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HIT-BOY: PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Words by Joshua Robinson
Interview by Brandon Barrett and Madrell Stinney
Photography by Shaun Llewellyn
Styling by Bukunmi Grace
Cover Design by Shane Ramos
All photos shot on location at the Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles, California

Hit-Boy is a producer’s producer. Having delivered classic beats to everyone from Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar to Big Sean, Nas, Don Toliver, and Benny The Butcher over the course of his nearly two decade-spanning career, Hit-Boy has constructed one of the most expansive and formidable catalogs in the music industry.

In 2022, the Fontana, California native is more than 10 years removed from the timeless octuple-platinum-certified smash hit “N***as in Paris,” yet his influence and impact on Hip-Hop have not waned in the slightest. Hit records aside — although Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE,” Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks In The Middle,” and Sada Baby’s “Little While” prove he’s more than capable of churning out infectious radio juggernauts — Hit-Boy has become one of Nas and Big Sean’s most trusted producers, leading to several hard-hitting tracks on Sean’s Detroit 2, their full collaborative EP What You Expect, the lauded King’s Disease album series with Nas, and most recently, a Christmas Eve gift in Magic.

Hit-Boy’s work has been impossible to ignore, and after taking home a Grammy for Best Rap Song in 2020 and another one for Best Rap Album in 2021, he has officially earned his first nomination for Producer of the Year. In honor of all that he has accomplished over the past year, HNHH recently linked up with the award-winning artist, and throughout the exclusive interview, Hit-Boy offered gem after gem after gem, from first-hand accounts of working closely with Nas and Big Sean to the significance of the Troop sample on his Judas and the Black Messiah Soundtrack cut “Broad Day.” Learn more about the 2022 Producer of the Year Grammy nominee, and HNHH’s Producer Of The Year by reading the Q&A below.

HNHH: How are you feeling, man? Feel good?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, I’m straight man. I’m in a time warp right now. I’m just going. I don’t know what’s what, man. I’m just maxing out.

For 2021, what has been the personal highlight for you? Could be musically, or personally.

Man, since my son was born, he’s been my forever highlight. Watching him get bigger now, walking, talking, running around, having his own personality. That’s inspiring. I watch videos with him of like baby cartoons on YouTube and I’m like, “Man, these videos get like 500 million views. How do I tap in to make people want to watch my sh*t that much?” That’s something that definitely clicks in my brain.

Do you see a little bit of yourself in your son?

I see a lot of myself.

What is it?

Everything. Number one, like the love for the music. Any time he hears music, he starts vibing. It’s crazy to see, he really connects with it. Give him our little keyboard at the studio, and he messes around.

That’s what I was going to ask, if he’s got a little beat machine?

He’s not even two yet and he knows what a beat is. He knows certain different artists already. It’s crazy.

One of the interviews I saw with Nas, he said numerous things about you. One that stuck out to me was that he sees pieces of all the greats in you and you kind of mold that in your own way, you’re your own musician your own artist. Moreso, not only did he crown you producer of the year, he called you his “Quincy.” I just wanted to get your thoughts on what that means to you, coming from an absolute GOAT like that.

Yeah, I mean it wasn’t him directly comparing me to Quincy, because I saw some people saying that. You know how people talk sh*t. But, he was just talking about as far as the working relationship and beyond the music, we connect. We can sit and have a conversation before we even start working. It might go for an hour, it might go for two hours. Once we get the information that we left in the room, it goes into the music immediately. We might talk then I might pull up a beat or a couple of beats and he just starts saying something that we were just talking about.

I know between Sean and him, they both mentioned that you build this atmosphere where the conversation in the studios create the music. You can put people in the right space to become vulnerable and put those stories out there. So, what are those conversations like?

We talk about everything. We always center it back to the music. Even if we’re just talking about life, family, money, whatever the case may be, we’re going to figure out a way to connect that information with the music. I feel like that’s why people rock with what we’re doing because it’s conversation pieces. Like the “Death Row East,” that’s what he was talking about. You can still bounce to it, but that’s because I was playing “Picture Me Rollin’” and All Eyez on Me nonstop while we were making “Death Row East” and the album. Just trying to have that energy that’s just cutthroat and raw.

Between Kings Disease I and II, there’s all sorts of cool features, but one that obviously stuck out and took the world by storm was Lauryn Hill. Talk to me a little bit about how that came together.

Yeah, I never would have thought I would have had something with Lauryn Hill on it, and on that level. It just came from us making a song. Nas did two verses and he was like, “Man, we need to get a third verse on here, get a feature.” We brainstormed. We thought about a couple different people. I guess he was having a conversation with her and sent her the song. She immediately connected with it. She did her verse within like a few days. It came back to us quick. I just was over the top about it. Like, “This is unreal.” This is something, when I’m older, my family can really look at, my son can be like, “You really did it on that level.”

In terms of the sound and everything, your versatility is something that sticks out above everything else. You worked on with G-Unit years back, the west coast, Canada. It doesn’t matter what the region is or what the sonics are, you can find a way.

It’s funny because, going back and listening to N.W.A, a lot of those break beats and vibes Dre was finding was really east coast hip-hop type sh*t. He put funky bass lines to add the west coast flair and element. Also, a lot of people say in the last few years I’ve been going. I’ve really been going since I started and just getting placements every year and helping level projects up, whatever the case is. A lot of people don’t know that I was doing crazy songs for The Game or crazy songs for G-Unit that had the boom-bap vibe to it. They thought I was just a club producer. I was producing for them in ‘07 / ‘08, making hard gangster rap. People just don’t know, that’s why it’s coming full circle right now.

Was there a specific goal in mind for the sound of Nas’ projects with you? Considering all the versatility you just hit on a little bit, what were you going into the studio with?

I wanted to keep his essence, but I wanted to just add my flare. Add some exciting melodies, some exciting drum patterns, just fly instrumentation, something that’s still open enough for him to get his words off. He’s a complex rapper. He’s going to say a bunch of different things with a bunch of different flows. You’ve got to complement that, versus just going, “Okay, here goes a beat and I’m leaving the studio.” I’m sitting there and I’m arranging sections of the beat. I’m making it complement what he’s doing vocally and lyric-wise.

There’s a certain texture to everyone’s voice, especially his and you wanted to cut through. That was a big thing he mentioned about what stuck out to him with your beats, that you did not try to outdo what he was doing, but also pushed him to get the best out of him.

It’s just a balance, like I said, I wanted to be his essence. Anything I play him, it’s going to be something I can hear him on. I’m not just playing random beats. Even if it has a different texture to it that you might not be used to hearing Nas over, it’s still going to have a break beat or a drum pattern that feels like I can hear Nas over.

Congrats on another year of Grammy nominations. Take me back to when you received the news of your nominations. What do you remember about those first ones? How does it feel getting nominated again now that it’s already happened for you before?

The first time is always super special. I definitely didn’t know anything about the politics or any of the ins and outs of the Grammys. I had went one time before. This was two years before “N***as in Paris” won. I went to see Lil Wayne and Eminem perform “Drop the World” and that’s the song I produced with Chase N. Cashe. That was my first time, so I just was in there peeping the whole vibe. By the time I went back, I had leveled up. I went to another level. So, you can’t call it, but we won. It’s crazy because the year before I won with Nipsey Hussle for “Racks in the Middle,” I was there for “Sicko Mode” for my production on that and we lost. Way more commercial success from the song, but it didn’t win the trophy. It’s all a balance. I really got to learn that you can’t just think that just because this is the most commercially successful, or whatever the case is, that it’s going to win a Grammy because it’s not always about that. It’s about that quality. H.E.R, she won a Grammy last year for like Song of the Year or something, and the video only had, not even a million views on it on YouTube for a song that she won for. We got so piped up to it’s about the YouTube numbers and Spotify– all that can be finessed. They can dump some money into Spotify ads and dump some money into YouTube playlists to make the views look crazy. What is the music really saying? What is the music really doing?

