An Intro To Hit-Boy
Hit-Boy (born Chauncey Hollis) is a 32 year old artist from Fontana, California, and has been a mainstay in the hip hop scene for the last 10+ years. If you’re reading this I’m sure you’re familiar with Hit-Boy to some extent, but if not it’s probably because a majority of his success has come from his work as a producer. Although he has been rapping since 2012, Hit-Boy began producing back in 2005, was signed by 2007, and had his first platinum singles in 2009 on Mary J Blige’s ‘Stronger’.
As mentioned above, Hit-Boy began producing in 2005 by uploading beats to MySpace, but it was until 2007 when rapper/producer Polow Da Don reached out that Hit-Boy started gaining any traction. Hit-Boy and his beat-making collective Surf Club signed to Polow Da Don’s ‘Zone 4 Label’ in 2007 and from there it was only up. That year he began producing for some big artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Gucci Mane, and continued this onto 2008 producing songs for artists such as Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown and Pussycat Dolls. In 2009 he had his most successful song yet (the one with Mary J Blige), and then in 2010 he got his first ‘Top 20’ hit with Lil Wayne’s ‘Drop The World’. By this point his name was popping up all over the place, and he was starting to get quite a bit of recognition in the hip hop scene and elsewhere, but it was 2011 that he really started to make his mark. Towards the end of December 2010 Hit-Boy had his first collaboration with Kanye titled ‘Christmas in Harlem’, which led to Kanye signing him to his GOOD Music label in May of 2011. Hit-Boy capitalised on this by producing his most successful song yet, the 6x Platinum certified ‘Niggas In Paris’ by Kanye West and Jay-Z. The song blew up worldwide and the rest is history really.
I won’t dwell too much on Hit-Boy as a producer since today’s topic is his most recent rap album, but just to give you an idea of what an amazing decade he had as a producer I’ll list some of his more recognisable hits. He produced; ‘Cold’ & ‘Clique’ by Kanye, ‘Goldie’ & ‘1 Train’ by A$AP Rocky, ‘Backseat Freestyle’ by Kendrick Lamar, ‘Trophies’ by Drake, ‘XO’ & ‘Flawless’ by Beyoncé, ‘I Am Your Leader’ by Nicki Minaj, ‘Right Here’ by Justin Bieber, ‘somewhereinamerica’ by Jay-Z, ‘Pose’ & ‘Woo’ for Rihanna, ‘Nowhere Fast’ by Eminem, ‘Better Off’ by Ariana Grande, ‘Carousel’ & ‘Sicko Mode’ by Travis Scott, ‘100 Summers’ by Meek Mill, & finally ‘Racks In The Middle’ by Nipsey Hussle. So that’s probably 10% of his production discography, his production credits are both extensive and honestly super impressive too. If you haven’t heard any of those songs I’d be shocked, he has had a major influence on rap in the last 10 years, but that’s enough about Hit-Boy the producer.
Hit Boy began his rap career back in June 2012, releasing his first solo rap song ‘Jay-Z interview’. Shortly after this he was featured on Cyhi Da Prynce’s ‘Ivy League Club’ mixtape, and then not long after that Hit-Boy released his second single, the Kid Cudi assisted ‘Old School Caddy’. Hit-Boy went on to release his first solo mixtape as a rapper, ‘HITstory’ in December of 2012. In 2013 he announced that his label HS87 had been picked up by Interscope records, with the label dropping their ‘All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of’ mixtape soon after, and then in May of 2014 HS87 released the collaborative album ‘We The Plug’. In 2015 Hit-Boy dropped his first solo rap project in nearly 3 years, the surprise EP ‘Zoomin’. Throughout 2016 and 2017 Hit-Boy joined with rapper Dom Kennedy to form the duo ‘Half-A-Mil’, and they released 3 EP’s and a full length album during that time. In 2018 solo Hit-Boy returned with his full length ‘Tony Fontana’ album, a project full of Hit-Boy rapping with the assistance of some solid features. And finally in 2019 he had a quiet year in terms of rapping, focussing more on producing, most notably on a full length collab album with rap group SOB x RBE. So overall Hit-Boy has never really had much success as a rapper, but has kept up the grind for nearly 8 years now, so I’m interested to see if it has paid off this time around.
And that should pretty much bring you up to date! In January 2020 Hit-Boy released his full length album ‘The Chauncey Hollis Project’. Going into this I was hopeful but apprehensive, as I’ve always found Hit-Boy’s rapping to be fairly mediocre. But that said he does have some songs and verses that I really enjoy, so I at least knew that there was potential for greatness. Below are my first impressions of the album, First will be my short, informal, and mostly unedited notes on each track as I listened through this for the first time. Following that I’ll include my views on the album as a whole, and then finally include some links to stream and some discussion questions at the bottom. Enjoy!
