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Boardroom Q&A: Hit-Boy on Giving Producers the Spotlight

The Grammy Award-winning rapper and producer spoke with Boardroom following the release of his “2 Live” collaboration with Offset.

Drake‘s “Trophies,” Travis Scott‘s “Sicko Mode,” and Beyoncé‘s “Sorry” were all chart-toppers. Not coincidentally, the legendary Hit-Boy produced all three.

The multi-hyphenated Grammy-award-winning rapper and producer continues to leave his legacy in the music industry as one of the most untouchable beat slayers in the business. Born Chauncey Alexander Hollis, Jr., the 35-year-old Cali native has cemented his seat as a top-tier producer, ultimately resulting in his 2020 Grammy win for Best Rap Performance with Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks in the Middle” featuring Roddy Rich.

Adding to his long list of receipts, Hit-Boy recently teamed up with rap phenom Offset for their latest single, “2 Live,” inspired by PATRÓN Tequila’s newest innovation, PATRÓN EL ALTO.

Boardroom had the opportunity to chat with Hit-Boy about his road to becoming a producer, how to hold the industry accountable for giving music producers the credit they deserve, and which R&B icon he plans on collaborating with next.

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D’Shonda Brown: Take me back. When was the moment when you realized that you wanted to be a producer?

Hit-Boy: Honestly, I wasn’t even planning on being a producer. I was just writing and making my own songs. I knew this kid who had his own setup to make beats and he was making our albums at first, like he would produce everything. One day, I was at the studio at the crib. This is like 2003. This was like rare for kids to have like their own setup. This was just around the time when I was about to start up. He was kind of ahead of the curve. I started playing around with the beats at his crib and I was like, “Yo, this is fun actually.” Then it progressed into taking over my love for video games, so instead of playing video games, I started making beats every day. It was like that level of fun for me and it just kind of formulated itself. I would say like around 16 is when I’m like, “Oh yeah, I’m doing this for sure.”

Courtesy of Nima Nasseri

DB: In your opinion, what’re the makings of a good producer, and how can you tell a well-produced beat from a poorly produced one?

HB: I mean, the poorly produced beat [is] probably just not gonna have the same type of feeling to it, but a well-produced beat is going to kind of mess with your emotions. Whether it’s the drums, whether it’s the melody, something about it is going to draw you in and make you want to have to listen to it, you know? [Being] a good producer consists of a lot. You gotta be able to communicate, you gotta have patience, you have to just really have a true appreciation for the art, and make that first. Being a great producer is just focusing on making the best possible every time.

DB: As a producer, what is your creative process like when you’re working alone as opposed to when you’re collaborating directly with another creative mind? 

HB: Working with another producer lightens the load because you don’t have to exhaust yourself in any type of way. If you feel like, “okay, I’ve gotten this beat to a point where I’m kind of stomped at the moment,” or I feel like I would want to come back to it, instead of that you can get the beat finished. It’s like two heads is better than one — just simple math. As far as being alone, it’s funny. Most of the beats I’ve placed in most of my quote-unquote “hits” was made with just beats that I was having fun in the studio and stuff that I was inspired by when nobody was around. 

DB: When producing for various genres of music ranging from R&B to rap and hip-hop, are the creative processes different?

HB: If it’s quality, it’s going to cut through no matter what genre it is. If it’s some type of interesting perspective on the music and some emotion behind what either the drums or the chords or whatever is doing, like, you gonna be able to connect. I just keep that in mind versus trying to compartmentalize and be like, “oh, I gotta put pop in this bag or rap in this bag.” It’s just music. You just want to be prepared with just the most quality.

DB: Walk me through your creative process with Offset for the creation of “2 Live.”

HB: That was dope. That wasn’t our first time in the studio, but I think this is the first song we released ever. Like, we worked on other songs, but nothing ever dropped. Having a brand partnership with PATRÓN Tequila and them wanting me to do the musical aspect and bring a song together made sense for the new PATRÓN El Alto. I just kind of did my part. They heard the song, they loved it, they wanted to put a feature on it, and they brought Offset through. We all connected and as soon as he heard it, he just automatically went in. It was just an easy process and it was fun.

DB: Why is it important to include not only artists, but producers in the conversations about hip-hop’s 50th anniversary?

