On G.O.O.D. Music's Cruel Summer smash, "New God Flow," Pusha T dubbed himself "the G.O.O.D. Music golden child," but Chauncey "Hit-Boy" Hollis can lay claim to that title just as much. Since emerging as a production prodigy last year—in the mainstream, anyway; dude had been quietly lacing the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige with gems in years prior—thanks to his iconic "Niggas In Paris" score for Jay-Z and Kanye West, the 25-year-old California native has hit the ground running.
Name any Hip-Hop smash this year and there's a good chance it has Hit-Boy's sonic prints smudged all over it. Go on, take a pick: A$AP Rocky "Goldie," Kanye West "Cold," DJ Khaled "I Wish You Would," G.O.O.D. Music "Clique," Kendrick Lamar "Backseat Freestyle." But while his list of major production credits has grown at an exponential (and unstoppable) rate, the real shining moment for the Boy this year may well have come with his debut solo rap project, HITstory.
It's a neat, 11-track offering which not only spawned its own standout singles—"Jay-Z Interview," "Old School Caddy" featuring Kid Cudi—but invited listeners into the internal space of one of music's most gifted young talents. Some are already comparing him to Kanye (let's face it, they have a point).
While 2012 nears its conclusion, there's still plenty of hits to be made and topics to be discussed. So we caught up with the man-of-the-hour to talk about the status of that Nas and Frank Ocean collaboration he produced (and which we're all very much looking forward to), his future plans—both with his solo work and where he intends to take his HS87 label—being a leader of music's new generation, and much more.
So let's talk about Nas and Frank Ocean's "No Such Thing As White Jesus" collaboration. You recently recovered the file, do you have any idea when or how it will be released?
Not as of now, but I did speak with Nas' manager as soon as I found the drive and I told him that I had the file safe and sound. He doesn't know exactly what they'll be doing with it, he just told me to keep the files close. They're chilling for now.
The New York Times writer who first heard Frank Ocean's lyrics on the track likened them to "No Church In The Wild." Do you think that's a fair assessment of the full song?
Not in my opinion. It's less dark, it's a more inspirational vibe, but I think just because of the name of the song, people might like to make a comparison.
Q-Tip, for one, has recently spoke on the supposed Cruel Summer follow-up, Cruel Winter. Can you share any details on the album? Or are you still sworn to secrecy by Kanye?
I really don't know much about that album as of now, but Kanye has been hitting me up for beats lately. If he says it's a go, it's a go.
Referring back to Cruel Summer, you previously mentioned that you had a track on there that would "change your life again"—in the same way that "Niggas In Paris" did. Was that song "Clique"?
"Clique" was definitely that track, and it's like the number one rap song right now. I think it's doing as good as "Niggas In Paris," without even a video.
So has it changed your life again?
For sure. [Laughs.] It's got people even more interested and further letting them know that I am a force to be reckoned with and I'm somebody you should pay attention to.
What's the response been like to your HITstory mixtape?
It's been awesome actually. It did exactly what I wanted it do, and that was to reach the people it was supposed to reach. It's got me a lot more fans, the following on the social networks have grown and just being out on the street, people have been coming up to me and being like "man, I'm really a fan of the rap shit, it's dope!" It's been a quick turnaround.
How long was the mixtape actually in the works for? It seemed to have been announced and then released in pretty quick succession.
I'd been working on it for a couple months, but when I first started doing songs, I wasn't even planning a mixtape, I was just going to do a little EP and put it out. It turned out that people were really liking it—the people that were hearing it when I would have sessions, the artists I would work with or going to labels as a producer to play beats when they would want to hear the rap stuff because they'd heard about it from other people. I just decided to put a collective together and make this thing real, and I definitely think I'm on the right path.
You've been making beats for quite a few years now. Did you enter the game solely as a producer? Or did you always have rap in the back of your mind?
I actually started as a rapper first. I was 13 when I started rapping; I was 16 when I started making beats. I just let it come organically—and that's even to this day. I'm not trying to force the rap shit on anybody, I'm just doing what I do and taking my own path.
In your "Jay-Z Interview" video we see Kanye crown you "the golden child." Given songs like "East Vs. West," is it safe to say that you're taking these expectations in your stride?
I definitely think I'm doing a good job. There's a lot more work to do and a lot more music to be made, so I'm just putting my best foot forward and making the best possible music that I can. I will say that sonically, where I'm taking things and how I'm doing things, is necessary.
Obviously Kanye did an ode to Jay-Z with "Big Brother," in which he detailed the ups and downs of their changing relationship. Do you have your own "Big Brother"-type song penned for 'Ye yet?
We have real-life big brother situations, but I haven't written that song yet. Just being in the studio with him, nothing is ever correct on the first try, he always wants me to be the best I can possibly be. Like, I might bring him a beat or I might bring him a rap, a hook or whatever, and there's always some way that it could be better in his mind. That's something that can be frustrating at times, but at the end of the day, he knows what's up.
He's a true perfectionist.
Now you seem to stress the concept of the new generation both on and off the mic. Do you see yourself as a leader of the new school?
Oh, for sure. I always talk about my sonic presence, man; I've had so much time to devote to producing and trying different genres. A lot of people don't know that I started off making Pop—I was doing [songs with] the Pussycat Dolls and Jennifer Lopez and all these other people that gave me a chance to really produce big-sounding music—so it's crazy that people think I'm just a Hip-Hop guy. I make all kinds of music, so I definitely think I'm a leader when it comes to sound. Even with social media, people are into things that I say and address, so I just try to take it all in my stride.
A person in your situation—you know, working with Kanye West and Jay-Z, flying off to Dubai with G.O.O.D. Music—could easily let it all go to their head, but you seem to carry a humble confidence. How do you stay grounded?
Man, I have a lot of young people around me who I want to help reach certain goals and to reach my level even. I mean, I have the chance to actually have text conversations with people like Jay-Z and Kanye West, and I feel like I can be on their level one day, but I know I'm way far from it, so I just have to keep working and staying humble.
Audio Push just recently released their Inland Empire project on your HS87 label. What are your aspirations for the label and the movement?
Definitely at the top of the year, man, I'm looking to take it to a whole 'nother level. I've been in talks with a few major labels that are obviously interested in my rap stuff, but also they want to help me as far as my label, my movement and what I want to bring to the game. I always looked up to people like Pharrell with Star Trak and Timbaland with Beat Club; they had the freshest beats, dressed the freshest and had the dopest videos. I have aspirations of bringing all that back to the game.
You and Chase N. Cashe have been working on your respective solo careers recently, but when can we expect a new Surf Club collaboration?
He's out on the East Coast right now doing his thing, but that's always family. As soon as time permits, that's when it'll be.
Out of all the hit records you've produced, which is your favorite?
Oh, man. That's tough to pick. But no fronting, the song that I really appreciate is the song I did for Justin Bieber. I grew up on '90s R&B, so that was the first music to inspire me, and to make a song that's reminiscent of that was really dear to me.
Looking ahead, are you working on a follow-up solo project?
I have some songs, man, but I haven't decided exactly what I'm going to do as of now because I'm working on getting a major label situation and possibly doing an album. I'm just working on songs and continuing to develop Audio Push, and I got this kid, K. Roosevelt, who's really dope with the R&B shit, so I'm just figuring it all out.
And finally, 2012 has been your breakout year, so what does 2013 hold for Hit-Boy?
More progress; that's the only thing I'm looking forward to. I don't know what's going to take off more between the rap shit and the producing shit, or both, but all I'm looking forward to is progress, man.