So far, Hit-Boy has lived up to his name. While you may recognize his production from Lil Wayne’s 2010 flop Rebirth, during the past year or so, we have seen his name on in the liner notes on releases of much higher popularity. Signed to the Kanye West helmed G.O.O.D. Music, he’s been the man behind two of the most ear-catching tracks from Roman Reloaded as well as last year’s monster, the ten-performances-per-concert smash “N***as in Paris”. If he keeps it up, he could be the next Just Blaze, the kind of super-producer you call when you want to make an impression on the national scene and rattle trunks in every city across the country. But apparently that’s not enough for him.
HITstory is an ambitious producer-turned-rapper mixtape of which Kanye is the clearest influence. Lush strings and mournful pianos are its most present elements. Like Kanye’s earlier albums, its all over the place, from “N***gas in Paris” clones to R&B radio plays to a very unexpected boom bap tribute to the ’90 dead poet’s society. Regardless, most songs on the tape are related in their shared maximalism. They sound big, wide, and open, even when filled with an orchestra pit or Hit-Boy’s overeager rapping. With that said, his beats lack some of the intensity that has characterized his other works so far. He often opts for a more sweeping sound in the vein of Drake collaborator Noah “40” Shebib.
While a varied sound is always welcome, this shift seems to have been activated by the notable extension of ego common in the realm of producers who want to become rappers. Ever listen to older Kanye jams like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” or “Guess Who’s Back” and forget that Kanye produced them? While his signature sound is hard to ignore, there was something close to humility or calm in those beats that was lost in the camera-hungry intensity of his later work.
For Kanye, it was an acceptable move. Unfortunately, Hit-Boy doesn’t have the personality or awareness as an MC to be compelling. For one thing, the whole Watch the Throne thing seems to have gone to his head, causing numerous allusions, kowtows to Jay and ‘Ye, and outright mentions of the hit song’s name. I’m pretty positive that anyone who downloads this mixtape will have done so largely because of that song. We don’t need to be reminded that he produced it.
Otherwise, while Hit-Boy’s purely technical ability as a rapper is not terrible, and while he doesn’t suffer from any serious attitude issues, his rapping simply isn’t very entertaining. Most of it fits into the general archetypes of today’s popular raps: Big Sean-style sex talk, Kanye-style complaining about fame, and everybody-style bragging about sex and money. Hit-Boy should realize that these subjects aren’t especially relatable without at least a little embellishment. Regardless, he’s lucky that most rap fans are used to this style of music. Its not hard to absorb the man’s rapping while still being able to appreciate the beats. I may not come back to this tape very often, but I’m thankful for its existence. It is, after all, a full-length from one the most compelling beatmakers on the scene.