Take me back to when you got the news that you were being nominated for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical), because that’s a whole different monumental nomination.

I had just watched them announce that King’s Disease II was nominated. Which is big because we had just won last year. So, going back-to-back at the Grammy’s with Nas is unbelievable for real. A lot of people were feeling like, “Man, you should have gotten Producer of the Year last year at the Grammy’s too.” I wasn’t nominated, but this year I am. After I seen that they announced King’s Disease II, I just cut off the broadcast. I was like, “Cool, I’m straight.” I didn’t even think about the fact that they were announcing Producer of the Year. People started calling me, texting me, hitting me like, “Yo, you nominated for Producer of the Year!” I was like, “Man, that’s unbelievable!”

The past winners are crazy. Pharrell I think won it twice. Rick Rubin won it twice. The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Babyface. The list goes on and on. Describe what the win would mean to you. Have any of those past winners inspired you?

Obviously, [Dr.] Dre for real. Rick Rubin. All of them. Different eras, different sounds. I draw from all of them as far as inspiration goes. To win, I would feel probably how everybody else on earth would feel– amazing about the sh*t.

You have all these peers already saying you’re Producer of the Year. You have people telling you that you should have won it last year. Does the Grammy offer you any validation in terms of the mainstream and political side of it?

I mean, it’s not everything, but it is something that you can appreciate. I mean, I don’t know. Motherf*ckers be enamored over jewelry and money and all that type of sh*t. I feel like a Grammy, that’s something you can just have in your family that symbolizes greatness. My people was locked in. My family, my son, whatever, is going to be able to look and be like, “Yeah, my pops was really doing it.” Most of these people kids aren’t about to inherit their jewelry and sh*t. My son is going to be able to have that on the mantle forever. That’s just how I look at it.

One thing that stuck out on Twitter was that someone said you were the only black producer nominated for Producer of the Year.

Sh*t, I said that.

What are your thoughts on that and your feelings about that?

It’s just something that stuck out to me. A lot of us don’t get that opportunity. To even be talked about and ranked amongst people that are doing great things. Most of the people probably had bigger commercial radio records. I don’t know if they had as much value and as much whatever as me, but everybody is in their own world and doing what they’re supposed to do. It ain’t even a thing where I’m trying to make it a black thing or whatever the case is. It just was a fact.

This year saw you producing a soundtrack as well. How’d you feel about being asked to work on Judas and the Black Messiah and executive produce the soundtrack to such an important film?

When you get to work on something that means something, it’s just a little different than just a quick check or something like that. We’re telling a man’s story and trying to complement the music with that. That sh*t was big. Then, me rapping on it with my song “Broad Day,” being able to produce the song and then sample my uncle’s group. I sampled Troop’s “Spread my Wings” and used that. That’s literally one of the first songs I ever heard in my life. It was my uncle’s song. That was one of the first songs to inspire me musically. To be able to sample it and it be able to be used in a commercial and high-level film, and I’m rapping on the sh*t, I can’t even ask for a better turn out.

How were you able to capture the raw and emotional energy of the film for the music?

As far as that particular situation, stuff like that is still going on. It’s still present, so I’m in it. I’m seeing George Floyd. I’m seeing all the things going on. Melrose is literally right here, you can walk there in like two minutes. That sh*t was literally burnt. Spots getting looted, burned down, beat up, whatever the case is. This sh*t just happened like a year or two years ago. It’s still going on. So, I was already in that mindset. I had already dropped some bars just off the George Floyd situation and all that. It just worked well with the soundtrack.

What did you hope listeners got out of the soundtrack?

Just the emotion of what they saw in the movie. It's soulful, real, raw, and I just wanted it to match the movie.

Another big project you had this year was with Big Sean. From what I read, you guys met a long time ago. Could you take me through that relationship? If what I read was right, y’all met at the Mercer Hotel in those legendary era of nights.

That’s when we connected because at that point, I had signed to GOOD Music. Before I signed to GOOD, I met him at a studio not too far from here. I was just going to play him beats. One of his homies knew my homie. Linked it all up. Went there, played him beats. We vibed. We didn’t do anything back then, we just was vibing. Probably, a couple of years later, that’s when I signed to Kanye and we all ended up at the Mercer. Sean was finishing his first album, he was working on Watch the Throne. Kanye was working on his solo album. I ended up working on a bunch of John Legend stuff during those sessions. I just was all over the place. Sean was there working too, so, we locked in. How it got to this point, probably in 2018, I saw him and Nipsey together at the Jay-Z and Beyonce show at the Rose Bowl. I hadn’t seen either one of them in a minute, probably a few years, a couple years or whatever. I just told them, “Y’all got to pull up on me. Y’all got to come to the studio. I’m on a whole new wave right now.” They both came and they both got some good music from me. Nipsey, we won a Grammy. We turned up, got a platinum song. Me and Sean, we’re just going. Every song we drop is just another stepping stone for what we’re going to do next.

In a recent interview you mentioned Big Sean–it was the “Million Dollars Worth of Game” podcast–was one of the most challenging artists to work with, but in a good way. How does he challenge you, how do you challenge him?

He challenges me by never being satisfied. I might be satisfied if the sh*t sounds good. That’s just how I rock. He might be like, “Nah, it sounds good, but it’s a different way I can say it or I can switch out that bar and say something different.” That just expanded my mind to be like, “Don’t stop at the first idea.” It might be something in there. You’ve got to keep digging for that gold until it’s all the way out of there. That’s pretty much what it is.

Sean described your production as a new pocket, but it’s recognizable. “The highest level of cloth on streetwear,” is, I think, how he put it. How do you describe the production that you have with Sean?

That’s pretty right. I feel like everything is custom, man. Pretty much all my beats have a different bounce. Different types of melodies, different pockets. I practice that. When I sit down, I’m not getting a template and going off of that. I’m going sound by sound and trying to figure out the way to make it sound like something I haven’t done before.

Being the maestro conductor as well as producer and artist, was that evolution a calculated target for you? Or was it just an organic thing?

It was organic just by me working, but also, plotted out as well. I have to step it up to this level. I have to start getting better at song-making and helping structure songs and adding what I can on that side, not just the beat. Early in my career, it would be just taking beats and seeing what can happen. Now, it’s just cultivating the real energy and guiding a song through it. Telling an artist to change this, change this, or let’s use this part on this part of the song, switch it around. Just trying things to keep it interesting.

Early on you were told that if you learned how to produce vocals, it would be a game changer as a producer right?

Yeah, I met a producer, I wish I could remember his name, an older guy. He owned a studio and I rented it out for a day to work with an artist. We ended up talking somehow, I don’t even remember how we started talking. He was like, “If you really want to stay in the game, you have to learn how to produce vocals, period.”

In terms of your own artistry, collaborating with such other great artists. What have you taken and what have you implemented into your own?

I take everything from great artists. As far as information, like when they’re in the room with me. I’m seeing how they move and what they’re doing. What they’re thinking about. The stuff they’re saying. I just soak it all up and take it in. I’m feeling like the Hulk right now. Motherf*ckers giving me their power right now and sh*t. It’s crazy.

Where do you see yourself, artist wise, evolving into next year?

I feel like I’m only going to level up the more I put my work in and keep developing. I’m definitely hitting a stride and a spot where it’s going to be a different wave 2022. I’m just thinking about things a lot more seriously. Taking myself more seriously. Planning it out, plotting it out what I really want to do, so. It’s going to be fire 2022.