HB: I’m out here advocating for producers to just be on a different level period. If the radio station was allowed to play two hours worth of the songs that are on there, but just mute the beats then let’s see what happens. We are super important, but we definitely get downplayed. We get treated unfairly a lot of times and it just is what it is, but I feel like we gotta be on the same level as the artist. Ultimately, I understand they build the face and they’re gonna sell it brand-wise, but at the same time, the music, not to say it’s nothing without the beat, but the beat is half the song. It’s 50-50.

Courtesy of PATRÓN Tequila/The Chamber Group

DB: How can we hold the music industry accountable to give these producers the credit that they deserve?

HB: Honestly, I’ve been on it for years and putting my face out there, putting my name out there, putting an insane consistency into what I’m doing and it’s still a fight. At all times. I don’t know what it is, but it’s something that’s hard to translate. Even in just conversation, somebody will be like, “this artist sampled this song, TV show, or this movie,” or whatever, when it’s really the producer that did that most of the time. Sometimes the artist might have had that idea and asked the producer to sample it, but a lot of the times it’s the producers that’s bringing these genius-level ideas before the artist even hears it. It’s tough, man. I can’t even call it. I’ve seen stuff on these producer pages whether it’s IG or Twitter and people not getting paid or people not feeling like they’re getting the credit that they deserve. I’m advocating for us to be the faces.

DB: When it comes to conversations surrounding the Grammys, do you believe in that aspect that producers are given enough credit or do you believe that there’s still more work to be done in the music awards sector?

HB: I feel like it’s going to have to just culturally go there before they would. Obviously, they got producer of the year nominations and I was nominated for the first time in my career last year. That was dope, but it’s gonna have to be like a trickle down effect. People gonna have to start just respecting it. I know they can only put a certain amount of awards on TV, but they don’t broadcast the producers award because they don’t feel like it’s important enough. Man, like if you all really knew. Some artists do layer up their vocals and put a lot of harmonies, but we have more tracks on our beats than they do on their vocals. Some people might do one track of vocals and we might have 20, 30, 40 tracks worth of music, so it’s like we damn near might be doing more work.

DB: Tell me when you had your “I made it” moment, or do you believe that it hasn’t come yet?

Courtesy of Nima Nasseri

HB: For sure I’ve had overstimulated stimulating moments, like Jay-Z and Kanye performing “Niggas in Paris,” 12, 13, 14 times in a row in one night in one setting. It still hasn’t been done to this day. It’s 12 years later, that was 2011, and there’s not one song that anybody has made that could be performed that many times in a row, nobody gets tired, and everybody gets more energetic. That was a big “made it” moment. I was a part of a lot of stuff man, but I would say honestly from day one, the first time I sold a beat and got some money for some music I made, I felt like it was video games. I felt like I was having fun. I was like, “oh no, I’m doing this for the rest of my life.”

DB: What projects can we expect from you in the near future, in addition to the collaboration with PATRÓN and Offset?

HB: You can expect my own solo albums, you can expect producer albums, you can expect me to executive produce more people’s albums. I have an album coming out with Musiq Soulchild next month. I think it’s very top-tier R&B. This definitely was a blessing like tapping in and just the fact that I’ve actually been a fan of him, I kind of knew where to take it. I’m just hoping that the people enjoy it like we do.

That’s another thing — I kind of got trapped in this box and that’s why I did four NAS albums in a row and I’ve been executive producing a lot of different artists. It’s the irony and the beauty. I made this song that went crazy, the culture went crazy in the club, Jay-Z and Kanye performed it 10, 11, 12, however many times in a row. I think the highest was 16 or something like that, and I still got boxed into people looking at me as just a club producer or just a trap beat producer when it’s like, “no, go listen to those NAS albums. Now, listen to this Musiq Soulchild album.” As successful as that song was, mentally it put me in this place to where it’s like, “I gotta prove that I’m not just this guy as big as that song was.” I feel like it kind of brought some disrespect to my name as well as well as respect.

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About The Author
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown
D'Shonda Brown is the Music and Entertainment Editor at Boardroom. Prior to joining the Boardroom team, she served as the Associate Editor at ESSENCE and Girls United, ESSENCE's Generation Z platform. Through the years, the Spelman College graduate has amassed bylines in entertainment, fashion, beauty, wellness, and business across For(bes) The Culture, HYPEBAE, Byrdie, HighSnobiety, xoNecole, REVOLT, and more.