Nas and Hit-Boy are having a moment, delivering three straight albums in the later stage of Nas’ career, which all sound like they could rank near the top of the legendary emcee’s loaded discography.
With Nas, Hit-Boy has been on an insurmountable run. It feels like, at this point, he’s delivering the best sounds in all of hip-hop, cementing himself as a true producer’s producer. That’s why we had to catch up with Hit-Boy for our first digital cover story of the new year, chopping it up with the 34-year-old Grammy-winner for all of his stories on the making of Magic, including the two stand-out songs “Meet Joe Black” and “Wave Gods,” as well as DJ Premier’s reaction to Nas calling him and Hit-Boy “the new Gang Starr.”
Speaking about the surprise release of Magic, Hit-Boy revealed that Nas locked in on this album as soon as KD2 was complete.
“We started working on Magic right after KD2 came out, King’s Disease II. I just was just inspired, man,” said Hit-Boy. “I had the vision for where to take the album, as far as just kind of… Man, it’s crazy because I was trying not to be super obvious on King’s Disease and King’s Disease II, that’s why you got songs like ‘Spicy,’ ’27 Summers.’ You got songs like ‘YKTV’ in the mix, and it’s because I was trying to keep some of his essence, but still give him a new flare aesthetically. You know what I’m saying? Musically. But this one, I said, ‘F*ck it. I’m going to just give these motherf*ckers what they want. I’m going to just give them the most Nas-level beats I can.’ I usually don’t want to be so obvious and be like, ‘Oh, I have to make a Nas beat.’ This one, I said, ‘Cool, this what y’all want? I’m about to give this sh*t to y’all,’ and it’s been the biggest reception so far. And this was probably the easiest for us to make because it was just Nas music. You know what I’m saying?
Man, right now, [my go-to song from Magic is] ‘Meet Joe Black’. I mean, bro, this is ridiculous, how a lot of people can’t hear. The first f*cking few seconds of this sh*t is… It took more talent to do the first few seconds of that beat than most motherf*ckers on the top end on Billboard, bro. All the sounds, and the transitions, and the chord changes, the baselines all f*cking hit you within the first few seconds, let alone on the horns in the beginning. I just can’t wait till people really understand quality, really f*cking get… You know what I’m saying?”
The interviewer went on to highlight some of Nas’ highlight lyrics on that record, including “Your top three, I’m not number one. How could you post that?” and “Run me the keys, run me the Bs, run me the flow back,” which prompted Hit-Boy to speak about Nas’ competitive nature in the studio.
“Man, I mean, it’s just been all the progression since the first album we did, just being like, ‘Okay, cool. They f*ck with this? We still got a lot of gas to keep going.’ It’s like we about to just keep leveling it up. The first time we had a lot of conceptual records and just really thought it out. This time, it’s like, man, bro, I’m about to pull up a beat, you rap. Rap is a competitive sport, everybody talking their sh*t. You got to just talk sh*t. It was as simple as that.”
The iconic producer went on to talk about “Wu For The Children” and Nas’ line about “Nas enthusiasts” that won’t allow him to surpass his older work, as well as how motivated they are when they receive high praise on their collaborations.
“I mean, sh*t, we really just having fun making music,” he said. “I mean, we taking it very serious, but just to see people embrace it, that’s automatically just energy that’s coming your way. You’re either going to take it one or two ways. You’re going to do something with it or you’re not. And I feel like, man, me and Nas can make however many albums we want to, as long as we just stay locked in.”
Finally, Hit-Boy discussed the making of “Wave Gods,” DJ Premier’s contributions to the record, and his reaction to Nas’ “Gang Starr” line.
“We study this, man, we look at what people are saying. I seen a lot of people [saying the Gang Starr comparisons], and Nas must’ve caught wind of that too, to throw that bar in there,” he said. “The beat sounded like a Premier beat, like some Gang Starr sh*t or whatever the case. It just was a vibe. I mean, if Drake can say he turned into Jay[-Z], how the f*ck Nas can’t say me and him is the new Gang Starr?
‘Wave Gods’, that was a joint that Nas had the idea for. Actually, it’s crazy. I had a session with Rocky and I was playing him beats. Played him the ‘Wave Gods’ beat, he was like, ‘Yo. Me and Nas need to do this beat.’ So probably a few days later, Nas pulled up and I was like, ‘Man, Rocky said he wants to f*ck with you on this beat with you,’ and he was like, ‘all right, cool.’ He did the hook and his verse, then Rocky came through, made his verse and it was just right. Rocky came in focused, man. And that’s what I always say, everybody from Fivio, to Ferg, to YG, to A$AP Rocky, all these people when they get in the studio with Nas, they want to deliver their best sh*t. Go listen to their verses, bro. On our albums, their sh*t hits different. They just sound f*cking ridiculous, really good. And that’s because people got so much respect for Nas, they feel like, ‘Man, I got to rap my ass off, or I got to give my best performance.'”
Hit-Boy went on to reveal that DJ Premier did the scratches on “Wave Gods,” saying, “his scratches are legendary.” On Preme’s reaction to the Gang Starr line, he said, “He just laughed and said, ‘Oh, man. You know people are going to have an issue with this.’ But he said he didn’t give a f*ck. So I was like, ‘That’s perfect.'”
Check out our digital cover story with Hit-Boy here.