Sounds like things are strategic and intentional.

Yeah they have to be for real. You’ve got to be intentional for things to come across to people the right way. A lot of people drop albums and there’s no real concept to it. I feel like that’s where people don’t connect. That’s when you get your sh*t called wack or whatever the case is, is when you’re not coming from an intentional and real place. I try to do that with every beat, every song, everything I’m doing.

One of the big songs you had this year was “What You Need” with Don Toliver. How did that song come together?

He just pulled up on me. Me and Don got, probably close to a high-market song. Same with Roddy Rich. I’ve got one song ever released with Roddy Rich and it has a Grammy. One song ever released, bro. That’s ridiculous to me. D*mn I lost track of mind, what were we talking about?

Just the process behind Don’s “What You Need”.

Oh, the Don one. Don, he just be pulling up on me. We just cooked that. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I need a single right now.” I hate that type of sh*t, too. You gon’ scare me off and make me not want to pull up on you if you’re like, “Oh, I need this sound. I need my single.” Like, yo. Let’s just work on music. You don’t have to put the pressure on the sh*t. If it comes out tight, it’s going to come out tight regardless. The times when you’re in there and you’re stressing like, “It’s got to be this specific thing,” nine times out of ten, that sh*t ain’t gon’ work out with me, specifically. You’ve got to just get in the room, let me pull some beats up or let me cook a beat, and right to that motherf*ckerr. That’s exactly what happened.

Are we going to get to see a Don Toliver and Hit-Boy album?

That boy is on his way. So, you can’t call it. He’s got every producer breathing down his neck. I will say I do feel like this sh*t is high-level. Not even feel like, I know it’s high-level.

“Sinister” by Cordae also sticks out, especially because of the hook. “Call Hit-Boy for beats, you get ten of them.” What did you think of that hook and him putting you in there? How is the relationship? It sounds like there’s more than just one song here.

Again, I’ve probably got like an EP’s worth of sh*t with Cordae. That was just another song. He stopped by. He’ll pull up on me here and there at different times like, “Yo, I’m going to slide. Come hear some sh*t, whatever. Play you something.” I always pull up beats and he literally- you know he’s a “rapper” rapper, so he freestyles like to every beat. Then he’ll catch a vibe and be like, “Yeah this the one. Let’s load this up or I’m going to take this with me and do it at my studio.” That’s what happened. He started “Sinister” at my studio, recorded a part of it, took it with him and just flushed it out then put Wayne on it.”

You worked with Wayne early on, “Drop the World” came out and now it’s kind of full circle with another big song with Wayne. Talk about that in terms of career moments.

It’s dope. It’s especially dope for Cordae as a rapper who just came in and is respected on a rap level to go back and forth with Wayne on a song. That’s heavy. As far as me, I’m trying to do a Wayne album! One song is cool, but we’ve got a song that’s four times platinum, bro. Pull up. Simple math.

Do you see a bit of yourself in Cordae just from the sonics of your versatility. Your ability to blend nostalgia with modern, not too many people can accomplish that and Cordae also does that beautifully.

I come from the era of the OG sh*t, the real sh*t before it got to be what it is now. Even though I’m still in the culture now and I can make any type of beat that d*mn near anybody can make, but I come from the era of real gangster rap. N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Chronic 2001, Blueprint by Jay-Z, east coast, west coast, just anything that sounded good. I was rocking with it. I’ve got those elements, I just try to keep it modern at the same time.

What are the plans for 2022? What’s next for you?

Sh*t, go crazy. That’s really the only thing I think about everyday is trying to be better than I was.

Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

I see myself as the next producer prodigy’s dad. Just doing my thing still. I can’t really call it, but I know it’s only leveling up in my future if I keep doing what I’m doing right now.

You mentioned this before, but maybe it’s changed. Dream session? Album? Dead or alive, anybody you want. Pick a person.

I’ll do an album with Tupac or Biggie, that would be crazy. Right now, Jay-Z. That would be crazy too. Drake, Kendrick, Roddy [Ricch], send me whoever and they’re going to be straight.

After HNHH’s original interview with Hit-Boy, the multi-platinum producer teamed up with Nas once again to give fans of the King’s Disease album series an early Christmas gift in the form of Magic. Arriving roughly a month ahead of the 64th annual Grammy Awards, the nine-track EP undoubtedly revitalized the hype that Nas and Hit-Boy built with King’s Disease II, and fortunately, HNHH was able to link with the veteran hitmaker for an exclusive follow-up interview as well.

During the second conversation, Hit-Boy detailed the making of Magic standout tracks “Meet Joe Black,” “Wave Gods,” and “Wu for the Children,” and he also gave a progress update on the highly anticipated King’s Disease III. It’s evident that Hit-Boy is locked in at a completely different level, and here is what he had to say about Magic and the future of his and Nas’ ongoing collaboration.

When did you and Nas start working on Magic and how did it come about?

Sh*t. We started working on Magic right after King's Disease II came out. I just was just inspired, man. I had the vision for where to take the album, as far as just kind of... Man, it's crazy because I was trying not to be super obvious on King's Disease and King's Disease II, that's why you got songs like “Spicy,” “27 Summers.” You got songs like “YKTV” in the mix, and it's because I was trying to keep some of his essence, but still give him a new flare aesthetically. Musically. But this one, I said, "f*ck it. I'm going to just give these motherf*ckers what they want. I'm going to just give them the most Nas level beats I can." I usually don't want to be so obvious and be like, "Oh, I have to make a Nas beat." This one, I said, "Cool, this what y'all want? I'm about to give this sh*t to y'all," and it's been the biggest reception so far. And this was probably the easiest for us to make, because it was just Nas music.

Could you speak more about the early vision you had when presented with the opportunity to work with Nas on a whole album?

I mean, at first it was just us just cooking. It wasn't even real. We wasn't in album mode when we did King’s Disease. We were just messing around with ideas. It was a month out from when Valentine's Day was coming around, he wanted to drop a little, small EP with some Valentine's Day songs, talking to the females and sh*t and it turned into an album.

How did that early vision evolve over time the more you two continued to record?

We started with love songs. We started with “All Bad.” We started with “Replace Me.” We started with songs that were talking to the females. In King's Disease II, we started with “Death Row East,” so it was a completely different momentum, different synergy. And same with Magic, I personally just wanted to take it and make some Nas beats. If we would've came out with Magic first, they wouldn't have understood what we were doing. So we had to really just back them down. I look at this sh*t like the NBA. We just backing them down. And Magic, it's just like us at the All-Star game, throwing a ball through our leg, right off the backboard, dunking on n***as. That's how I look at it.

What is your go-to track off of Magic?

Man, right now, it's “Meet Joe Black.” I mean, bro, this is ridiculous, how a lot of people can't hear. The first f*cking few seconds of this sh*t is... It took more talent to do the first few seconds of that beat than most motherf*ckers on the top end on Billboard, bro. All the sounds, and the transitions, and the cord changes, the baselines all f*cking hits you within the first few seconds, let alone on the horns in the beginning. I just can't wait till people really understand quality... You know what I'm saying?

Speaking of “Meet Joe Black,” Nas has some standout lines in there, like "Your top three, I'm not number one. How could you post that?" Even the, "Run me the keys, run me the Bs, run me the flowback." What were some of the competitive conversations in the studio that inspired Nas to go so hard on that one track?

Man, I mean, it's just been all the progression since the first album we did, just being like, "Okay, cool. They f*ck with this? We still got a lot of gas to keep going." It's like we about to just keep leveling it up. The first time we had a lot of conceptual records and just really thought it out. This time, it's like, man, bro, I'm about to pull up a beat, you rap. Rap is a competitive sport, everybody talking their sh*t. You got to just talk sh*t. It was as simple as that.

