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Hit-Boy talks “Racks In The Middle” Grammy nom, last moments with Nipsey Hussle in the studio, Juice WRLD and more

REVOLT caught up with Hit-Boy during a studio session with Dom Kennedy. We discussed everything from the making of “Racks In The Middle,” working with Juice WRLD, and his future goals. Check out the convo here!

Ragan Henderson

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

On “0 to 100,” Drake spits, “I should prolly sign to Hit-Boy cause I got all the hits, boy!” Hit-Boy might be one of the most talented producers in the rap game, and he has not let his foot off the gas pedal one bit. Hailing from Fontana, California, the West Coast beatmaker is behind some of your favorite songs to date including Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” Kanye West’s “Clique,” JAY-Z and Ye’s “N*ggas In Paris,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle,” Drake’s “Trophies,” and more recently, Nipsey and Roddy Ricch’s “Racks In The Middle.”

While “Racks In The Middle” is currently up for two Grammys — Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance — Hit-Boy knew right away the record was special. Nothing can take away from the moments in the studio with both Roddy and Nip, the latter of whom was shedding tears while recording his second verse. On the track, the late Slauson rapper spits, “Grammy nominated, in the sauna sheddin’ tears, all this money, power, fame and I can’t make you reappear.”

Hit-Boy is completely unbothered by any of the music industry bullshit. He just loves to make music. While making “Racks In The Middle,” the producer also spent time in the studio with Juice WRLD, resulting in five records on Death Race for Love. While it’s unfortunate he lost two artists/friends within just one year, he knows his purpose is to continue to create great work. Currently under Roc Nation management, fans can expect a forthcoming project via Def Jam from him, which is already in the works.

REVOLT caught up with Hit-Boy during a studio session with Dom Kennedy at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles. We discussed everything from the creation of “Racks In The Middle” to working with Juice WRLD to his goals. Check out the convo below!

Congrats on the three Grammy nominations for ‘Racks In The Middle’ and Meek’s ‘100 Summers.’ How are you feeling?

I feel great, man. I’m excited for sure.

What was your reaction when you found out?

Steve-O, who was on Nipsey’s team, he called me at 5 in the morning. He was like, ‘Wake up! We got a big Grammy nomination!’ Crazy bro, I woke up. Definitely always get emotional, obviously because of the situation with Nip. But, the song in general, I always thought was Grammy worthy. I never doubted [the] song from day one. So, it’s just crazy that it really came into fruition like this.

Roddy told me you had brought the song to him.

The crazy thing about being here at Chalice Studios, I run into people. That’s how I got on Meek’s album. I saw Meek in the parking lot shooting hoops and shit. The next time I know, I’m like, ‘Welcome home.’ Chopping it, he’s like, ‘Play me some shit.’ I brought him some shit and I ended up on the album. Same shit, Roddy was up here working with somebody. It was 1 in the morning, everybody was damn near about to dip. My homeboy Knowledge, who I’ve known for years, he always was telling me he could link me with Roddy.

So, Roddy just so happened to be up here, literally across the hall from where I’m at. He came in real quick, I was like, ‘I just made this beat.’ Played it for him, he’s like, ‘Shit, load it up. Let’s try something.’ He was tired. He was literally about to dip, he had his backpack on. He did the hook, then he did a verse. I’m like, ‘This shit crazy.’ Even his team was like, ‘Yeah, I think we should do more shit. That shit cool.’ I’m like, ‘Nah bro, this shit is cold. Y’all tripping.’

He did that hook on the first take?

Yeah, exactly. What happened was, I got a situation with Def Jam as a producer where I’m putting out records with different artists. Little compilation type shit. I had actually bought the record from Roddy. It was going to be Hit-Boy featuring Roddy Rich. I had it sitting for a minute, then I had a session with Nip. Nip came in and that was the first thing I played him. The first thing he said when it went off the first time was, ‘Run that back!’ I played it again, he looked at me like, ‘Bro! I need this, bro. I need this shit and I need it to come out ASAP!’

