Though he’s now ingrained in Atlanta’s burgeoning hip-hop scene, Metro Boomin actually grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, where he first started making beats at the age of 13. While honing his skills within the confines of his bedroom, he also began reaching out to MCs and music industry figures via social media, all in hopes of finding people to rap on his beats.
Eventually, OJ Da Juiceman took an interest, and invited Metro to Atlanta to work on tracks together. Chaperoned by his mother, the trip proved to be a success, and the young producer began an almost weekly ritual of driving to Atlanta – with his mother – every weekend to collaborate with some of the city’s brightest talents. After finishing high school, he officially made the move down South to attend Morehouse College, but wound up leaving school when the demands of his budding music career began to overwhelm his studies.
So far, the move has proven to be the right one, as Metro has collaborated with an all-star cast of artists that includes Future, Gucci Mane, Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa, Chief Keef, The Weeknd, YG, Young Jeezy, Meek Mill, Travi$ Scott, Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Trinidad James, Migos and many more. In this excerpt from his recent Fireside Chat with RBMA Radio, Metro opens up about the circumstances behind some of his biggest hits.
St. Louis / Early Days
The music in St. Louis growing up, there was a lot going on. Those were the glory years for Nelly, St. Lunatics, Murphy Lee, Chingy, J-Kwon. There was just so much going on, and so many huge records coming out of St. Louis, so it always inspired me to want to be into music. I knew I wanted to be a rapper when I heard [Nelly’s] Country Grammar. It was years later that I just started to realize I wanted to get into producing.
I started getting my beats out through a lot of different ways. I was emailing them. I’d be on Twitter and submit beats. I bothered people on Twitter all day. I bothered Sonny Digital on Twitter. I bothered Rico Brooks, who’s my manager now (and he manages Sonny as well). I’d bother him, I’d bother everybody, but really just submitting those tracks and trying to get my sound heard, just establishing all those things.
I click with a lot of artists I work with, because that’s just the way I work, period. If I can’t really click with you, then I don’t really want to... You know what I’m saying? A lot of the best music, well at least for me, is all off the vibes, man. When I vibe well with somebody or somebody I have a good relationship with, it just works easy that way. You know what I’m saying? Everything is natural and completely organic.
Man, back in high school, I know I always wanted to move to Atlanta after I graduated. I went to Morehouse for a semester, but even during that semester, I was still in the studio every single day making music. Making beats in the dorm every day all day, just constantly working at it. After a semester, I dropped out and full-time gave everything to the music.
Back in college, I was really low-key. I’m in a dorm with a whole bunch of other dudes. I had my speakers. I’m in there making beats every single day, so they would get the gist like, “Oh, he makes beats.” Then, word would get out that I’ll leave class, go to the studio with Gucci, go to the studio with Future or something. “Karate Chop” actually came out while I was in college, and that was one of the reasons I dropped out. People just started realizing and kind of putting two and two together.
It’s such a broad horizon. In Atlanta, the community of musicians and creators all together, all kinds of art, it’s a very broad one. It’s great. Everybody just works. I mean, everybody might not work with everybody, but there’s a lot of affiliations. If there was a chart or a breakdown of all the affiliations, who fucks with who, who doesn’t fuck with who, it’d be a real crazy chart. It feels great to just even be in that and be a part of that, to help move the sound forward and just help things get better.
I would always complain to him about school. Sonny just told me straight up: “You should just drop out then.”
Sonny, he’s like a brother to me, an older brother. Really, while I was at Morehouse, I would come to Sonny’s house every day. I would make beats. I would sleep on the couch. I remember I would always complain to him about school, and how I didn’t really want to do it, how it was really getting in the way of the music. He just told me straight up: “You should just drop out then.” It seemed crazy to me at the time, but it was something I considered, something I’m glad I did. I was staying at the dorms at that time, so it’s if I drop out, it’s like “Damn, where am I going to live?” He let me live with him for a while until I got everything together. We’ve been through so much more, but just by that right there, you should be able to see what kind of relationship we have. It’s not just some music industry, “I know him” type shit. It’s way deeper than that.
I feel like the music a lot of times in certain places, it lives in the walls and shit like that, so Sonny Digital’s house is one of those type of things where the inspiration is really in [the place]. You’re always going to come up with something. The inspiration is endless.
Over there I’ll be a student to a lot of things like even watching Sonny or ... Before I would be at Sonny’s house all the time, I rarely really used Pro Tools at all like that, but now it’s like I’m mixing all my songs [in there]. I’m way more fluent in Pro Tools now, but before being at Sonny’s house, it was almost foreign. I just started learning and seeing things and messing with it on my own.
