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Inside Track: Hit-Boy

Inside TrackPhoto: @louiseugenelee

Hit‑Boy’s freewheeling production style has made him one of the hottest producers in the USA.

“My process is not having a process,” insists Chauncey Hollis Jr, aka Hit‑Boy. “I don’t get too industry about making beats. I make my best stuff when I’m just free, when I’m going off no‑one’s notes, going off no references, when nobody is putting me in a box or pigeonholing me in what they think the vision is. That’s why I say I’m the least technical producer ever. I just do it, you know what I mean? And the stuff that I feel in my soul, people pretty much like it.

“It’s crazy, because you don’t know what things turn out to be. You might not feel the most connected to a big hit you’ve been involved in. I’ve made songs that are all over the radio. Not one of the songs I did with Nas made it to the radio. But I’ve gotten more respect, been more revered, with more people in the streets telling me how much the albums I did with Nas inspired them, than with many of my big hits.”

Clearly, there’s more to Hit‑Boy’s music career than having hits. Since 2020, he’s released six albums with Nas: King’s Disease I, II and III and Magic 1, 2 and 3, plus many more with other artists or under his own name. The King’s Disease albums have received two Grammy nominations and a Grammy Award, as well as contributing to Hit‑Boy’s two Grammy nominations for Producer Of The Year. His most recent nomination was on the basis of releases by Don Toliver, Dreamville, Musiq Soulchild, Nas, his solo albums Surf Or Drown Vol 1 and 2, and releases with the Alchemist.

Hit‑Boy’s hectic release schedule continues this year with an album with regular collaborator the Alchemist and his father, Big Hit, called Black And Whites (see box). Meanwhile, his writing and production work with singles for others tend to yield the biggest hits, including Kanye and Jay‑Z’s seminal ‘N****s in Paris’ (2011), Travis Scott’s ‘Sicko Mode’ (2018), and songs for Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Beyonce. This year, he’s already enjoyed a synth credit on Beyonce’s megahit ‘Texas Hold ’Em’, and co‑wrote and co‑produced Jennifer Lopez’s hit single ‘Can’t Get Enough’.

Brave Beats

Hit‑Boy grew up in Fontana, part of the Inland Empire and an hour’s drive outside LA, which is why he also calls himself Tony Fontana. He had his first breakthrough in 2007, on Jennifer Lopez’s hit album Brave. “I sold a beat to Jennifer Lopez for a song called ‘Forever’ that appeared on Brave. I had turned 20 years old and starting on a pop level like that opened up my eyes. It was like, ‘Man, I can do anything!’”

He had started making beats only a few years earlier. “In 2001, I was rapping, and after a year also started making beats. A friend of mine had a setup with FL Studio, or Fruity Loops as it was called. I thought it was fun and started messing with it. He also had this program called [Sonic Foundry] Acid Pro, where you could chop samples and record vocals. It was like Pro Tools back in the day. He had all the tools, and I kind of peeked at them and ran with it. I had all the pieces I needed to make albums, songs and beats from the jump. I did not have an MPC, because I came in when it was time for a shift. But people did not really take FL Studio serious when it first came out. It was like, ‘Oh, that’s some kid’s stuff,’ or ‘It’s like a game.’ It took time before people made big hits with FL.

”Thank God for my family, because when I decided that I wanted my own computer, to be able to make beats every day, everybody was pitching in on my vision. My grandmother let me have a desktop computer with a screen that she already had, my uncle bought me a basic microphone and an [Digidesign] Mbox, and my mom bought me some speakers. She was happy that I was in the house making music instead of being in the streets!”

Doing It All

“For many years I had a studio in my bedroom and invited people to my house to make music with me. Hundreds of artists came through to rock with me before I did anything professional. I used to have everybody who came through sign with a marker on my wall, and ended up with a wall full of signatures. I was inspired by everybody, from Jay‑Z to Kanye West, people on the West Coast, listening to gangsta rap, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, NWA, all of that stuff.

“I always loved music in general, which is why people don’t really know me for a specific sound. I make everything under the sun, whether it’s a West Coast vibe, or East Coast. I’m able to do six albums for Nas, but then worked with a new group from the West Coast called BlueBucksClan, you know what I mean? I’ve allowed my palette to build and be exactly what I want it to be, which is anything. I pretty much do it all.

Although he’s now moved to a dedicated space at Chalice Studios, Hit‑Boy still works mainly with a simple rig based around Image Line’s FL Studio.Although he’s now moved to a dedicated space at Chalice Studios, Hit‑Boy still works mainly with a simple rig based around Image Line’s FL Studio.

“A lot of people like my drum programming, melodies and stuff like that. But I’m primarily a programmer. I learned many chords and in 2006 got to be around a lot of gospel musicians and dope musicians, like 1500 Or Nothin’. It was about being in the right circles and studios, and learning from them, and from everybody who was a super musician. I never made it to the point where I can play an instrument on stage, but I play well enough to make beats, and understand melody.

Hit-Boy: "I still make my beats in FL Studio today. I’ve been using it for so long, it’s an extension of me at this point. We just flow together."

“I still make my beats in FL Studio today. I’ve been using it for so long, it’s an extension of me at this point. We just flow together. I had times back in maybe 2005 where...

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