Nothing But The Hits: An Interview With Hit-Boy
For Hit-Boy, crafting The Throne’s most popular cut is not enough. Now producing and rapping, the G.O.O.D. Music super frosh flips beats and rhymes for self in search of his own grand slams.
Hit-Boy has some cojones. For proof, look no further than his ambitious moniker—one that leaves no room for struggle soundtracks. Yet, earlier this year, when Jay-Z and Kanye West called him up to stage dive in France while his epic instrumental “Niggas in Paris” blared through the stadium’s massive speakers, Hit’s self-fulfilling prophecy was solidified. The come-up story of the unassuming beatmaker born Chauncey Hollis has been Murciélago-quick; just two years after blessing Lil Wayne and Eminem’s spacey “Drop the World,” he’s catapulted to G.O.O.D. Music production heavyweight, landing smashes for the likes of Rihanna, Kelly Rowland and A$AP Rocky. “Six artists slept on the ‘Niggas in Paris’ beat, but it ended up being performed around the world, 12 [consecutive] times in a concert,” he says of Watch the Throne’s anthem. “[My beats] always end up in the correct place.”
Following in his mentor’s Air Yeezy footsteps, the 25-year-old BMI Award recipient has diversified his hustle. Along with creating dynamic melodies (like the three he constructed for G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer LP) the Fontana, Calif., native has crept from behind the boards and into the recording booth for his free album, this summer’s sonically colorful HITstory. With poised punctuation, humble brag lyrics and digitally dusted tracks, HB has a viable career in rhyme in his crosshairs. But not before detouring to a hush-hush Hawaii spot to work on some “secret” projects…
VIBE: How’d you get your start?
HIT-BOY: I got my real first break and got to meet some real interesting people [on MySpace]. In ’06 I met [Zone 4 producer] Polow da Don on there, on some randomness. I heard “London Bridge” by Fergie. So I just sent him a request and didn’t think twice about it. The next day he sent me a message: “Let’s get this paper.” I met Chase N. Cashe [of Hit-Boy’s music crew, The Surf Club] on MySpace, right after Polow. Drake. I met a lot of people, man.
When did you realize that your life was changing?
I really had to make a decision on a personal level. There was like a point where music was slow for me, like ’09. I wasn’t getting that much work. My relationship with Polow wasn’t the same. So I was just rebuilding myself. I had to learn how to think as a positive human being, before anything. I felt a shift. Then I met Kanye and got my mind right. He liked some of my beats, and it turned into what it is now.
How’d you meet Kanye?
I met him through Pharrell in ’07, at Record Plant studio while working on Teyana Taylor’s project. I’m a 20-year-old kid [back then], so I’m like, “Kanye and Pharrell, these are both my heroes.” It was just us three in the studio; it was bugged out because I had this beat and I always said, “If I ever meet Kanye, I’m going to play him this beat.” Just so happened that I had this beat in my jacket pocket. From the time it came on ’til it went off, Kanye was just rapping. [The beat] still ain’t came out, but I think it’s incredible. I might rap on it myself one day.
Going from meeting him to being on the Watch the Throne tour had to be wild. How’d you find out they did “Niggas in Paris” more than once at the shows?
I found out on Twitter, crazy enough. I didn’t get to go to the first concert in Atlanta. People said they did the shit twice, [then,] “Whoa! They just did it three times!” But I didn’t know it was going to be 14 times and shit. I thought they just did it to open the [tour], because it was the first show. But they kept going and going. It became its own phenomenon. So when I had the opportunity to go to Paris and get called onstage—how epic is that?! Jay-Z called me onstage during my song that I produced for Watch the Throne? That was surreal, man. One of those situations I’ll never forget. I’ll be able to show my kids the footage of when Jay-Z brought me onstage.
Is the rapping something you practice more than producing since releasing your mixtape, HITstory?
Yeah. I get to be around some of the best. I get to actually have conversations with people like Pusha T, Pharrell and Kanye. They want to see me get better; they want to see me learn. Kanye didn’t find out I rapped until last December. I was at his crib and my boy Ricky played him a few of my songs. He was like, “Man, you should do an album.” But during this whole time I was working on HITstory, I was learning about myself again. Getting comfortable with the mic, because I hadn’t really rapped since like 17-years-old. My next project is going to trump everything on HITstory.
What was the positive reaction to HITstory and some of the hate you heard?
On the positive, it was the way I put it together and subject matter. People feel like I could have brought more character, [though]. That goes back to me finding myself. I could’ve went back and re-rapped some of it—that’s what Kanye told me. He told me, “Your shit was very good, but it wasn’t scary good. You have to take that shit from very good to scary good.” That conversation put enough fuel in me to murder this shit.
What has this past year been like for you?
Blessed. It’s been amazing to witness my growth. This shit is really a reality; it can really happen. I’m just anxious to get to next year.