Track By Track Review
1. First String – Real nice beat, New York vibes. Flows and delivery are nothing special. No standout bars. The beat and the some of the rhyme schemes are the only qualities of this song that are above average
2. Young & Black – Another captivating beat, love the sample and use of synths. More basic flows and delivery. Some solid bars in this but nothing good enough to make the song good. Another song where the beat is the highlight
3. Ice Cold – More New York vibes, real laid back boom bap drums, piano, and sample. Probably the least interesting of the 3 beats so far though. Kinda works in its favour however, Hit-Boy sounds better now that he isn’t getting outshone by his production. His delivery/voice on this reminds me of Chuck Inglish. Song was decent all the way, but nothing great
4. Keep Dreamin’ – Well produced, loved when the drums come in after the first few bars. Apart from being well made, the beat itself is pretty average, may grow on me. More average flows, and the song is real short. Average song as well
5. Waterman – Hit-Boy’s monitone delivery and basic flows are just not very exciting at all, at least he is consistent. Beat on this is similar to the one on track 3, is quite pleasant and has this old school hiphop vibe, but just loops over and over so gets boring by the end. Forgettable track
6. Mood Change (ft. Thurz) – The Thurz feature is a nice change of pace. Is a breath of fresh air and is actually a decent verse, and I love the transition from Thurz>Hit-Boy. Hit-Boy has his most enjoyable verse so far, good flows and some solid bars too. Thurz kills his second verse too. Great verses, song structure and transitions, easily my favourite song so far. Beat is another basic loop but works really well in this case
7. All Business (ft. Benny The Butcher) – Beat is fire, has this thumping funky bass line, a chopped sample & this constant church-organ-like synth which all come together amazingly. Hit-Boy gives a solid performance again, enjoyed his flow and bars on this one, rides the beat really well too. Benny feature is a nice addition, he rides the beat just as well, and has some great bars of his own. Enjoyable track
8. No Celebrations – Another captivating beat, love the guitar and chopped vocal sample used throughout. I enjoy Hit-Boy’s flows, changes it up much more than usual. Delivery is still boring and the bars are a mix of average and lame unfortunately. Hook isn’t too good, on the fence about this
9. So It Was Told (ft. Kent M$ney) – Sounds like a Kanye beat, more great sample usage. Hit-Boy is back to the basic flows with the usual monotone delivery. Kent M$ney feature is actually fire, rides the beat with ease, has solid bars and rhyme schemes, and just all round sounds enjoyable. Overall just an okay song with a great feature
Overall I thought this album was pretty average as a whole. On an album where Hit-Boy once again attempted to show his talents as a rapper, I found it ironic that the most impressive part of the album was the features, followed by the beats, and then finally Hit-Boy’s rapping.
To expand on that, I was really impressed by all 3 features Hit-Boy enlisted for guest verses. I had never heard of Thurz previously so his feature was an amazing introduction to him. I’d never heard anything by Benny The Butcher preciously which I enjoyed, so was surprised by how enjoyable his verse was. And Kent M$ney is a rapper I use to listen to in the early HS87 days, but hadn’t seen anywhere for 5 or so years, so I was impressed he was still quite a competent rapper. All in all I felt all the features added to their respective tracks significantly, which is all I really hope for from a feature.
The production was quite nice throughout, but there was a mix of above average beats and boring repetitive beats with nothing particularly standing out. One thing I did enjoy was the common use of samples and boom nappy drum beats, was a breath of fresh air in the current scene of trap heavy production. This also gave the album a sort of consistency which was nice at first, but by the end of the album I couldn’t recall any particular beat as they all had this similarity without the memorability. Overall I’d say the production was good on this, but without a talented rapper utilising the beats well they almost always fell short.
In terms of Hit-Boy himself I don’t have too much to say. For most of this album his flows were basic and repetitive, his delivery was monotone, and his bars lacked substance. He wasn’t particularly bad at anything; like he always rapped on beat and his bars rhymed and such, there was just a lack of anything impressive. In saying that, there were some points where Hit-Boy changed things up and impressed me. His rapping on both ‘Mood Change’ & ‘All Business’ was both impressive and enjoyable, and I think he did well to not get outshone by the solid features he had on those tracks. One last thing I want to touch on, is that this album really suffers from lack of good hooks (or hooks at all). I can only remember there being 1 hook in 9 songs, and it wasn’t really good, so as a whole the album lacked that catchiness that keeps you wanting to come back as a listener.
So in summary I’d say this album isn’t really worth your time, unless you’re thirsting for that old school boom bap sound that isn’t too prevalent these days. The songs with features are worth a listen, but the project as a whole is just boring, and without any catchy hooks or quotable bars there isn’t much to make me want to revisit this one.
Final Notes & Links
My favourite songs were ‘Mood Change’ & ‘All Business’.
Or you can listen to it for free on YouTube here
What did you think of The Chauncey Hollis Project?
Do you think Hit-Boy should stick to producing, or can he make it as a rapper?
Thanks For Reading!
– Shan –