Mixtape Review: Hit Boy Presents HS87, All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of
It’s probably safe to say that for quite some time now California producer/MC Hit-Boy’s dreams have been his reality.
Since first getting signed as a teenager by Polow Da Don in 2007, the 25-year-old has bitten off as much in the industry as he can chew, transitioning from unknown beatmaker to perennial hit maker for the biggest artists in the world. He’s made a Christmas song for Kanye West, flown to Abu Dhabi to craft records with Jay-Z, and even recently inserted himself in the attempt to revive Britney Spears’ career. The guy is quickly putting together a resume that very few hip-hop beatmakers his age can match up with.
So when Hit-Boy named his newest project All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of, which serves as an introduction to the relatively unknown cast of his Hits Since 87, Inc. imprint, it’s somewhat of a bold claim when put in perspective of all that he’s already accomplished. But upon listening to All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of, it becomes clear that the breadth of the tape – the monstrous backdrops, the high-profile guest appearances, the intricate production details – all could be an attempt at a a culmination of all that Hit has achieved thus far.
The album never reaches the same level of past work like “Clique” or “Niggas in Paris”, but it does succeed in a number of ways, mostly in its production value. His ability to craft beats that immediately grab listeners is the main reasons Hit Boy’s found success, and he doesn’t hold back here. The thunderous horns on “T.U.” and “Them Niggas” (a take on C-Murder’s “Down for my Niggaz”) immediately induce head shaking, while conversely, the sample-based production on tracks like “No Chaser” and “Make Something” are compelling for their velvety harmonies.
The production strategies used on these tracks – distorted vocals, the short sample stabs – are bound to draw comparisons to Kanye’s work of late. It should be remembered, though, that Hit has been an instrumental part of Yeezy’s recent work, working behind the boards on two of Cruel Summer’s biggest records, “Cold” and “Clique”. It’s obvious the two have learned a lot from each other. Perhaps his biggest takeaway from their partnership is his attention to detail, which adds layers of depth to many of the tracks here. The piano and guitar solos at the end of “Enormous” and “No Chaser,” convey a certain beauty that gives listeners room to think, and the melodic key line on “Fan” turns it from a standard club anthem into something weightier.
There’s one pitfall of the project, and it’s a big one: lyricism. Through his previous solo endeavors, Hit has shown he’s capable of holding his own on the mic, though his lyrics often stick to the same brand of boastful posturing, failing to ever give listeners a glimpse of what life is like beyond the extravagancies. Audio Push, the rapping duo signed to HS 87 comprised of Oktane and Pricetag, are showcased the most but never really make a dent. Compared to the heavy growl of Xzibit, the 2 Chainz’ enthusiasm and the dense wordplay of Method Man and Raekwon (all of whom see appearances on the project), Hit and his crew get a little lost in the background.
Where the lyrics fall short though, the songwriting almost makes up for it; most of the songs here are captivating for one reason or another. And, the versatility displayed, like on the moody R&B jam “Tonight,” gives you an idea that the HS 87 imprint is reaching for more than just becoming the rap crew du jour.
With all this said though, the star here is Hit Boy and his tremendous production. Even if his imprint fails to get off the ground, this project serves as another testimony to his talent, as his dreams get even bigger. — Reed Jackson