Metro Boomin, the 19 year-old Atlanta producer behind Future's "Karate Chop" and co-producer of "Honest," is poised to keep making huge records. We caught up with him to ask about his work with Future, his path to success, and a few of his influences. In the process, Metro Boomin explained how his music would make for a great horror movie soundtrack, that his first beat was made up of Lil Jon and Bone Crusher ad-libs, and why Future changed his album name from Future Hendrix to Honest.
Interview by Alex Gleckman (@andfeedingyou)
Does Future's work ethic rub off on you?
He’ll always push me, like I’ll always think I’m working hard, he’ll be like, "Metro, you’re not working hard enough. You need this many beats." I know he knows in his head that I'm working hard, but he just tells me to take it to another level.
You've talked about how "Karate Chop" didn't make sense to you as a single, at first. Did "Honest" have to grow on you in a similar way?
Me and Future recorded so many songs that as soon as we did "Honest," I liked it a lot, but I didn't see it as a single. But he just kept talking about it after we did it like, "Man, this is big. This is big. It's gonna be a single." And I didn't see it. I was at a drive-thru at Burger King, and I started singing it. It was just in my head. The next day in the studio, Future was like, "Man, this is huge" and I said it is bigger than "Karate Chop." He was like, "Man, you're crazy, this is way bigger than 'Karate Chop.' This is way beyond that."
The album was called Future Hendrix up until probably a little bit before the single release. It wasn't like he re-named the album Honest and then made the "Honest" song. He based the album around the concept of the song.
The songs are so different from one another.
I know and it just shows the versatility in both of us. I'm glad "Honest" came out right after "Karate Chop," because I don't want to be seen as a one-hit wonder.
What is the story behind "Honest"?
I was basically just on Instagram, as usual, up to no good. I saw a picture he put up, standing on the corner somewhere in Brooklyn. I was like, "Future's out of town, he might be in the studio." I went to Twitter, and he just happened to tweet "Studio flow, NYC." We hadn't done anything in a while, I hadn't sent him anything in a while, because we've both just been so busy. I texted him like, "You in the studio, bro?" He was like, "Yeah, send me tracks."
I sent him a new pack of beats I just did, all of them were real fire. He ran through the pack, and one of them was "Honest." He cut the hook in New York, came back to Atlanta. A few days later, he played me the hook and he did the verses. He came in with the hook, like "This hook, I got it, it's major." And then he just killed the verses. He nailed them. That was "Honest."
Future's album was going to be called Future Hendrix. Did the strength of the single have something to do with that name change?
It definitely did. The album was called Future Hendrix up until probably a little bit before the single release. It wasn't like he re-named the album Honest and then made the "Honest" song. He based the album around the concept of the song "Honest" and everything he wanted to do with it. The album is gonna make sense. Every rapper has their title, you know "Best Rapper Alive," "King of the South." He's just putting it out there as "I'm the most honest rapper alive." He's really like a street poet.
Future is just putting it out there as "I'm the most honest rapper alive." He's really like a street poet.
Are there any other genres that influence your sound?
All types. I try to take elements from all kinds of music. Even if I’m listening to anything off the wall, like Britney Spears, there might be a certain way someone did something, that I can feel, in some hip-hop flavor.
You've also talked about scoring movies. What kinds of films could you see your music being the soundtrack?
It’s funny you say that because when I’m making beats, people will say, “Metro's in here making scary movies again.” Because that’s what most of the beats I make sound like. The most notable ones that you’ve all heard are not like that, but most of my archives are real dark...but hard. I think scary movies would be pretty hard.
Do you remember the first beat you ever made?
It was pretty wack. It was like, one instrument. It was a whistle sound, a simple melody, and instead of having clapping noises it had slaps, like someone getting slapped in the face. It was just a bunch of Lil Jon chants on there and every now and then there’d be a Bone Crusher chant. It was pretty wack, I'll probably put it up on the Internet one day. It'd be neat for people to hear, even motivational, because every now and then I'll listen to it and be like, "Wow, I came a long way from that."
Whether or not you like me, you like my music or my beats or not, the fact that everybody that's on [my upcoming mixtape], you're not gonna have a choice but to listen to it because it's not gonna come from anywhere else.
You have a mixtape coming out, 19 & Boomin. Do you think it will be released before you turn 20?
I'll probably drop it on my 20th birthday, actually. I was thinking about dropping it one day before but it'll either be one day before or on my birthday, as my gift back. Why not give a whole bunch of exclusive tracks from all your favorite rappers? I'm not just gonna put out a bunch of shit you've already heard, why anticipate that? I'm getting all these records from a whole lot of people, just to put it out there. Whether or not you like me, you like my music or my beats or not, the fact that everybody that's on there, you're not gonna have a choice but to listen to it because it's not gonna come from anywhere else.
You've talked about sacrificing a "normal" life to succeed in music, how would you explain that practice to young producers? And what is your advice to young producers trying to succeed?
Just keep grinding, man. I don't know anyone's religion, but just stay faithful. Just stay consistent. Don't get distracted by the other shit. There's just so much that can consume you. As far as relationships, sports, streets, anything. A lot of people are programmed to think, "Oh, I want to do this, but I also want this." It's like they want everything. You want your cake and you want to eat it, too. Even though I guess you're supposed to eat cake, but I never really get that saying.
Even in middle school, when I started making beats, I gave up all that social life, all those parties, all those tailgates, and those events I missed out on. I might not have all those high school memories but I have enough. Senior year, I started making a lot more memories just to have them, but that's just something you gotta give up if you really want this.
But it's worth it to you.
It's more than worth it. I'm glad I did what I did. There's nothing wrong with going to school, but while everyone was moving back into the dorms the other day, I'm just sitting here in L.A. making these smash hits right now.