Another track that stood out was “Wu for the Children.” On that song, Nas speaks about the “Nas enthusiasts” that won’t let him pass his old work. So when you see the high praise that you both receive each time you guys deliver a project together, how does that motivate you and shape where you guys go next?

I mean, sh*t, we really just having fun making music. I mean, we taking it very serious, but just to see people embrace it, that's automatically just energy that's coming your way. You're either going to take it one or two ways. You're going to do so with it or you're not. And I feel like, man, me and Nas can make however many albums we want to, as long as we just stay locked in.

On the topic of staying locked in, we saw the tweet, we heard Nas mention it on the project: King’s Disease 3?

Mhm, that part.

How far along into King’s Disease 3 are you guys with the project?

Man, we ain't nowhere with King’s Disease 3. It's all in our mind right now. We planned it out. I've been listening to different sounds and things I want to do just to differentiate it and just set my game up. That's all I've been on, just studying different genres and sh*t like that, and studying different sounds that I want to implement, but definitely can't give the sauce a way right now.

Can you speak on what's been inspiring or motivating you lately?

What's inspiring me lately is Magic, bro. It's like, man, we really came straight out with another hit with this sh*t. We don't have any Pop features to take our sh*t into the top. But it just feels right. It feels good. We ain't taking no generic or no cheap routes. This sh*t is just straight off the head, quality, hard sh*t that me and him just in the stu' working on.

Where are you and Nas looking to take your collaboration as a duo? Nas referred to you guys as the new Gang Starr.

We study this, man, we look at what people are saying. I seen a lot of people saying that sh*t, and Nas must've caught wind of that too, to throw that bar in there. The beat sounded like a Premier beat, like some Gang Starr sh*t or whatever the case. It just was a vibe. I mean, if Drake can say he turned into Jay[-Z], how the f*ck Nas can't say me and him is the new Gang Starr?

Even with the EPMD comparisons as well, a lot of that iconic hip-hop duo synergy we’re familiar with, you guys display that each project.

Yeah. It is what it is. I come from that era. Even though I still can produce for Nardo Wick, or Playboi Carti, or Juice WRLD, or Don Toliver, I definitely come from the era of hearing real sh*t, and hearing sh*t that's not all 808s. You know what I'm saying? Whatever the f*ck. I don't know. It’s just been inspiring to get this type of sh*t off because people usually come to me for beats that I feel like don't allow me to be showcased as one of the best. But with Magic, I know the stuff I'm doing for Nas, people look at me in a completely different light. And I’m just appreciative towards him for opening that portal up for me, and to open up that opportunity for me to get my real hip-hop type beats off for the sh*t that really touches my soul. I mean, I could hook up any beat within f*cking five, 10 minutes, but especially some 808 sh*t. That's easy for me. But man, I'm telling you, bro, if motherf*ckers really understand the nuances, like “Meet Joe Black,” motherf*ckers is not... Nobody's making that, bro. I'm sorry. Just the f*cking transitions in the intro of the beat, bro, it's ridiculous.

I saw you recently shared the earlier production that you did for The Game back in the 2000s. It sounds like when you're able to step into this classic hip-hop arena, or just even produce for someone like a Nas, that this leads to you revisiting a sound in your production that you still have a lot of interest in exploring further.

No, for sure. And it just leads to a bigger conversation. I posted a clip of a guy on Twitter Spaces who was talking about how he only knew me from "N***as in Paris", and so that made him doubt me. Even though Jay-Z and Kanye could perform that song 10-plus f*cking times a night, you still go doubt the n***a who did that? It's ridiculous, bro. How do you hear a song that Jay-Z and Kanye can perform over and over in one setting, bro, and be like, "No, this guy is not the guy." And I feel like a lot of people feel like that. That's what's frustrating.

Does that doubt add another layer of motivation when given the chance to produce an entire album and not just a single?

Oh, yes. That definitely was a big motivation because just over the years, man, being tapped in with social media, seeing the way people view me, and play with my name and look at me, it's just kind of ridiculous. And that's what made me want to lock in on doing people's albums. N***as come to me and they be wanting this simple sh*t, but then it doesn't allow people to look at me as what I really am. That's why I said I got to just appreciate Nas for opening up this portal to let people know, "No, Hit-Boy's the f*cking real deal."

Back to the album, Magic’s only features are DJ Premier and A$AP Rocky on “Wave Gods.” How did that record come about?

“Wave Gods,” that was a joint that Nas had the idea for. Actually, it's crazy. I had a session with Rocky and I was playing him beats. Played him the “Wave Gods” beats, he was like, "Yo. Me and Nas need to do this beat." So probably a few days later, Nas pulled up and I was like, "Man, Rocky said he wants to f*ck with you on this beat with you," and he was like, "all right, cool." He did the hook and his verse, then Rocky came through, made his verse and it was just right. Rocky came in focused, man. And that's what I always say, everybody from Fivio, to Ferg, to YG, to ASAP Rocky, all these people when they get in the studio with Nas, they want to deliver their best sh*t. Go listen to their verses, bro. On our albums, their sh*t hits different. They just sound f*cking ridiculous, really good. And that's because people got so much respect for Nas, they feel like, "Man, I got to rap my ass off, or I got to give my best performance."

In what capacity is Preme featured on the record?

He did the scratches. His scratches are legendary.

How did Preme respond to Nas’ Gang Starr line on the record?

He just laughed and said, "Oh, man. You know people are going to have an issue with this." But he said he didn't give a f*ck. So I was like, "That's perfect."

With Magic out now, King’s Disease awarded Best Rap Album of 2020, and now King’s Disease II nominated as well for Best Rap Album this year, what do you think of those doubters you mentioned earlier?

I'm just going to f*cking speak this at this point, man. We might have not been f*cking with Snowfall for the first couple seasons, but then by the time the third one hit, you have to go back and be like, "Yeah. This sh*t been great." You know what I'm saying? When Power first dropped, whatever. I'm just looking at it like seasons, man, we only getting better, bro. We're only more locked in. We're only doing this sh*t to a higher degree. So it's like it has no choice but to keep building and growing. As long as we keep that mentality, we're going to be straight. I posted the video literally the minute the album dropped. Nas is in there, in a f*cking track suit and a durag. Bro, ready to rap. These [other] n***as be on some extra'd out sh*t. I'm playing the beat, you can clearly see nobody else in the room [with Nas and myself]. We just really doing it, bro, on some real life sh*t. It ain't no managers or A&Rs setting these sessions up, man. It's just straight, direct connection. "You trying to work today?" Boom, I got these beats. "Cool. I got something to say." That's it. I mean, honestly, man, I'll f*ck with anybody from a Nardo Wick to a Nas. Again, I'm just trying to make quality and do my part, because the game is what it is, man. I can't call this sh*t. I just know that I'm going to just try to keep getting better on my side, and then wherever sh*t end up, that's where it end up.

Words by Joshua Robinson

Interview by Brandon Barrett and Madrell Stinney

Photography by Shaun Llewellyn

Styling by Bukunmi Grace

Cover Design by Shane Ramos

All photos shot on location at the Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles, California

Gallery painting by Robert Gunderman, 'TrES-2b,' 2021 at Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles; ©Robert Gunderman, courtesy the artist and Diane Rosenstein Gallery

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HIT-BOY: PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Words by Joshua Robinson
Interview by Brandon Barrett and Madrell Stinney
Photography by Shaun Llewellyn
Styling by Bukunmi Grace
Cover Design by Shane Ramos
All photos shot on location at the Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles, California

Hit-Boy is a producer’s producer. Having delivered classic beats to everyone from Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar to Big Sean, Nas, Don Toliver, and Benny The Butcher over the course of his nearly two decade-spanning career, Hit-Boy has constructed one of the most expansive and formidable catalogs in the music industry.

