Metro Boomin is easily one of the biggest hip-hop producers in the game today, but his beats are only a part of what has made him one of the culture’s most recognizable and in-demand players.
Metro Boomin had a milestone year in 2017 and it wasn’t for the reason you might think. Hip-hop’s most in-demand producer continued to drop hits at a ridiculous rate, but it was his emergence as a pseudo-artist and marketing genius that really launched his career to the next level last year.
Serving as an executive producer on the 2015 collaborative mixtape from Drake and Future, What a Time to Be Alive, it already felt like Metro was an uncredited third collaborator who essentially designed the sonic vision of the project. He had a hand in nine of the 11 tracks on the mixtape and the exposure he gained from working with Drake and Future made him a brand name producer that every rapper suddenly wanted a beat from.
Securing the bag by working with established hip-hop names like Kanye West and Travis Scott, Metro did something ingenious in the summer of 2016 when he teamed up with up-and-coming Slaughter Gang rapper 21 Savage to drop the EP Savage Mode. Instead of playing the role of the silent partner as he did with Drake and Future, Metro’s name appeared front and centre on the project and Savage Mode was billed as a joint EP between 21 and Metro.
The project was a smash and helped launch 21’s career as a rapper, but it also brought even more attention to Metro and the appetite to collaborate with him grew significantly. While continuing to produce songs for artists from all over the hip-hop spectrum, he dipped back into the collaborative pool by producing all 10 tracks on Gucci Mane’s Droptopwop mixtape at the top of 2017. Though Metro wasn’t officially credited as a “co-artist” like he was on Savage Mode, the project was unofficially seen as a collaborative offering from him and Gucci.
In July 2017, Metro teamed up with red-hot XO Records signee Nav to drop Perfect Timing. The mixtape turned out to be another successful collaborative outing for Metro and exposed Nav to a bigger audience outside of his immediate XO bubble. Just a few months later in October, Metro dropped the aptly titled Without Warning mixtape that saw him working alongside 21 again as well as Offset. Coming off the massive success of Migos’ Culture and 21’s commercially successful debut Issa Album, Metro once again picked the perfect pair of collaborators to bring more ears to his signature sound.
The real kicker came in December 2017 when Big Sean and Metro dropped the unexpected Double or Nothing project that was released as an actual album — not a mixtape. This was unprecedented territory for Metro as he’d generally collaborated with rappers from Atlanta or ones with more melodic tendencies. Big Sean and Metro made for something of an odd pairing, but they still managed to rack up big numbers on streaming services across the board.
This collaboration with the Detroit hip-hop star was even stranger when you consider Big Sean had already released a studio project earlier in the year that was received pretty well overall. Double or Nothing’s conception showed that it has become something a milestone to collaborate with Metro outside of a track or two. Would that have been the case had he not attached his name to so many projects? Maybe, but it’s not as definitive.
Metro seems like a smart guy — a man with a plan, if you will. There’s little chance he put so much effort into collaborating with so many hip-hop artists without a bigger plan that lead to a greater outcome. That outcome, as it turns out, is essentially feeding his personal brand and leading to opportunities like opening for Bryson Tiller in concert without actually doing anything besides playing his hits with other artists.
Thanks to his tireless work ethic that goes beyond producing hits, Metro wants his name to be recognized and associated with certain acts. Now when you think Migos, you think Metro. When you think 21, you think Metro. When you think Future, you think Metro. So on and so forth. It’s that kind of hustle and self-awareness of branding that will give the 24-year-old staying power in the often expendable hip-hop world for years to come.
Words by Patrick Cwiklinski.