Hit-Boy On Grammys, The State Of The Music Industry And More

Arts & Celebrities

How do you get to be nominated for Producer of the Year at the upcoming Grammys? In the case of Hit-Boy it is an insane amount of hard work. In fact, for this interview I met up with him and his manager, Nima Nasseri, at the L.A. studio he works out of the week between Christmas and New Year’s, a period notorious for the entire music industry shutting down.

While everyone else is on vacation, Hit-Boy, Big Hit (Hit-Boy’s father) and rapper The Game managed to do a whole album, Paisley Dreams, in one night that dropped yesterday, New Year’s Day as a surprise release.

It was a perfect end to a year that saw Hit-Boy produce an incredible seven albums, including three just in one calendar year with iconic rapper Nas, and, most importantly, for Hit-Boy, his dad’s album, The Truth Is In My Eyes. The pair made headlines when they released the album exclusively through their own website and kept it off Spotify and other streaming services initially.

Hit-Boy has a lot to say about the state of the music industry heading into 2024. That was a major subject of our discussion, as well as what his Grammy nod means, working with his dad, his next steps in music and more.

Steve Baltin: I love the fact that we’re here this week because no one else in LA is working this week.

Hit-Boy: Right. It’s like 10 rooms at the studio and I’m the only one occupied right now, me and my dad. Both of our rooms.

Baltin: Did you even think about taking the week off?

Hit-Boy: I took like a day or two off. Christmas was probably the day I didn’t come in. I went in the day after.

Baltin: Is it hard for you to slow down or there’s too much going on?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, I’m on a mission, man. I’m hitting that threshold but I’m just trying to take it over the top. I just feel all these years of making beats and getting techniques, I’m just now implementing everything that I learned and I’m making better beats. So, I want to make more of this s**t.

Baltin: I talk about this with artists all the time, as an artist, you’re never satisfied. But what happens is you do stuff that you start to like and that becomes the building blocks for the next project. Do you feel like now you’ve put all those blocks together and is there one song of yours now where you see all those blocks come together?

Hit-Boy: Particularly, my dad’s newest project, I would say. Just all the knowledge I was able to get by being around Nas, or Jay-Z, Kanye, Game, Big Sean, all these people. I was able to implement it into something that is super special to me. We got it sounding, between me and my dad, professional where people really respected it. So that’s just dope.

Baltin: Is there one track on there though for you that stands out?

Hit-Boy: All of them, bro. We didn’t play, I feel like every song on this album has got raw emotion in it, musicality. It’s got a certain knock to it. Obviously the musical side, but just going into the real conversation like independence, you know what I mean? I guess when you do things as everybody else does or you kind of just feel like you’re getting caught up in a wave, you get swept up in a wave. Like if you don’t have this big giant first weekend, then you kind of feel like, “It’s over for me.” And with my dad’s album, I would say the money we made in the first week, we’d had to have millions of streams to make that amount of money. We would’ve made a couple $100 at this point from the amount of times we’ve been played just off my dad’s site. So, I feel way less pressure and I just feel like I’ve got some breathing room. I feel better about the situation. And I see people, I see the arguments, I watch the comments, and, man, I try to reply to as many people as I can to show love. Some people are like, “Man, nah, that’s not convenient. We want it on Spotify and on Apple Music.” And that’s cool, but we’re really trying to see who’s rocking with us. It’s not like you just discovered us or just let our song play on a playlist in the background. If you’re coming to hear this, you want to hear it the right way and we want it to be presented the right way. It’s more than just music, it’s an art piece. So that’s just where I’m at.

Baltin: It’s like so many things in life, the scarcity makes it more valuable.

Hit-Boy: Right, exactly. I’ve seen Vince Staples talking about how they’ll just put a price on our art. When it comes to music, especially urban music, it’s like a cap on it. I wouldn’t even say just urban music, it’s all music. This s**t is $1.99 or is $9.99 and that’s just the end all be all, where you could push a movement where the s**t costs $100 like Nipsey Hussle or $1,000 like Nipsey Hussle, and it’s the people that really rock with you are going to come get it.