In 2022, the Fontana, California native is more than 10 years removed from the timeless octuple-platinum-certified smash hit “N***as in Paris,” yet his influence and impact on Hip-Hop have not waned in the slightest. Hit records aside — although Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE,” Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks In The Middle,” and Sada Baby’s “Little While” prove he’s more than capable of churning out infectious radio juggernauts — Hit-Boy has become one of Nas and Big Sean’s most trusted producers, leading to several hard-hitting tracks on Sean’s Detroit 2, their full collaborative EP What You Expect, the lauded King’s Disease album series with Nas, and most recently, a Christmas Eve gift in Magic.

Hit-Boy’s work has been impossible to ignore, and after taking home a Grammy for Best Rap Song in 2020 and another one for Best Rap Album in 2021, he has officially earned his first nomination for Producer of the Year. In honor of all that he has accomplished over the past year, HNHH recently linked up with the award-winning artist, and throughout the exclusive interview, Hit-Boy offered gem after gem after gem, from first-hand accounts of working closely with Nas and Big Sean to the significance of the Troop sample on his Judas and the Black Messiah Soundtrack cut “Broad Day.” Learn more about the 2022 Producer of the Year Grammy nominee, and HNHH’s Producer Of The Year by reading the Q&A below.

HNHH: How are you feeling, man? Feel good?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, I’m straight man. I’m in a time warp right now. I’m just going. I don’t know what’s what, man. I’m just maxing out.

For 2021, what has been the personal highlight for you? Could be musically, or personally.

Man, since my son was born, he’s been my forever highlight. Watching him get bigger now, walking, talking, running around, having his own personality. That’s inspiring. I watch videos with him of like baby cartoons on YouTube and I’m like, “Man, these videos get like 500 million views. How do I tap in to make people want to watch my sh*t that much?” That’s something that definitely clicks in my brain.

Do you see a little bit of yourself in your son?

I see a lot of myself.

What is it?

Everything. Number one, like the love for the music. Any time he hears music, he starts vibing. It’s crazy to see, he really connects with it. Give him our little keyboard at the studio, and he messes around.

That’s what I was going to ask, if he’s got a little beat machine?

He’s not even two yet and he knows what a beat is. He knows certain different artists already. It’s crazy.

One of the interviews I saw with Nas, he said numerous things about you. One that stuck out to me was that he sees pieces of all the greats in you and you kind of mold that in your own way, you’re your own musician your own artist. Moreso, not only did he crown you producer of the year, he called you his “Quincy.” I just wanted to get your thoughts on what that means to you, coming from an absolute GOAT like that.

Yeah, I mean it wasn’t him directly comparing me to Quincy, because I saw some people saying that. You know how people talk sh*t. But, he was just talking about as far as the working relationship and beyond the music, we connect. We can sit and have a conversation before we even start working. It might go for an hour, it might go for two hours. Once we get the information that we left in the room, it goes into the music immediately. We might talk then I might pull up a beat or a couple of beats and he just starts saying something that we were just talking about.

I know between Sean and him, they both mentioned that you build this atmosphere where the conversation in the studios create the music. You can put people in the right space to become vulnerable and put those stories out there. So, what are those conversations like?

We talk about everything. We always center it back to the music. Even if we’re just talking about life, family, money, whatever the case may be, we’re going to figure out a way to connect that information with the music. I feel like that’s why people rock with what we’re doing because it’s conversation pieces. Like the “Death Row East,” that’s what he was talking about. You can still bounce to it, but that’s because I was playing “Picture Me Rollin’” and All Eyez on Me nonstop while we were making “Death Row East” and the album. Just trying to have that energy that’s just cutthroat and raw.

Between Kings Disease I and II, there’s all sorts of cool features, but one that obviously stuck out and took the world by storm was Lauryn Hill. Talk to me a little bit about how that came together.

Yeah, I never would have thought I would have had something with Lauryn Hill on it, and on that level. It just came from us making a song. Nas did two verses and he was like, “Man, we need to get a third verse on here, get a feature.” We brainstormed. We thought about a couple different people. I guess he was having a conversation with her and sent her the song. She immediately connected with it. She did her verse within like a few days. It came back to us quick. I just was over the top about it. Like, “This is unreal.” This is something, when I’m older, my family can really look at, my son can be like, “You really did it on that level.”

In terms of the sound and everything, your versatility is something that sticks out above everything else. You worked on with G-Unit years back, the west coast, Canada. It doesn’t matter what the region is or what the sonics are, you can find a way.

It’s funny because, going back and listening to N.W.A, a lot of those break beats and vibes Dre was finding was really east coast hip-hop type sh*t. He put funky bass lines to add the west coast flair and element. Also, a lot of people say in the last few years I’ve been going. I’ve really been going since I started and just getting placements every year and helping level projects up, whatever the case is. A lot of people don’t know that I was doing crazy songs for The Game or crazy songs for G-Unit that had the boom-bap vibe to it. They thought I was just a club producer. I was producing for them in ‘07 / ‘08, making hard gangster rap. People just don’t know, that’s why it’s coming full circle right now.

Was there a specific goal in mind for the sound of Nas’ projects with you? Considering all the versatility you just hit on a little bit, what were you going into the studio with?

I wanted to keep his essence, but I wanted to just add my flare. Add some exciting melodies, some exciting drum patterns, just fly instrumentation, something that’s still open enough for him to get his words off. He’s a complex rapper. He’s going to say a bunch of different things with a bunch of different flows. You’ve got to complement that, versus just going, “Okay, here goes a beat and I’m leaving the studio.” I’m sitting there and I’m arranging sections of the beat. I’m making it complement what he’s doing vocally and lyric-wise.

There’s a certain texture to everyone’s voice, especially his and you wanted to cut through. That was a big thing he mentioned about what stuck out to him with your beats, that you did not try to outdo what he was doing, but also pushed him to get the best out of him.

It’s just a balance, like I said, I wanted to be his essence. Anything I play him, it’s going to be something I can hear him on. I’m not just playing random beats. Even if it has a different texture to it that you might not be used to hearing Nas over, it’s still going to have a break beat or a drum pattern that feels like I can hear Nas over.

Congrats on another year of Grammy nominations. Take me back to when you received the news of your nominations. What do you remember about those first ones? How does it feel getting nominated again now that it’s already happened for you before?

The first time is always super special. I definitely didn’t know anything about the politics or any of the ins and outs of the Grammys. I had went one time before. This was two years before “N***as in Paris” won. I went to see Lil Wayne and Eminem perform “Drop the World” and that’s the song I produced with Chase N. Cashe. That was my first time, so I just was in there peeping the whole vibe. By the time I went back, I had leveled up. I went to another level. So, you can’t call it, but we won. It’s crazy because the year before I won with Nipsey Hussle for “Racks in the Middle,” I was there for “Sicko Mode” for my production on that and we lost. Way more commercial success from the song, but it didn’t win the trophy. It’s all a balance. I really got to learn that you can’t just think that just because this is the most commercially successful, or whatever the case is, that it’s going to win a Grammy because it’s not always about that. It’s about that quality. H.E.R, she won a Grammy last year for like Song of the Year or something, and the video only had, not even a million views on it on YouTube for a song that she won for. We got so piped up to it’s about the YouTube numbers and Spotify– all that can be finessed. They can dump some money into Spotify ads and dump some money into YouTube playlists to make the views look crazy. What is the music really saying? What is the music really doing?

Take me back to when you got the news that you were being nominated for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical), because that’s a whole different monumental nomination.

