This February in Toronto, during a mind-bogglingly frigid NBA All-Star Weekend, Metro Boomin brought out his famed confidante Future for a surprise appearance that turned a late night set at a small club into a spazzy, sweaty basement rave. Two weeks later, in East London on Metro’s first trip overseas, the crowd was so big that hundreds of kids were plowing through iron barriers and the cops had to shut down the bus lines outside the venue. The promoter, Hîm Mohamed, would later say, in lightly broken English: “It was so much a riot.”
At 22, Metro—slim, precocious, and prone to toothy smiles—is arguably the most in-demand producer in hip-hop. The success has made him increasingly itinerant, and nocturnal: when he’s not keeping rap hours with stars in studios, he’s on the road living out of Airbnb rentals and DJ’ing sold-out thousand-cap venues around the world.
But right now, in a corner suite at the downtown Atlanta W hotel, he’s just trying to decide where to buy pants. A few of his buddies, all gregarious young guys with music-industry affiliations that he’s known for years, are hanging out. They consider popping open the minibar Bombay Gin, but opt for the fancy gummy bears instead. Metro gets a phone call, and his eyes widen. He shows the pals the phone, and sings: “Can we get much higher?!” It’s Kanye. Gummy bears in mouth, they nod approvingly.
His ear to the phone, Metro picks out a bandana from among the sprawl of chargers and clothes on the tightly-pulled hotel sheets. This one’s spotted. He folds it carefully and swaps it out for the camouflage one he’s currently wearing. Then, immediately, he swaps back. The continued non-exposure of his forehead, clearly, is something to which he gives diligent consideration.
We pile into an Uber, then head out to Lenox Square Mall, the decided-upon pants-purchasing location. This whole time, Metro has kept up the phone call. There’s chatter about samples received, beats sent out, the tossing around of alluring names (Abel! Young Chop!). “I appreciate that,” Metro tells Kanye. Long pause. “Yeah.” Long pause. “Yeah, I’m just trying to put shotguns to niggas’ chests.”
Ambling through the racks of shredded Balmain jeans and $1,000 Givenchy crew necks at Neiman Marcus, Metro recaps the conversation. “This nigga ‘Ye was talking about a lotta shit. He said he was in some country I never heard of. I was like, ‘What you doing there?’ He’s like, ‘I’m in a IKEA.’” Also, he told Metro: “We really should do a production group together.”
By this, clearly, Metro is honored. But he’s also taken aback. Someone asks, politely: So’s Kanye trying to sign you? Metro scoffs at the thought. “Never. I’m a boss nigga.”
The crew pings around the mall in a manner befitting their age. Passing a pole, they unthinkingly split up and cross it on either side—a practice traditionally considered bad luck. Nearly giggling, they bow to superstition and retrace their steps to pass the pole on the right side. At regular clips, Metro is stopped and asked for photos. But it’s always done good naturedly, like the interlopers are actually old pals: “Ayo Metroooo!” In the Vans store, a kid in braces and a blazingly yellow Michigan pullover FaceTimes his friend, and puts the phone in Metro’s face. “Metro Booooomin in the cut!” he announces.
These days, Metro is as famous as a rap producer gets. It’s an odd phenomenon that happens every once in awhile: suddenly, one person’s sound pervades and dominates music. It might seem spontaneous, but in fact, it’s taken Metro years to get here. And now that his plans have come to fruition—it’s not just Kanye West that can’t stop blowing up his phone—he seems well at ease. In the shoe store, in his socks, he rolls with the attention gamely.
“Ay, where you at with the purple ceiling?” he asks the kid on FaceTime. The kid, perplexed, a bit starstruck, considers the question carefully before answering. “Uh. My room.”
Metro: “Oh, your room purple? That’s hard.”
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