was all the way a coincidence. It’s a blessing that it was the same day. That’s what happens when you stay working. I could have been out in the club somewhere and then that would not have happened.”

But he doesn’t puts limits on where he creates. “I’m creative in all kinds of places,” he explains. “I’m in the studio a lot, but I feel like, creatively, I do a lot of my best stuff at home or in the hotel room or somebody’s kitchen, somewhere random. That’s how I made a lot of stuff initially, making beats back in school and everything, so I feel like those vibes I’m most comfortable in.”

Pretty much as long as he has his laptop, he’s good to go. “I am grateful that I can go around and have just about everything I need in my backpack,” he says, noting that he also likes and uses the Akai Advance 49.

“I don’t have a sound because I don’t strive to have a sound,” he says. He also doesn’t take the attention being lavished on him too seriously. While he is fully aware that, right now, he’s the “it” producer, he hasn’t let that change who he is.

“I really try not to get caught up in that. I appreciate everybody wanting to work with me but, at the same time, I know they’re just trying to follow the trend. I watched that happen with other producers,” he explains. “They followed their trend and, as soon as they felt like that’s not what it is anymore, they didn’t care anymore. I’ve met a lot of people twice and they don’t even know I met them twice and I don’t blame them. I just know what’s really what. That’s why I try to use God, vibes and energy to guide me around.”

So it doesn’t matter to him whether an artist he chooses to work with is established or not. “I don’t like to look at it like that and separate it,” he explains. “I look at it all the same way: I’m a person, I make music. You’re a person and you make music. I don’t try to take any of that in consideration and think about ‘oh you’re on, you’re Kendrick Lamar or you’re this person, nobody knows you.’ At the end of the day, good music is good music and people gravitate to what’s good and they’re not going to like what’s not.”

He’s also not afraid to work with other producers, but he is selective. “I like collaborating with producers that are my friends,” he says. “It’s the same way I feel about collaborating with artists if I vibe well with somebody. That’s how I am now. That’s how I’ve always been. Because I feel for us to bring the best music about, we have to be comfortable. The vibe, the energy has to be right. All of the producers I’ve ever collaborated with have been some of my closest friends, somebody like Southside (“Circus,” 600Breezy featuring Molly Murk), Sonny Digital (“Tuesday,” ILoveMakkonen featuring Drake), DJ Spinz (“Honest,” Future), like I love them dearly, like they know me and I know them very well.”

What he doesn’t like is not growing. “You definitely have to have goals to know where you’re going,” he explains. “Right now I’m working on establishing my label (which he declined to name until the paperwork is finished). I already started my album. So, in five years, I plan on the label being well established, having successful albums under my belt released through the label, as well as some artists of mine and keep going with the music, excel in the music industry on the producer side and the artist side and the songwriter side, excel more in the DJ world, bigger festivals and things, and excel in the fashion world {being more well-known and doing campaigns he explains) as well. So I plan, in five years, to hit new levels in all of those fields.”

“When I think about Dr. Dre, Pharrell and Kanye West,” he says of his aspirations, “it’s really about just the culture. That’s really what I’m about at the end of the day. I love music and it’s about the music, but it’s really about shifting the culture.” Metro wants to make an impact larger than just records. He wants to have a string of game-changers like Dre has done with NWA, Death Row, Snoop, Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar. He wants to touch fashion and film the way Pharrell has and just shake-up everything the way Kanye West does. “Yeah, it’s musical but even bigger than that,” he says. “I know what I can do and I know what I am going to do,” he promises. “The only person that can hold you back is yourself.”