Beat Construction: Metro Boomin

Photographer CAM KRIK
August 14, 2013


The producer is one of the most crucial yet anonymous figures in all of music. Every now and again we aim to illuminate these under-heralded artists with Beat Construction, an extension of our column in the magazine. For today we spoke to Metro Boomin, the 19-year-old Atlanta producer whose high-profile production gig on "Honest," the striking first single from Future's upcoming album of the same name, is a deserved next step after years of "shoot-em-up, bang bang" mixtape tracks. Here, he talks about Future's bat cave, sobriety in the studio and Atlanta's "friend circle" of rising producers.

How'd you get into making beats? I grew up in St Louis. Just with my mom. I always loved music. In seventh grade I was in the band for a second playing bass guitar. I wanted to rap, but I needed beats. I couldn’t buy any so I just made my own. I ended up liking that more than rapping so I just dropped the rap shit. On Christmas when I was 13, my mom got me my first laptop. I downloaded it FruityLoops, cause I had heard about it, and started messing around. Shit just blew from there. I still use FruityLoops today.

Were you a big computer kid? Were you a big Soulja Boy fan? I was, I’m not gonna lie. And I was definitely an inside kid. I was sitting there just making beats every day.

Why'd you move to Atlanta? I’d been going to Atlanta since 11th grade, just to work on music. I knew once I graduated I was gonna move. It was really like Hollywood as far as music is concerned, like how actors move to LA.

Was life in Atlanta as glamorous as you thought it would be? I couldn’t catch a break. I went to Morehouse for a semester. That shit was really a lot. Studio then class right after, I was driving myself crazy. Morehouse has a strict attendance policy—you can only miss two classes before you fail one. With music, I need to be where people want me to be when they want me to be there. Shit like this doesn’t come to everybody. I still value education, but I know I can always go back to school. So it got to the point where I had to make a decision. Then me and Future did called “Hard.” He liked the beat and the song so much that he just wanted me around all the time. That gained me a lot of interest.

“Hard” exemplifies a menacing sound that you became known for. Are you a dark dude? No! A lot of producers say my beats are scary. They make me sound like, He must be evil, this nigga’s crazy. When I play a bunch of a beats in a row people are like, “Man were you going through something?” It’s funny cause I think I’m like one of the most charismatic people you would ever know. I’m really just goofy and shit. It’s really the opposite of me, but it’s just what I like and what I’ve done for so long. My stuff is melodic and hits hard. I’m working to become more well-rounded. But that stuff is just what I do most naturally. Even playing keys I just automatically start there because that’s what I came up listening to. All of that old Gucci and Jeezy, that’s what all their beats sounded like and that’s what I listened to throughout my life. I definitely think that had an influence and an effect.

What’s it been like to work with Future? Future is different from a lot of artists, just because of his work ethic. Every day, all day making music shit. That’s what he’s on. I know other artists who go out of town to do a show and go to the afterparty and everything. Future just goes straight back to the studio. He has the spot we call the bat cave. That’s damn near the only place he’s gonna record at. It’s tucked off in the cut, it has huge black gates, like Batman. The way he’s in there all night and day, you can’t tell if it’s daytime or nighttime, it’s really like the bat cave.

