Q&A: Hit-Boy Talks Grammy Producer Nod, Rapper Aspirations

Hit-Boy has won Grammy rap awards alongside some of hip-biggest hop's names, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, known as Ye, and Nas, and is now moving into a new melodic weight class as a producer.

The Southern California native is nominated for only two awards, but both are significant, including album of the year for his work on H.E.R.'s "Back of My Mind." Nas' "King Disease II" and the "Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album" soundtrack, which featured him on one song as a rapper, earned him his first producer of the year, non-classical nomination.


The Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on CBS and Paramount plus on April 3 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.


Hit-Boy has three Grammys for his work on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "... In Paris," Nipsey Hussle's "Racks in the Middle," and Nas' album "King Disease," which earned the veteran rapper his first Grammy last year. He's also collaborated with Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Mary J. Blige, and Drake, among many others.


The 34-year-old producer recently spoke with The Associated Press about the importance of winning a Grammy, his ambitions to become a rapper, how Pharrell Williams' advice helped him, and whether he believes his producer-of-the-year nomination was long overdue. For clarity and brevity, answers have been edited.


Is it still important to win a Grammy?


Hit-Boy: It's a small token of your dedication to your work. You don't get one of these just by messing around with it. You must be at the pinnacle of your profession. It's comparable to the NBA Finals or Super Bowl. It gives you that extra push to know you're on the right track musically. Only the nominations. But I've won Grammys with Nipsey Hussle and Nasty C. I've won Grammys with Nipsey Hussle and Nasty C. I've won Jay-Z and Kanye West. I didn't win by tinkering with the game. I made some records that will be remembered for a long time.


AP: How have you managed to maintain your elite status in the face of so many producers these days?


Hit-Boy: This is something I've dedicated my life to. I make time for my family a priority. I forego personal time to add value to the work of others (musicians).


AP: Has anything become easier for you now that you've won three Grammys?


Hit-Boy: I'm still dealing with challenges on a daily basis. You believe you've arrived at a point where you've put in a lot of effort and received high Billboard (chart placement) or Grammy nominations. It doesn't matter. It's all about making the next step. It's more of a 'What have you done for me recently?' situation. You must never stop moving forward. Just dealing with bad publishing deals and bad deals, in general, is a business in and of itself. To keep going, you'll need a strong mind and a passion for music. As a human being, it can be overwhelming at times. It's excessive. I'm thinking to myself, "I can't figure out this part." It's simply a lot. 


AP: How did you come up with that philosophy?


Hit-Boy: That was Pharrell's idea. In 2007, he told me this. At the time, I was working with Teyana Taylor, who was signed to him. For her, I had pretty much an entire EP or album's worth of music. He was ecstatic about it. He was a big supporter of my work. It was an atmosphere of mutual admiration. I was able to reach him on the phone. We talked about the difficulties, bumping your head, and simply getting through the game. Regardless, you're going to have to deal with it. However, if you enjoy music, you will always return to the center. That is something I will never relinquish.


AP: You performed as a rapper on a track sample taken from R&B group Troop, which featured your uncle, Rodney Benford, on the song "Broad Day" from the "Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album." How did you find it?


Hit-Boy: That was a unique experience. That song meant a lot to me because it was in a meaningful film that wasn't a snoozer.

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