Baltin: Tom Petty, who I love, fought with MCA all the way back in 1981. They wanted to put out a record and they wanted to raise the price and he fought with them for a year about the price being a $1 more because he didn’t want to alienate his fans.

Nima Nasseri: The worst thing, just to add, there’s really no clear payment system that has any transparency. By law, nobody knows. We don’t know how much Spotify is paying Universal and then the breakdown between the DSPs and the majors, we don’t know what their rate is.

Hit-Boy: They are all in cahoots.

Nasseri: Yeah, he’s making the product and then he gives it to these people that are all stepping on it.

Hit-Boy: Running off and making the real money off something I created, where I’d rather it be like, “Hey man, if we make 10,000, 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, whatever it is, we’re going to accept it and run with it and keep pushing and just let that be what it is.”

Baltin: But on the positive side it does seem artists have so much more freedom creatively now.

Hit-Boy: Right, for sure. That’s a good thing about where we’re at. We were able to do this and just feel good about it, man. I’m on Twitter, I’m on IG, I’m watching conversations. I see a lot of people not being happy with what’s going on with the numbers on the streaming sites. So, I feel like it’s time for something to come through that’s going to make it more evened out for the artists. But in all reality, obviously, that’s something they don’t want — the people that’s making all the bread. I’m just doing the best I can with the s**t that really matters to me, protecting it.

Baltin: From an artistic standpoint, do you also find then that it’s important to mix up how you distribute music? So, take for example, your dad’s record. Because that is such a personal record was the distribution more important to you?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, and that’s what I’m saying. Like it kind of sucked the life out of you. I’m sure a lot of artists have felt this way. Everybody’s supposed to be confident in their s**t, but it’s like you will hear a record that’s top ten and it’s like, “I know this s**t ain’t better than what I’m making right now” [laughter]. That’s just what it is. I’m not trying to be egotistical, but sometimes there are a lot of factors into why s**t is moving a certain way. We talked before, most of the projects I did didn’t have no million-dollar promotions behind them. And that helps a lot. A lot of people are swayed and a lot of people can be bought. So at the end of the day, I just can’t say what’s the best, what’s not the best. I just know that I’m trying to make some s**t that keeps me excited, man.

Baltin: So then let’s bring it to the Grammys. How validating is that when you get nominated for producer of the year?

Hit-Boy: I feel good. I feel like this has already won, to be honest, because everybody else got all the biggest artists on their s**t. That’s a dope thing, that’s fire. But at the same time, for me to put in enough work strictly with the music, I think that’s the best. I feel like that’s a W.

Baltin: Is there one thing for you that really stands out in terms of the creativity that worked?

Hit-Boy: The CDs and the magazines and the tangible items that came with my dad’s album. Like I said, we would have had to have millions of streams to make the money we made in a week off this s**t. I don’t want people to think it’s just all about the money, but it is a business. And if they understood the type of money that the people that’s not even touching the music are making, then it would be like, “Damn!” But if I talk about money, then I’m worried about money or I’m this and I’m that. It’s still a business at the end of the day, and I put my heart and soul into this s**t. And I know people that ain’t never made no creative, nothing on a level of “Niggas in Paris: that’s eating off of music more than I am. That don’t add up to me. It’s the music business. I’m making some of the best music, but it’s mother**kers that don’t have to touch nothing creative at all that’s caking, sitting back. We do want to make our bread at the same time.

Baltin: Take me through the process of what you did with your dad’s record. You guys put it out just straight?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, we put it out on his website, bighitnupid.com. We just wanted to create somewhere that was a hub for him. He drew all of his merch, hand-drawn, use of some of his prison art just for different pieces. It’s really bringing people into that world because I feel like it’s something that people never seen before. You’ve never seen this dynamic. You never seen a son come up, go through trials, make bread, all these things, and then bring his dad up. It’s always the reverse road. So, it’s not easy to digest for a lot of people.

Baltin: When you’re at a place where you can produce your dad’s music and take it the top of the charts that has to be so rewarding?

Hit-Boy: Yeah, it is for sure. It’s something I really believe in, just seeing more and more people tap in and show respect and want to collaborate with him and with us. Nas is rocking with it, Game rocking with it, Big Sean rocking with it, Dom Kennedy, all type of artists that I’ve got super respect for.


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