The whole thing happened with Future back when I was still in high school, I had sent some beats to my boy Propain. At the time, Propain was working with Rocko and Future as well. I was at home one night, and Pro had hit me like “Yo, I’m in Miami with Future. I need some beats.” In my head, at first, the whole lazy thing went off like, “Man, I don’t know if I’m going to do this because I don’t even know if anything’s going to come of this.” Because a lot of the times it didn’t. You know what I’m saying? It was just one of those things that I guess God put in me. I did it, anyway. You know what I’m saying? From those beats I sent they did in Miami, “Karate Chop” was in there. After that, I finished high school and moved to Atlanta.
I feel like Future’s got the kind of spirit to where me and him being about ten years apart is not even really, like anytime I’m around him, it’s not even really something I realize or remember. It seems like he’s one of my peers. And he treats me the same way. But, every now and then, he’ll always try to say some shit to you, like he’s on some wise shit. You know what I’m saying?
It was always a real thing. We could have put [the project] out sooner before this whole label situation shit. But then it’s like when things like that get in the way, it’s not as easy as “Yo, we just about to put this one on iTunes.” You know the label have a whole other agenda with this. It was really just a lot of stalling with that. I still got all those songs, a lot of stuff, so maybe sometime in the future something like that could still happen. But everything happens for a reason, and I’m sure it’ll happen some day.
With Thug, and the same thing with Future, they’re never too comfortable with just doing what people expect them to do. They’re always willing to go way outside the box. Because, you know what I’m saying, there’s never nothing wrong with trying. I’m the same way with my beats and production. And, you know, they’re the same way with the rapping, so I feel like that’s why the whole music thing works well together with us.
Working with Kanye is great, man. It’s different though. It’s not the same as being at Sonny’s house and just working on something. I feel like it’s a lot more... I kind of want to say it’s a lot more calculated. I don’t know.
With Kanye, it’s going to go through a lot of phases and stages. You might do something and then somebody else does something, and then, you know it’s just a lot going on. It’s great, man. He’s got a vision, and at the end of the day, he knows what he wants. But he’s also one of those people that, he’s open to other people’s energy and vibes. Just like me, just like anybody else, he just wants to make great music at the end of the day.
Me and Kanye have a mutual respect for each other. He really respects me as a producer. Like actual respect. Because he knows how it is first-hand. And for him – always being one of my great inspirations – it’s just great to know that he really admires what I do. People just look at it like, “Alright, he’s just making hard beats or doing this,” but he really sees what’s going on with the culture and respects it and I definitely appreciate that.
It’s just one of those things that young people could say in class, but your teacher, they don’t even know what’s going on.
The whole “Young Metro don’t trust you” drop? It’s not something I’m tired of. I can’t be tired of that because I see, just overall, it makes people happy, you know what I’m saying? I’m at a show, I can play the drop, and not even a song, and people go crazy. Just knowing something like that [is] bringing anybody happiness, like how could you be tired of it?
People in person ask me all the time, do I trust them. I mean, at certain times that could get irritating, but you know, it’s all love. It’s part of the culture. I saw the FADER quote, they called it “the secret handshake of young America.” I was really thinking about that, like, “Wow, that’s crazy”. Because it’s just one of those things that young people could say in class or whatever, but your teacher, they don’t even know what’s going on. But everybody 25 or under or whatever, they’re going to know what’s going on.
Future had rapped it on this song, “Uncle Murda” and he said it in a different cadence, but the cadence I use for my tag is one that they scratched and didn’t keep. But I reminded the engineer to put it to the side so I could just put it in all the beats.
Even last year, the whole “Metro Boomin wants some more, ni++a” tag. I love that tag so much it’s just like, “Man, I don’t want to run this in the ground and people are just tired of it,” you know what I’m saying? It’s just like, it’s a new year, let’s do something else.
I still use the “wants some more” tag sometimes, but it’s just variations. It’s definitely a rotation, because it’s even... I’ve seen so many different “wants some more” things last year and then even Nicki Minaj did the song on her album. That was great. So, now, it’s like, “Okay, what else can we do now?”
“Jumpman” was the first song out that it was on. And then the whole Kanye thing, so now it’s like, “Okay, that’s another level.” Now rotate the tags, I got other tags too, but we just gonna keep it moving. Somebody might say something on another song, and I might just have to run with that.