I apologize for speaking about “the decade” so much lately, but man - this decade really changed everything.
Metro Boomin is undoubtedly one of the architects behind this decade’s drastic sonic shift.
One of the most notable musical milestones of this past decade was hip-hop’s rise to the world’s top genre. Trap music, in particular, took the world by storm. Trap first emerged in the previous decade, but this decade saw trap music move past its “growing pains” and become a full-grown beast with the power to take over the planet.
If there was one person to thank for trap music’s mainstream blossom, it would have to be Metro Boomin.
When I say “mainstream”, I’m not implying a negative connotation. When I say “mainstream”, I’m implying cultural embracement. Trap music in its infantile stage was received similarly to gangsta rap in the 80s - not seriously. Now, trap music has a constant chokehold on the charts and the airwaves. Trap music has become a major part of our culture and even our economy, becoming nearly as lucrative as pop music. A lot of it essentially is pop music.
Trap music was born from rugged exterior and brash delivery, similarly to gangsta rap. Metro Boomin’s ear for trap music allowed him to redesign it, ultimately creating a product much more palatable to general audiences while still appealing to the target audience. Metro Boomin has produced monster, mainstream hits such as “Congratulations” by Post Malone and Quavo, “Jumpman” by Future and Drake, “Bad and Boujee” by Migos, “Father Stretch My Hands” by Kanye West, and “Tuesday” by iLoveMakonnen. In their primes, these songs were as likely to be heard in a waiting room as they were at a house party.
That being said, Metro Boomin has played a key role in the general public’s embracement of hip-hop in recent years. Metro Boomin has bridged cultures to create a new one altogether.
Not to mention, Metro Boomin arguably became this era’s first “household name” producer thanks to his memorable and marketable tags. Metro was really the first producer to earn just as much praise as the artists on his tracks, if not more. Metro helped producers move forward to a new era where they can receive their rightful recognition after years of being left in the shadows. Metro turned producers into rockstars.
For this decade’s final Genius of the Month, I have decided to honor one of the most important pioneers of the 2010s. I will highlight his early life, his evolution, his collaborations, and his contributions to the game. Let’s dive in:
Leland Tyler Wayne was born September 16, 1993 in his hometown of St. Louis. He grew up in STL with four siblings and had an affinity for music from a young age. In middle school, he played bass guitar for his school’s band. When he was in seventh grade, his mom bought him a laptop with a copy of FruityLoops and he quickly shifted his attention to making beats. By the time he was in high school, he claims that he was cranking out five beats a day. While attending Parkway North High School, he utilized Twitter and other social media outlets to send his beats out to artists and network. He began to form relationships with Atlanta rappers Gucci Mane, OJ Da Juiceman, and Future; his mom would frequently drive him from St. Louis to Atlanta to meet with artists.
After graduating from high school, Metro briefly attended Morehouse College to study business management. However, the demands of being both a full-time student and producer became too much for him to handle. Ultimately, he decided to drop out after one semester to fully pursue music.
That panned out to be one of the smartest decisions of his life.
In 2013, he released his debut mixtape- 19 & Boomin. The mixtape featured frequent collaborators Young Thug and Future in full form and also saw verses from artists such as Ace Hood, Ca$h Out, and Curren$y. 19 & Boomin earned Metro a seat at the table, but he had a lot more up his sleeve for the coming years.
As he established rapport with Young Thug and Future, he began to work with them extensively. In 2014, Metro and Thug set out to create a collab project entitled Metro Thuggin’. They first released a track called “The Blanguage”, but the project was ultimately never released in its entirety. However, the two artists would still go on to collaborate on classics such as “Hercules”. As for Future, Metro executively produced 2014’s Monster, 2015’s What a Time to be Alive with Drake, and 2016’s Purple Reign. Considering that Future’s 2014-16 run was the hottest streak of his career thus far, Metro Boomin was undeniably a large component of that success.
As one of the most in-demand producers in the world, Metro has never shied away from collaborative efforts. In 2016, Metro fully embraced this with his first collab EP - Savage Mode with Atlanta star 21 Savage.
Across the nine track EP, Metro succeeded in creating eerie, almost horror movie-like soundscapes perfectly fit for 21 Savage’s dark and edgy sound and persona. This sound was especially present on smash hits “No Heart” and “X” (ft. Future), bringing the unique artistry of both 21 and Metro to the attention of the music industry. Metro Boomin’s sound design on the EP was praised for its ambient and non-traditional structure. Savage Mode received critical acclaim and transformed 21 Savage into one of trap music’s most notable figures.
Following the success of Savage Mode, Metro linked up with rising Toronto talent Nav for another collab - Perfect Timing. On this 2017 mixtape, Nav made his first real introduction to the mainstream with the help of Metro’s impeccable production and a rich cast of features - Lil Uzi Vert, Offset, Gucci Mane, Playboi Carti, 21 Savage, and Belly. However, Metro’s production ended up being the main positive that most critics took away from the tape. Perfect Timing peaked at #13 on the Billboard 200.
A few months later, Metro tapped 21 Savage for another collaborative effort. This time around, they added Offset to the mix. Released as a surprise album on Halloween, Without Warning made the rap game freeze. Metro’s production returned with the eeriness of Savage Mode, enhancing the distinct soundscapes to cater to the hard-hitting dual threat of Offset and 21. With Travis Scott and Quavo as features, Without Warning was a mainstream success and debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200. The album received critical acclaim, and at 10 tracks was considered to be a no-skip album by many fans.
To end 2017 with a bang, Metro linked up with Detroit legend Big Sean for their collab album Double or Nothing. Metro served a different sauce than usual on this album, utilizing many vintage samples and steering away from the typical drum patterns of trap music. Kanye West served as one of the album’s executive producers, likely explaining part of the reason behind Metro’s sonic shift on this album. Out of all of his projects, Double or Nothing is arguably Metro’s least “trap”, but then again, Big Sean is one of the least “trap” artists he’s collaborated with. However, Double or Nothing saw features such as Young Thug, Travis Scott, Swae Lee, 2 Chainz, 21 Savage, and Kash Doll, all helping to fill that trap void.
RETIREMENT & RETURN
Following an epic 2017, Metro went quiet in 2018. In April of that year, he announced his “retirement” via Instagram. He changed his Instagram bio to “retired record producer/DJ” and promptly disappeared from the public eye. While many anticipated it to be a publicity stunt, the possibility of Metro’s absence led listeners worldwide to realize his importance and contributions to rap music.
Despite his “retirement”, Metro returned months later with credits on Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V and Nicki Minaj’s Queen. In October of 2018, he began to tease his forthcoming debut studio album with posters depicting him as a “missing person” in Atlanta and New York City. On November 2, he released his comeback - Not All Heroes Wear Capes.
Metro began work on Not All Heroes Wear Capes in 2015, taking his time to create something special. The album does an excellent job of capturing the genius of Metro Boomin; the album has a song for everyone. The features range from J Balvin to Wizkid; from Gunna to Kodak Black. Metro later released the deluxe edition, which contained the instrumentals from each track. Even the instrumentals alone are as intoxicating as the complete songs; many of the instrumentals sound as if they could be movie scores. Not All Heroes Wear Capes was appreciated by critics, adored by fans, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.
Metro Boomin is a bridge from the previous decade of rap music to the next decade of rap music. Metro Boomin strived to change everything while admiring where things started, incorporating both extremes into his art.
Metro Boomin made people pay attention to production. Metro Boomin made people not just aware of production, but made them actually care about it.
Metro Boomin made the 2010s the most evolutionary decade in rap history.