You and DJ Spinz share production credit on Future’s new single, “Honest.” How did the division of labor work for that? Me and Spinz did the beat at my house. Spinz has been a damn piano prodigy his whole life, so he started with the keys and I built shit around it. Spinz is a DJ with such an advanced ear; he’ll tell me move this here, change this, do it like this instead. One day I was in the barber shop and I saw Future tweet that he was going into the studio in Brooklyn. I hadn’t sent him any beats in a long time. I was like, Why not, fuck it, I’m gonna send him one of these beats off my phone. He saw how much I’d progressed and was tweeting that day like, “These beats are crazy.” He’s really into feelings and emotions. He’s a real deep person. Name another nigga hot/ I’m just honest—like that’s how he honestly feels. It’s not arrogance, he just knows what he’s had to do to get where he’s at. When Future say shit in songs, that’s how that nigga be feeling. He goes off of pure emotion, not no fabricated other shit. I knew this shit was special to him when he said he’d changed his album title to Honest. Cause he was so stuck on that Future Hendrix. You couldn’t tell him nothing else. After “Honest” dropped, my mom sent me a long text about Future and about me. It was mom shit, basically just like Future’s a genius and a legend in the making, that she was proud of us. I sent it to Future, he said, “I just love to see you win.” That’s why I fuck with him. The first time I met him he asked me if I was ready to take over the world. From there we just started. Him making “Honest” the single, that means a lot to me. It’s because the song’s amazing, but I also know that our relationship weighed some on that. We got a bond. That’s my boy.

The “Honest” beat is more of a ballad than your other work with Future, like "Karate Chop." Were people surprised to hear you move away from a harder sound? A lot of people were surprised. I would call myself pretty well-rounded, but a lot of the stuff I’ve released is just what these niggas want, that shoot-em-up, bang bang regular shit. I’m just excited that “Honest” came out at such a large scale, to be like, Wow, it sounds like nothing Future has done. Even outside of “Honest,” Future’s got some crazy singles [for his album]. That shit’s crazy, I ain’t even gonna stunt on it. [The album will have] a lot of singing shit, but lately he’s been trying to get that street shit together too so it still keeps that core fan base. Or to incorporate the two—like on “Honest” he was really rapping, but he still hit those crazy high notes in the background. Like it’s two people. Future is slick like two artists.

"When I play a bunch of a beats in a row people are like, 'Man were you going through something?'"

Do you party with that core fan base to your own club hits? At 19, do they let you into clubs? People always ask if I get to go to the clubs and hear my songs at all. Atlanta, it’s not like DC. Certain places they’re gonna let you in. It’s not really difficult. I don’t want nobody’s liquor license getting pulled. I don’t care—I don’t even drink period. I’ve drank, but I’m not a drinker at all. And I think the fact that I don’t do any drugs at all helps me keep focused. I’m used to being around weed, I’m not bothered by it, but I just don’t smoke by choice. I can’t smoke and make beats. It makes me feel lazy and I like to get a lot done: playing people beats, dropping beats off, going to sessions. I never really catch the chance to be at home.

Where are you most productive? I just wanna be at home or at my boy Sonny Digital’s crib. Those are the places where I can be all the way in my element. Sonny’s like a brother to me. He stays one block from me and I used to live with him. Between me, Sonny, Spinz and TM88 and Southside, we’re like, a friend circle. We make beats together too, but those are my dogs, even besides beats. Just kick it, whatever.

Have you grown over the past couple of years? Have those guys helped? Hell yeah. My shit was trash for a long time, a long time. You never thought you were trash. At the moment you always thought you were hard as fuck. I’d be at home with my mom, she likes it, cause I made it. So I’m thinking I’m the shit. Late 2010 my shit started to get acceptable by the public. Now that I have my own home in Atlanta, I got big speakers. I work at all times of night and day, doesn’t really bother anyone. I don’t use headphones anymore. It helps watching a lot of rappers reactions, like watching what in a beat makes them wanna align with it. Certain things you have to watch them and see what really gets the oohs and ahhs out of them, and you come back harder with that.

Why are you releasing your own tape, 19 & Boomin? This project has been floating in the air since I was 17. I turn 20 in September. Before I had as much rank as I do now, I had 17 and Boomin. I still have the cover I made for it. Then it became 18 and Boomin, now it’s 19 and Boomin. I might just drop it on my birthday. I haven’t wanted to just throw something out, and I want a lot of exclusives to make sure it’s all the way right. I think now’s the best time, to put that out while people are inquiring. To show I’ve got more than just what people have heard.

From The Collection:

Beat Construction
Beat Construction: Metro Boomin