Hit-Boy rises to a new musical weight class as a producer
Hit-Boy won rap Grammy honors with some of hip-hop’s biggest heavyweights — Jay-Z, Kanye West, known as Ye, and Nas — and now he’s rising to a new musical weight class. as a producer.
The Southern California native is up for just two nominations, but both are major ones, including album of the year, thanks to his work on HER’s In the back of my mind. The other is his first-ever nomination in the Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category for Nas’ King II disease and the Judas and the Black Messiah: the inspired album soundtrack, which featured him on one song as a rapper.
The Grammy Awards broadcast will air live April 3 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on CBS and Paramount+.
Hit-Boy won three Grammys thanks to his excellent productions on “…In Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Racks in the Middle” by Nipsey Hussle and the album by Nas King’s disease, which gave the veteran rapper his first-ever Grammy last year. He has also worked with many other top artists, including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Mary J. Blige, and Drake.
The 34-year-old producer recently spoke with The Associated Press on the relevance of winning a Grammy, his rapping aspirations, how Pharrell Williams’ advice helped him and whether he thinks his Producer of the Year nomination was long overdue. Responses have been edited for clarity and conciseness.
PA: Does winning a Grammy still count?
Hit Boy: It’s a little extra stamp of all the hard work you’ve put in. You don’t get any of them just by playing. You have to be on top of the top. It’s like the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl. It’s that extra motivation of knowing you’re doing the right thing musically. Just the nominations. But winning with Nipsey, winning with Nas, I got real meaningful Grammys. Kanye West and Jay Z. I didn’t win just by playing. I’ve made records that will stand the test of time.
PA: With so many producers coming out these days, how have you maintained your elite status?
Hit Boy: I devote my life to it. I sacrifice family time. I sacrifice personal time to add value to what other people (music artists) are doing.
PA: Did anything become easier for you after winning three Grammys?
Hit Boy: I still go through obstacles on a daily basis. You think you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve done so much work and had any high Billboard (chart placement) or Grammys. None of this matters. It all depends on the next move. It’s really a ‘What have you done for me lately.’ You always have to move forward. Just the company alone, dealing with bad publishing business and just bad business in general. You really have to have a strong mind and love music to keep going. Sometimes, as a human being, it’s just too overwhelming. It’s too much. I think, I can’t understand this part. It’s just a lot. But when you love music, it always comes back together.
PA: Where did you find this philosophy?
Hit Boy: It’s from Pharrell. He told me in 2007. I was working with Teyana Taylor, who was under contract with him at the time. I had pretty much made like an EP or an entire album of music for her. He was hyped about it. He was a fan of my production. It was mutual respect. I was able to reach him on the phone. We talked about the struggles and banging heads and just going through the game. You will have to take care of it anyway. But if you like music, you will always come back to the center. It’s something I will never let go.
PA: Some thought you should have been nominated for Producer of the Year last year. Your current nomination in the category is long overdue?
Hit Boy: I feel like this recognition happens when it’s supposed to happen. I’ve had years where I’ve had billboards and top 10 joints, like big joints. I get less press now and I get less love doing a Nas album or doing an EP with Big Sean or helping Dom Kennedy with his album. I make real and moving music. …I just go straight to the heart. I make music that will stick. It’s not a gimmick for anything I’m doing right now.
PA: Do you have high hopes of winning Producer of the Year?
Hit Boy: Knowing how the Grammys are, you have to settle for knowing like “Cool, I got the nomination.” Until then, I don’t know. I can’t really get my hypes up. Even though so many other outlets have given me Producer of the Year awards, the Grammys are just different. The criteria are different. You don’t know everyone who votes. I’m just grateful for the nomination.
PA: On the song “Broad Day” of the Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album, you performed as a rapper on a sampled track by R&B group Troop, which featured your uncle, Rodney Benford. How was it for you?
Hit Boy: It was a special moment. For it to be in a meaningful movie – which was no pushover – that song really meant something to me.
PA: Are you interested in being recognized as a rapper too?
Hit Boy: People ask me ‘What do you like the most? Rap or produce? I like to do fire songs, no matter if I put a hard verse on a hook. As long as it’s dope, it inspires me right now, I rock with it. I rapped before I even produced. I’ve been kicked in bars. People who really know, know. It’s a matter of timing. It’s cultivating that energy and really telling that story. I have new music that is close to my heart, and it will coincide with what I do as a producer.
PA: What do you want to accomplish next?
Hit Boy: Winning a Grammy as an artist would be a step forward for me. It would be a higher level. I’m an artist. It’s something I did before producing. But I’m doing a production album. This will be my production with different artists. It’s also another way to earn as an artist. I’m just giving myself the best chance of winning. It’s investing in me at the end of the day.
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