...I was playing it for him to get a verse from him, so it would’ve been me featuring Roddy and Nip. So, I ended up giving him the record, I didn’t even hesitate. My team and everybody was like, ‘What are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘Nah, I fuck with Nip. I think it’s going to make the movement big for all of us.’ And that’s exactly what ended up happening. We worked on the song, it took us a week to complete. Literally not even a month later, that shit was out.

I heard Nipsey was crying when he was recording his verse.

He was recording the second verse when he mentioned Fatts. He literally had his hoodie wrapped up and he was crying. He was shedding tears. That shit was emotional. That song bro, it hit the core. Me and Nip would talk about how the beat and the hook alone is already... you can’t deny that shit. Then him on it, what he’s saying on it. It’s the perfect record, I feel like, to be sent off on. It’s fucked up that it’s that way, but he went out on a masterpiece of record. So, I do hope we bring this Grammy home.

What are your fondest memories with him?

Just us chopping it on regular shit. I remember being at the video shoot for ‘Racks in the Middle.’ They had the jet obviously. I went on the jet and everybody had left. It was just me, him, and his grandmother. He was telling me how he told his grandmother about me and how solid I am, my background and shit like that. Then, I just looked at his grandma like, ‘This is a great guy right here.’ That’s one moment that definitely sticks out. Him being in here talking to me about being bigger than just a rapper. He’s like, ‘I’m a songwriter for real.’ Just him painting a picture of what he really was to me.

Roddy mentioned feeling bittersweet. How do you feel about the song being up for a Grammy?

Same, man. But honestly, I’m not going to say [I] expected it because you can’t expect nothing. Even when you go to the Grammys... I was there last year nominated for ‘Sicko Mode’ and we didn’t win nothing. I just knew that was the biggest shit ever, so you can’t predict it. I’m not getting my hopes up too much. I do have a Grammy already, but I’m just letting the chips fall. But, I definitely feel excited about this shit. It’s next level, man, because I thought this same way about this song from the jump. I [always] thought it’s next level.

Talk about producing Juice WRLD’s Death Race for Love album the same time you were doing ‘Racks In The Middle.’

That shit was insane. I did five songs on Juice’s album... It’s funny because I’d go to Juice WRLD and he was recording songs in 20 minutes. But then, Nip was coming back, doing one verse one day, another verse another day. He took his time, which now completely makes sense for him to put that much effort into his shit. But, I just would leave him here, I’d leave him at the studio. Juice was right on Wilcox and Hollywood doing his album. I’d go play Juice beats, he was loading up damn near everything I played. Just killing it. We did probably 20 songs in a week and a half, and they ended up keeping five.

How does it feel to have five on there?

That was definitely a level up for me because a lot of my career, I’d just do one or two records on an album. But, to have five joints [on] an album with somebody that I thought was the next shit just talent-wise — Juice, that n*gga was unstoppable in the studio. He had endless melodies, endless words, endless flows. Shit was unfair really.

What was the dynamic like with him, who was a singer vs most of the rappers that you work with?

He is a rapper. That’s the craziest part. People don’t know that. His songs be melodic, but he really is a rapper. Put on 10 beats in a row and he’s not going to fuck up not one time. I’ve never seen this shit, and other rappers have said that, too. I’ve been working with Big Sean a lot on his new album. I was playing him a freestyle that Juice did over four or five of my beats in a row. He’s like, ‘Bro, I never seen that shit. I’ve never seen nobody keep going and keep saying clever shit.’ Juice was different.

‘She’s The One’ was originally cut by Kehlani correct?

Yeah, that beat was for Kehlani. I had did that in 2014/2015. She came to my crib, we cut a bunch of records that she didn’t end up using. That beat was for her and she didn’t use it. But, my homebody Dash, he was Juice’s A&R who signed Juice. He hit me like, ‘Man, we need 808s & Heartbreak type shit.’ That’s pretty much all the beats that I gave him — was on some big sounding musical shit. That ‘HeMotions’ shit. That’s dead on some 808s & Heartbreak shit.

