Some may remember Myspace as a fleeting passage in the short history of social media. But for my “Renaissance Man” guest, the platform opened the door to a constellation of stars. I mean superstars. People named Kanye West, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.
Chauncey Hollis Jr., better known by his stage name Hit-Boy, began posting his beats on the now-defunct site Myspace and it caught the attention of mega-producer Polow da Don, who took it off the ‘darkness. The rest is Grammys history. The producer/performer now has three, long-standing collaborative relationships with every major artist in nearly every genre, from soul to rap, and a new single “Scholar.”
Yes, the Southern California native started creating his own music in high school, but he had learned the industry as a young child purely by osmosis.
“My uncle was in a band called Troop, so when I first started I went through his whole process,” he told me.
“I have to go to video shoots, so I have to go to studio sessions. Like fashion, the whole lifestyle, I could see that side of things. So I was already being raised for music without even realizing it. It was just downloading into my DNA. So it was good to be here, just all the creativity and people doing something with the music or just something in the arts,” Hit-Boy continued.
Before his musical talent crystallized in 10th grade, the 35-year-old was busy playing basketball.
“I actually played basketball all of my ninth grade. And then I was about to start playing my sophomore year and started making beats a few weeks before the season started,” he said.
He told his coach that he wasn’t playing anymore and that he wanted to make beats every day. “He was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was confused. And I just knew at the time that I was like, ‘Man, I’m doing this somehow.’”
And even though he was making a racket in the house at all hours, his mother was always behind him and his dreams – although I can assume she had a good pair of earplugs for the night.
“She let me make music at all hours,” he said. Even friends and family would ask, “‘Why do you let him make that random noise? Like it’s just too strong? What was happening?’ And she was just happy that I was in a crib doing something productive.
Productive is an understatement. He had a lot of success, including a notable relationship with Kanye who he had a falling out with. Rapper The Game brought them together, so who knows what they’re up to now. He also produced Beyoncé’s “Thique” on her new album “Renaissance”, released last Friday. But we spoke right before it came out, so he didn’t want to be presumptuous that they picked the track.
Hit-Boy said, “I can’t hope because you have millions of people to beat to even get on an album. So it’s just that if it really hits, it’s an honor. But it’s still amazing to still be here.
I may be partial, but my favorite Hit-Boy production is Big Sean’s “What a Life” because it features the lyrics “My brother Jalen Rose got an academy. It’s not a game. He said Big Sean always sharpened him artistically.
Hit-Boy said, “We know our bond grows on a friendship level, but just on a music level, I feel like he pushed me to the point where it’s like no not settle your first idea. He might do something that I think is incredible, he’ll listen to it for a few days and be like, ‘No, I think I can improve on that. I can say it in a faster and smarter way. Just seeing him put those words together like that is incredible.
Someone he hasn’t worked with who is on his collaboration list? It would be Kodak Black. But there’s one requirement when working with Hit-Boy (who constantly juggles work and family): you have to be good with kids. So Kodak, start reading “The Baby-Sitters Club.”
“I have a 2-year-old son, so sometimes I know I might have to bring him into the studio,” he said.
If he’s the Hit-Boy boy, I’m sure he’s already dropping beats and will probably be on Nas’ next album.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan iconoclast Fab Five, which rocked the world of college hoops in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before becoming a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the best-selling author “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion designer, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership. Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.