I had just watched them announce that King’s Disease II was nominated. Which is big because we had just won last year. So, going back-to-back at the Grammy’s with Nas is unbelievable for real. A lot of people were feeling like, “Man, you should have gotten Producer of the Year last year at the Grammy’s too.” I wasn’t nominated, but this year I am. After I seen that they announced King’s Disease II, I just cut off the broadcast. I was like, “Cool, I’m straight.” I didn’t even think about the fact that they were announcing Producer of the Year. People started calling me, texting me, hitting me like, “Yo, you nominated for Producer of the Year!” I was like, “Man, that’s unbelievable!”

The past winners are crazy. Pharrell I think won it twice. Rick Rubin won it twice. The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Babyface. The list goes on and on. Describe what the win would mean to you. Have any of those past winners inspired you?

Obviously, [Dr.] Dre for real. Rick Rubin. All of them. Different eras, different sounds. I draw from all of them as far as inspiration goes. To win, I would feel probably how everybody else on earth would feel– amazing about the sh*t.

You have all these peers already saying you’re Producer of the Year. You have people telling you that you should have won it last year. Does the Grammy offer you any validation in terms of the mainstream and political side of it?

I mean, it’s not everything, but it is something that you can appreciate. I mean, I don’t know. Motherf*ckers be enamored over jewelry and money and all that type of sh*t. I feel like a Grammy, that’s something you can just have in your family that symbolizes greatness. My people was locked in. My family, my son, whatever, is going to be able to look and be like, “Yeah, my pops was really doing it.” Most of these people kids aren’t about to inherit their jewelry and sh*t. My son is going to be able to have that on the mantle forever. That’s just how I look at it.

One thing that stuck out on Twitter was that someone said you were the only black producer nominated for Producer of the Year.

Sh*t, I said that.

What are your thoughts on that and your feelings about that?

It’s just something that stuck out to me. A lot of us don’t get that opportunity. To even be talked about and ranked amongst people that are doing great things. Most of the people probably had bigger commercial radio records. I don’t know if they had as much value and as much whatever as me, but everybody is in their own world and doing what they’re supposed to do. It ain’t even a thing where I’m trying to make it a black thing or whatever the case is. It just was a fact.

This year saw you producing a soundtrack as well. How’d you feel about being asked to work on Judas and the Black Messiah and executive produce the soundtrack to such an important film?

When you get to work on something that means something, it’s just a little different than just a quick check or something like that. We’re telling a man’s story and trying to complement the music with that. That sh*t was big. Then, me rapping on it with my song “Broad Day,” being able to produce the song and then sample my uncle’s group. I sampled Troop’s “Spread my Wings” and used that. That’s literally one of the first songs I ever heard in my life. It was my uncle’s song. That was one of the first songs to inspire me musically. To be able to sample it and it be able to be used in a commercial and high-level film, and I’m rapping on the sh*t, I can’t even ask for a better turn out.

How were you able to capture the raw and emotional energy of the film for the music?

As far as that particular situation, stuff like that is still going on. It’s still present, so I’m in it. I’m seeing George Floyd. I’m seeing all the things going on. Melrose is literally right here, you can walk there in like two minutes. That sh*t was literally burnt. Spots getting looted, burned down, beat up, whatever the case is. This sh*t just happened like a year or two years ago. It’s still going on. So, I was already in that mindset. I had already dropped some bars just off the George Floyd situation and all that. It just worked well with the soundtrack.

What did you hope listeners got out of the soundtrack?

Just the emotion of what they saw in the movie. It's soulful, real, raw, and I just wanted it to match the movie.

Another big project you had this year was with Big Sean. From what I read, you guys met a long time ago. Could you take me through that relationship? If what I read was right, y’all met at the Mercer Hotel in those legendary era of nights.

That’s when we connected because at that point, I had signed to GOOD Music. Before I signed to GOOD, I met him at a studio not too far from here. I was just going to play him beats. One of his homies knew my homie. Linked it all up. Went there, played him beats. We vibed. We didn’t do anything back then, we just was vibing. Probably, a couple of years later, that’s when I signed to Kanye and we all ended up at the Mercer. Sean was finishing his first album, he was working on Watch the Throne. Kanye was working on his solo album. I ended up working on a bunch of John Legend stuff during those sessions. I just was all over the place. Sean was there working too, so, we locked in. How it got to this point, probably in 2018, I saw him and Nipsey together at the Jay-Z and Beyonce show at the Rose Bowl. I hadn’t seen either one of them in a minute, probably a few years, a couple years or whatever. I just told them, “Y’all got to pull up on me. Y’all got to come to the studio. I’m on a whole new wave right now.” They both came and they both got some good music from me. Nipsey, we won a Grammy. We turned up, got a platinum song. Me and Sean, we’re just going. Every song we drop is just another stepping stone for what we’re going to do next.

In a recent interview you mentioned Big Sean–it was the “Million Dollars Worth of Game” podcast–was one of the most challenging artists to work with, but in a good way. How does he challenge you, how do you challenge him?

He challenges me by never being satisfied. I might be satisfied if the sh*t sounds good. That’s just how I rock. He might be like, “Nah, it sounds good, but it’s a different way I can say it or I can switch out that bar and say something different.” That just expanded my mind to be like, “Don’t stop at the first idea.” It might be something in there. You’ve got to keep digging for that gold until it’s all the way out of there. That’s pretty much what it is.

Sean described your production as a new pocket, but it’s recognizable. “The highest level of cloth on streetwear,” is, I think, how he put it. How do you describe the production that you have with Sean?

That’s pretty right. I feel like everything is custom, man. Pretty much all my beats have a different bounce. Different types of melodies, different pockets. I practice that. When I sit down, I’m not getting a template and going off of that. I’m going sound by sound and trying to figure out the way to make it sound like something I haven’t done before.

Being the maestro conductor as well as producer and artist, was that evolution a calculated target for you? Or was it just an organic thing?

It was organic just by me working, but also, plotted out as well. I have to step it up to this level. I have to start getting better at song-making and helping structure songs and adding what I can on that side, not just the beat. Early in my career, it would be just taking beats and seeing what can happen. Now, it’s just cultivating the real energy and guiding a song through it. Telling an artist to change this, change this, or let’s use this part on this part of the song, switch it around. Just trying things to keep it interesting.

Early on you were told that if you learned how to produce vocals, it would be a game changer as a producer right?

Yeah, I met a producer, I wish I could remember his name, an older guy. He owned a studio and I rented it out for a day to work with an artist. We ended up talking somehow, I don’t even remember how we started talking. He was like, “If you really want to stay in the game, you have to learn how to produce vocals, period.”

In terms of your own artistry, collaborating with such other great artists. What have you taken and what have you implemented into your own?

I take everything from great artists. As far as information, like when they’re in the room with me. I’m seeing how they move and what they’re doing. What they’re thinking about. The stuff they’re saying. I just soak it all up and take it in. I’m feeling like the Hulk right now. Motherf*ckers giving me their power right now and sh*t. It’s crazy.

Where do you see yourself, artist wise, evolving into next year?

I feel like I’m only going to level up the more I put my work in and keep developing. I’m definitely hitting a stride and a spot where it’s going to be a different wave 2022. I’m just thinking about things a lot more seriously. Taking myself more seriously. Planning it out, plotting it out what I really want to do, so. It’s going to be fire 2022.

Sounds like things are strategic and intentional.

Yeah they have to be for real. You’ve got to be intentional for things to come across to people the right way. A lot of people drop albums and there’s no real concept to it. I feel like that’s where people don’t connect. That’s when you get your sh*t called wack or whatever the case is, is when you’re not coming from an intentional and real place. I try to do that with every beat, every song, everything I’m doing.

One of the big songs you had this year was “What You Need” with Don Toliver. How did that song come together?

