It’s probably fair to say that most people who are turning 21 on their next birthday have a good idea of how they’d like to commemorate the occasion. Images of an over-the-top bash may spring to mind. Not Leland Wayne, better known as BMI producer Metro Boomin, who celebrates the big 2-1 this September. “Honestly,” the Atlanta resident says, “I’ll probably go home (St. Louis) and fly somewhere – take my mom.” Not exactly epic antics in the penthouse suite.
Besides, Metro Boomin is much too busy to be gallivanting around town. He’s steadily racking up major label placements and work with A-list artists in the wake of “Karate Chop,” which he produced for his friend Future. (“Karate Chop” peaked at #82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was named one of Pitchfork’s Top 100 tracks of 2013.) With his breakthrough mixtape, “19 & Boomin,” acting as a calling card for top hip-hop artists, and his skills shining on “Raised in the South” from Ludacris’ album Ludaversal, Metro has little desire to waver off course. Not that wavering off course is even in his nature; he’s had the work ethic of a mogul since junior high school.
Producing music since 13, Metro Boomin’s career began in earnest in 2010, when, at 16 years old, he traveled to Atlanta to work with fellow producer Tay Beats, who took an interest in Metro’s production talent from afar. Thus began the first of many nine-hour drives to Atlanta, a sacrifice his mother made for him when she saw not only his drive and commitment, but how his social media influence (@metroboomin on Twitter and Instagram) began to rapidly grow, after the mixtape he and Tay produced caught fire online. Road trips to Atlanta continued, and Metro soon found himself in the company of veterans such as OJ da Juiceman and producer Don Cannon.
Politicking and networking, he says, were crucial to his success, and remain so today. “There are probably a hundred people in Atlanta that make beats, but if you don’t know how to maneuver and talk to people and make people like you, none of that matters,” he says.
After high school, Metro enrolled in the prestigious Morehouse University, intending to pursue a business degree. He’d become so in demand, though, that he had no choice but to take a semester break. Coming from a family that puts a premium on education, leaving school was a controversial choice. “I’m very close to my mom. We text every day. At first she was mad,” he says, but she eventually came around. “She said, ‘I support what you want to do. You’re doing what you love and taking care of yourself and your family.’”
Though he intends to resume studies in the long-term, he’s now focused on making more hits. He’s reluctant to label his sound: “I’ve always liked horror movies, and scary sounding stuff, which is the opposite of who I am: charismatic and silly,” but he does admit favoring a “hard” edge to his work. Still, he adds, “The last thing I want to do is limit myself to hip-hop. I want to be looked at like a good musician all around. I want people to be able to say, ‘He did this with Taylor Swift and it wasn’t a hip-hop twist.’”
On the immediate horizon, he’ll be releasing another mixtape and finishing Future’s album, but long-term he’s thinking movie scores and GRAMMYs. Being in the BMI family, he says, is a nice complement to those big dreams. “All the cool people do it,” he says of signing to BMI. “They collect better, and I have a cool personal relationship with Byron (Wright). It feels like home.”
Metro’s biggest dreams, though, fit right in with his decidedly low-key approach. While some in the music business dream of having mega-mansions and truckloads of bling, his ultimate ambition is to secure the things you can’t buy. “I work all the time, even if I’m not making beats. I’m usually at home making beats all night and all day. I just want to be in good health, happy and not stressed about anything.”