Producer Hit-Boy Talks About Working on Watch the Throne

What was your inspiration for the record?

H.B.: I just like to make music from feel—whatever I was feeling at the time. All my music comes from a natural, organic place. I pride myself on none of my music sounding the same. I can do a “My God,” which is a gangsta street record, and I can do a “Lay It on Me” which is a radio-friendly record for Kelly Rowland. That’s something I really pride myself on. That comes from me just making music from the heart. Whatever comes out comes out. Like never forcing it.

Ricky Anderson: We’ll sit down, and he’ll make a beat, and I’m like “Man, where did that come from?” Hit-Boy’s one of those special gifted people where it’s just a God-given gift. He can knock out a beat in 10 minutes. I’ll leave the room, come back and say “What is that?” He’s like “What? I did it when you left.” “I’m like, wait, I just stepped out of the room!”

Did you get to see how Jay and Kanye laid their verses down?

H.B.: I remember playing beats and seeing Hov mumble different flows, look up at the sky and thinking of stuff outta nowhere, and Kanye really directing me and just telling me to add certain things to certain beats or take out certain elements that really helped the track to be that much better. They really are the geniuses that we think they are.

Were there any particularly memorable moments during the process?

H.B.: Uh, nothing I can remember right now.

RA: See, he’s being modest. Hit-Boy’s not telling you. He’s stayed in the Mercer for a month, pretty much. He was at a different hotel, and Kanye was like, “Yo, I need to have you right here next to me at all times!” His room was like right next to the studio. So for a whole month, he’s in and out the studio with Jay. It’s kinda cool watching him grow as a producer and just him being around his idols. They’ve now become peers to him. Like he’s in his room producing and then Jay comes and knocks on the door. He’s like, “Yo! I heard that beat from next door!” Hit-Boy comes and he’s like, “Yo, Jay just came and came in to listen to this beat! That’s crazy!”

H.B.: [laughs] I’m probably stunned from after the listening party yesterday, ‘cause I didn’t think about that, ‘cause I got so much more on my mind right now. But that was an incredible moment right there. I open the door, and I’m thinking it’s Ricky. And it’s Jay-Z. And he actually just comes in the room.

R.A.: He made so much music that month, everyone was coming in like “Yo, can I have that?” “Yo, can I have that?” I remember he was doing something one time and Cudi was like “Yo, I wanna do that hook right now.” That’s just the talent that he has. He was just pumping out music.

I know that you did “Drop the World” with Chase N. Cashe, so is that a different feeling for you now that it’s Jay-Z and Kanye where it was Lil Wayne and Eminem? That was a huge record.

H.B.: Right. I feel like this is really history. You know, Wayne had been talking about doing a track with Em for years, and people were anticipating it. For it to be our track was just amazing. That’s hip-hop history for real. This is the same, this is so necessary for not just hip-hop, but just music in general. This is one of the biggest things that could happen, period. This is the upper echelon of our culture, period.

What was the most interesting part of the Watch the Throne process?

H.B.: This album is just what we all expect and more. They are the people we should look to to just transcend and do groundbreaking things. From the packaging of the album, having Givenchy do an album cover. Who does that? Only them. And the listening party in a planetarium. Stuff like that is really groundbreaking. It’s what we should expect. You wanna hear what the next wave should be—what the next sound of beats should be like. What the next flow should be. All the stuff they talk about within the verses is stuff that a lot of people are trying to get up on.

We just did a tribute issue to Tupac, so we’re asking everyone: what did Tupac mean to you, as far as his legacy? Especially being on the West Coast.

H.B.: Right, definitely. I was at home and my cousin had pulled up—he’s dead, rest in peace—he pulled up, and he told me. I was tripped out. He embodied—he rode for the West 100%, something that nobody can deny. Just how intellectual he was. Just the way he delivered his lyrics, and you felt it, man. That’s somebody that we all should idolize.

What projects are you working on now?

H.B.: I’m working on some more stuff with Frank Ocean actually. Yeah, we’ve got some ideas together. Surf Club: Chili Chil, Kent Money, Stacy Barthe. Everybody at G.O.O.D. Music.