He just pulled up on me. Me and Don got, probably close to a high-market song. Same with Roddy Rich. I’ve got one song ever released with Roddy Rich and it has a Grammy. One song ever released, bro. That’s ridiculous to me. D*mn I lost track of mind, what were we talking about?

Just the process behind Don’s “What You Need”.

Oh, the Don one. Don, he just be pulling up on me. We just cooked that. It wasn’t like, “Oh, I need a single right now.” I hate that type of sh*t, too. You gon’ scare me off and make me not want to pull up on you if you’re like, “Oh, I need this sound. I need my single.” Like, yo. Let’s just work on music. You don’t have to put the pressure on the sh*t. If it comes out tight, it’s going to come out tight regardless. The times when you’re in there and you’re stressing like, “It’s got to be this specific thing,” nine times out of ten, that sh*t ain’t gon’ work out with me, specifically. You’ve got to just get in the room, let me pull some beats up or let me cook a beat, and right to that motherf*ckerr. That’s exactly what happened.

Are we going to get to see a Don Toliver and Hit-Boy album?

That boy is on his way. So, you can’t call it. He’s got every producer breathing down his neck. I will say I do feel like this sh*t is high-level. Not even feel like, I know it’s high-level.

“Sinister” by Cordae also sticks out, especially because of the hook. “Call Hit-Boy for beats, you get ten of them.” What did you think of that hook and him putting you in there? How is the relationship? It sounds like there’s more than just one song here.

Again, I’ve probably got like an EP’s worth of sh*t with Cordae. That was just another song. He stopped by. He’ll pull up on me here and there at different times like, “Yo, I’m going to slide. Come hear some sh*t, whatever. Play you something.” I always pull up beats and he literally- you know he’s a “rapper” rapper, so he freestyles like to every beat. Then he’ll catch a vibe and be like, “Yeah this the one. Let’s load this up or I’m going to take this with me and do it at my studio.” That’s what happened. He started “Sinister” at my studio, recorded a part of it, took it with him and just flushed it out then put Wayne on it.”

You worked with Wayne early on, “Drop the World” came out and now it’s kind of full circle with another big song with Wayne. Talk about that in terms of career moments.

It’s dope. It’s especially dope for Cordae as a rapper who just came in and is respected on a rap level to go back and forth with Wayne on a song. That’s heavy. As far as me, I’m trying to do a Wayne album! One song is cool, but we’ve got a song that’s four times platinum, bro. Pull up. Simple math.

Do you see a bit of yourself in Cordae just from the sonics of your versatility. Your ability to blend nostalgia with modern, not too many people can accomplish that and Cordae also does that beautifully.

I come from the era of the OG sh*t, the real sh*t before it got to be what it is now. Even though I’m still in the culture now and I can make any type of beat that d*mn near anybody can make, but I come from the era of real gangster rap. N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Chronic 2001, Blueprint by Jay-Z, east coast, west coast, just anything that sounded good. I was rocking with it. I’ve got those elements, I just try to keep it modern at the same time.

What are the plans for 2022? What’s next for you?

Sh*t, go crazy. That’s really the only thing I think about everyday is trying to be better than I was.

Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

I see myself as the next producer prodigy’s dad. Just doing my thing still. I can’t really call it, but I know it’s only leveling up in my future if I keep doing what I’m doing right now.

You mentioned this before, but maybe it’s changed. Dream session? Album? Dead or alive, anybody you want. Pick a person.

I’ll do an album with Tupac or Biggie, that would be crazy. Right now, Jay-Z. That would be crazy too. Drake, Kendrick, Roddy [Ricch], send me whoever and they’re going to be straight.

After HNHH’s original interview with Hit-Boy, the multi-platinum producer teamed up with Nas once again to give fans of the King’s Disease album series an early Christmas gift in the form of Magic. Arriving roughly a month ahead of the 64th annual Grammy Awards, the nine-track EP undoubtedly revitalized the hype that Nas and Hit-Boy built with King’s Disease II, and fortunately, HNHH was able to link with the veteran hitmaker for an exclusive follow-up interview as well.

During the second conversation, Hit-Boy detailed the making of Magic standout tracks “Meet Joe Black,” “Wave Gods,” and “Wu for the Children,” and he also gave a progress update on the highly anticipated King’s Disease III. It’s evident that Hit-Boy is locked in at a completely different level, and here is what he had to say about Magic and the future of his and Nas’ ongoing collaboration.

When did you and Nas start working on Magic and how did it come about?

Sh*t. We started working on Magic right after King's Disease II came out. I just was just inspired, man. I had the vision for where to take the album, as far as just kind of... Man, it's crazy because I was trying not to be super obvious on King's Disease and King's Disease II, that's why you got songs like “Spicy,” “27 Summers.” You got songs like “YKTV” in the mix, and it's because I was trying to keep some of his essence, but still give him a new flare aesthetically. Musically. But this one, I said, "f*ck it. I'm going to just give these motherf*ckers what they want. I'm going to just give them the most Nas level beats I can." I usually don't want to be so obvious and be like, "Oh, I have to make a Nas beat." This one, I said, "Cool, this what y'all want? I'm about to give this sh*t to y'all," and it's been the biggest reception so far. And this was probably the easiest for us to make, because it was just Nas music.

Could you speak more about the early vision you had when presented with the opportunity to work with Nas on a whole album?

I mean, at first it was just us just cooking. It wasn't even real. We wasn't in album mode when we did King’s Disease. We were just messing around with ideas. It was a month out from when Valentine's Day was coming around, he wanted to drop a little, small EP with some Valentine's Day songs, talking to the females and sh*t and it turned into an album.

How did that early vision evolve over time the more you two continued to record?

We started with love songs. We started with “All Bad.” We started with “Replace Me.” We started with songs that were talking to the females. In King's Disease II, we started with “Death Row East,” so it was a completely different momentum, different synergy. And same with Magic, I personally just wanted to take it and make some Nas beats. If we would've came out with Magic first, they wouldn't have understood what we were doing. So we had to really just back them down. I look at this sh*t like the NBA. We just backing them down. And Magic, it's just like us at the All-Star game, throwing a ball through our leg, right off the backboard, dunking on n***as. That's how I look at it.

What is your go-to track off of Magic?

Man, right now, it's “Meet Joe Black.” I mean, bro, this is ridiculous, how a lot of people can't hear. The first f*cking few seconds of this sh*t is... It took more talent to do the first few seconds of that beat than most motherf*ckers on the top end on Billboard, bro. All the sounds, and the transitions, and the cord changes, the baselines all f*cking hits you within the first few seconds, let alone on the horns in the beginning. I just can't wait till people really understand quality... You know what I'm saying?

Speaking of “Meet Joe Black,” Nas has some standout lines in there, like "Your top three, I'm not number one. How could you post that?" Even the, "Run me the keys, run me the Bs, run me the flowback." What were some of the competitive conversations in the studio that inspired Nas to go so hard on that one track?

Man, I mean, it's just been all the progression since the first album we did, just being like, "Okay, cool. They f*ck with this? We still got a lot of gas to keep going." It's like we about to just keep leveling it up. The first time we had a lot of conceptual records and just really thought it out. This time, it's like, man, bro, I'm about to pull up a beat, you rap. Rap is a competitive sport, everybody talking their sh*t. You got to just talk sh*t. It was as simple as that.

Another track that stood out was “Wu for the Children.” On that song, Nas speaks about the “Nas enthusiasts” that won’t let him pass his old work. So when you see the high praise that you both receive each time you guys deliver a project together, how does that motivate you and shape where you guys go next?