What was your reaction when you heard Juice WRLD passed?

Big Sean called me. I had fell asleep in the studio, I was working all night. He’s like, ‘Yo, did you hear this shit about Juice WRLD? Juice WRLD died.’ Crazy. The first thing I did was call my boy Dash, chopped it with him. He definitely was not okay. That shit was shocking. I damn near got scared, I had to call my mom and my grandma to calm me down. I’m like, ‘How is it that two n*ggas I was working with at the same time die within a year span?’ That shit creeped [me] out, bro. That shit scary for real. But, they were both talented. I’m glad that I could lend to their last pieces of music.

What needs to happen in the music industry?

A lot of shit needs to happen, but is it going to happen? I don’t know. Violence and drugs is so implanted into not even just music, but into culture period. I really can’t call it. I just hope that motherfuckers do see certain stories of this type of shit happening and wake up. At the end of the day, this shit’s been happening forever. N*ggas been violent forever. Motherfuckers been off drugs forever, so I just don’t know. It’s like a cycle damn near.

How often are you in the studio?

I damn near live in the studio. If I could be there 24 hours, I definitely would. If I could just not go to sleep, I would be in this motherfucker just because I’m motivated like that. I’ve always been that way, but even more so now. Having so many elite artists coming to me for shit, it’s high pressure. High level, it’s intense. In the sense to be on top of this shit. It’s, a new era, so when these rappers come through, they want to do five or six songs a night. At least, if not full songs, just ideas. I have to have a whole lot of shit stacked up. I try to be ahead of the curve, and have joints that feel urgent and ready.

In your opinion, are producers finally getting enough credit?

Hell no. I don’t know if it’s going to happen no time soon, but we’re getting more credit. People are putting their albums out and shit like that, but motherfuckers don’t really be knowing. They don’t even know what a beat is, they just hear the words — most people, unless you’re into music and shit. If you’re not into music you don’t even know what you’re listening for. You don’t know if you’re just listening to the melody, the words, the beat. You don’t know why you like a song... Unless your name is on shit or you’re full-fledged big in front of everything, it’s going to be hard to get that notoriety.

I’ve done literally some of the biggest beats of the decade. Go look at some of these lists that are coming out, I’ve been on damn near most of the albums... So, what do I gotta do? Make a harder beat than ‘N*ggas In Paris’ to get noticed? How the fuck is that going to happen? When are you going to have JAY-Z and Kanye perform your shit 12 times a night, and a n*gga tell you that you have to make a hotter beat to get hotter? Personally, I definitely don’t get even the same type of notoriety. That’s something that you can’t trip off of. I used to trip off it when I was younger. But now, it’s like man, you have to keep making moments and keep going really.

What can we expect from your own project with Def Jam in 2020?

Shit, a lot of dope songs. Hard beats and just fire songs. A lot of relevant fire artists.

You keeping it West Coast?

I’m West Coast by default. I’m working with all types of people though. I’m kind of covering all regions with my shit. I don’t want to talk about features yet, but I got some dope artists.

I see you got Dom in the studio. What are you guys working on?

We’re finishing the next Half-a-Mil. That’s going to be the fifth project — second album — and we put three EPs out. We’re just pushing shit.

Can you talk about your friendship with him beyond the music?

We’re just like-minded. We’re both calm, super Cali n*ggas, so we get along. That’s my n*gga, man.

You mentioned wanting to get in with Justin Timberlake. Has that happened yet?

We been texting. Any time I make a beat I think he’ll go on, I’ll send it to him. Most of the time, he’ll text back like, ‘Yo don’t play this shit for nobody. I’m fucking with this.’ We’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to jump out the gate, but we definitely texting.

Your catalog of hits are endless. What are some goals for yourself at this point of your career?

Just have successful projects of my own really. That’s something that’s important to me. Whether it’s Half-a-Mil, my solo shit, my compilations, just pushing that shit to the max whatever it is.

Will you be signing artists, too?

Definitely. I got people that I’m developing, but we’re taking it one day at a time.

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