I mean, sh*t, we really just having fun making music. I mean, we taking it very serious, but just to see people embrace it, that's automatically just energy that's coming your way. You're either going to take it one or two ways. You're going to do so with it or you're not. And I feel like, man, me and Nas can make however many albums we want to, as long as we just stay locked in.

On the topic of staying locked in, we saw the tweet, we heard Nas mention it on the project: King’s Disease 3?

Mhm, that part.

How far along into King’s Disease 3 are you guys with the project?

Man, we ain't nowhere with King’s Disease 3. It's all in our mind right now. We planned it out. I've been listening to different sounds and things I want to do just to differentiate it and just set my game up. That's all I've been on, just studying different genres and sh*t like that, and studying different sounds that I want to implement, but definitely can't give the sauce a way right now.

Can you speak on what's been inspiring or motivating you lately?

What's inspiring me lately is Magic, bro. It's like, man, we really came straight out with another hit with this sh*t. We don't have any Pop features to take our sh*t into the top. But it just feels right. It feels good. We ain't taking no generic or no cheap routes. This sh*t is just straight off the head, quality, hard sh*t that me and him just in the stu' working on.

Where are you and Nas looking to take your collaboration as a duo? Nas referred to you guys as the new Gang Starr.

We study this, man, we look at what people are saying. I seen a lot of people saying that sh*t, and Nas must've caught wind of that too, to throw that bar in there. The beat sounded like a Premier beat, like some Gang Starr sh*t or whatever the case. It just was a vibe. I mean, if Drake can say he turned into Jay[-Z], how the f*ck Nas can't say me and him is the new Gang Starr?

Even with the EPMD comparisons as well, a lot of that iconic hip-hop duo synergy we’re familiar with, you guys display that each project.

Yeah. It is what it is. I come from that era. Even though I still can produce for Nardo Wick, or Playboi Carti, or Juice WRLD, or Don Toliver, I definitely come from the era of hearing real sh*t, and hearing sh*t that's not all 808s. You know what I'm saying? Whatever the f*ck. I don't know. It’s just been inspiring to get this type of sh*t off because people usually come to me for beats that I feel like don't allow me to be showcased as one of the best. But with Magic, I know the stuff I'm doing for Nas, people look at me in a completely different light. And I’m just appreciative towards him for opening that portal up for me, and to open up that opportunity for me to get my real hip-hop type beats off for the sh*t that really touches my soul. I mean, I could hook up any beat within f*cking five, 10 minutes, but especially some 808 sh*t. That's easy for me. But man, I'm telling you, bro, if motherf*ckers really understand the nuances, like “Meet Joe Black,” motherf*ckers is not... Nobody's making that, bro. I'm sorry. Just the f*cking transitions in the intro of the beat, bro, it's ridiculous.

I saw you recently shared the earlier production that you did for The Game back in the 2000s. It sounds like when you're able to step into this classic hip-hop arena, or just even produce for someone like a Nas, that this leads to you revisiting a sound in your production that you still have a lot of interest in exploring further.

No, for sure. And it just leads to a bigger conversation. I posted a clip of a guy on Twitter Spaces who was talking about how he only knew me from "N***as in Paris", and so that made him doubt me. Even though Jay-Z and Kanye could perform that song 10-plus f*cking times a night, you still go doubt the n***a who did that? It's ridiculous, bro. How do you hear a song that Jay-Z and Kanye can perform over and over in one setting, bro, and be like, "No, this guy is not the guy." And I feel like a lot of people feel like that. That's what's frustrating.

Does that doubt add another layer of motivation when given the chance to produce an entire album and not just a single?

Oh, yes. That definitely was a big motivation because just over the years, man, being tapped in with social media, seeing the way people view me, and play with my name and look at me, it's just kind of ridiculous. And that's what made me want to lock in on doing people's albums. N***as come to me and they be wanting this simple sh*t, but then it doesn't allow people to look at me as what I really am. That's why I said I got to just appreciate Nas for opening up this portal to let people know, "No, Hit-Boy's the f*cking real deal."

Back to the album, Magic’s only features are DJ Premier and A$AP Rocky on “Wave Gods.” How did that record come about?

“Wave Gods,” that was a joint that Nas had the idea for. Actually, it's crazy. I had a session with Rocky and I was playing him beats. Played him the “Wave Gods” beats, he was like, "Yo. Me and Nas need to do this beat." So probably a few days later, Nas pulled up and I was like, "Man, Rocky said he wants to f*ck with you on this beat with you," and he was like, "all right, cool." He did the hook and his verse, then Rocky came through, made his verse and it was just right. Rocky came in focused, man. And that's what I always say, everybody from Fivio, to Ferg, to YG, to ASAP Rocky, all these people when they get in the studio with Nas, they want to deliver their best sh*t. Go listen to their verses, bro. On our albums, their sh*t hits different. They just sound f*cking ridiculous, really good. And that's because people got so much respect for Nas, they feel like, "Man, I got to rap my ass off, or I got to give my best performance."

In what capacity is Preme featured on the record?

He did the scratches. His scratches are legendary.

How did Preme respond to Nas’ Gang Starr line on the record?

He just laughed and said, "Oh, man. You know people are going to have an issue with this." But he said he didn't give a f*ck. So I was like, "That's perfect."

With Magic out now, King’s Disease awarded Best Rap Album of 2020, and now King’s Disease II nominated as well for Best Rap Album this year, what do you think of those doubters you mentioned earlier?

I'm just going to f*cking speak this at this point, man. We might have not been f*cking with Snowfall for the first couple seasons, but then by the time the third one hit, you have to go back and be like, "Yeah. This sh*t been great." You know what I'm saying? When Power first dropped, whatever. I'm just looking at it like seasons, man, we only getting better, bro. We're only more locked in. We're only doing this sh*t to a higher degree. So it's like it has no choice but to keep building and growing. As long as we keep that mentality, we're going to be straight. I posted the video literally the minute the album dropped. Nas is in there, in a f*cking track suit and a durag. Bro, ready to rap. These [other] n***as be on some extra'd out sh*t. I'm playing the beat, you can clearly see nobody else in the room [with Nas and myself]. We just really doing it, bro, on some real life sh*t. It ain't no managers or A&Rs setting these sessions up, man. It's just straight, direct connection. "You trying to work today?" Boom, I got these beats. "Cool. I got something to say." That's it. I mean, honestly, man, I'll f*ck with anybody from a Nardo Wick to a Nas. Again, I'm just trying to make quality and do my part, because the game is what it is, man. I can't call this sh*t. I just know that I'm going to just try to keep getting better on my side, and then wherever sh*t end up, that's where it end up.

Words by Joshua Robinson

Interview by Brandon Barrett and Madrell Stinney

Photography by Shaun Llewellyn

Styling by Bukunmi Grace

Cover Design by Shane Ramos

All photos shot on location at the Diane Rosenstein Gallery in Los Angeles, California

Gallery painting by Robert Gunderman, 'TrES-2b,' 2021 at Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles; ©Robert Gunderman, courtesy the artist and Diane Rosenstein Gallery

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Datboisoulja
Datboisoulja
Jan 10, 2022

Les be honest nobody read this entire article lol

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
Jan 10, 2022

Well deserved. He’s been putting out nothing but heat. This newspaper clipping layout is some ass cheeks tho HNHH. Tighten up

LutherVandross
LutherVandross
Jan 10, 2022

This Cover Story Lay Out Is Trash

Marques Chaney
Marques Chaney
Jan 10, 2022

The boy ❄️❄️ Loved him and Sean together! If only we could get HitBoy Nas and Sean on an EP 😩

Nitro
Nitro
Jan 10, 2022

Finally some worthy content.

Madrell
Madrell
Jan 10, 2022

Let us know your favorite moments from our digital cover story with Hit-Boy!