If you’ve listened to mainstream rap in the past 12 months, then you’re familiar with this phrase: “Metro Boomin want some more!” They’re the first words that tumble out of Drake and Future’s chart-topping What a Time to Be Alive. It’s known in rap industry parlance as a “tag” or a “drop,” a unique watermark of sorts that helps identify a beat for one of today’s hottest producers.

In recent years, the beat-making fraternity — and yes, it unfortunately remains male-dominated, despite rising talents such as Wondagurl — has teemed with names unrecognizable to all but the most studious readers of Wikipedia album credits. But Metro Boomin has begun to create a brand as widely known as DJ Mustard, Mike Will Made-It, and Lex Luger, with salutary coverage in numerous publications, including the cover of tastemaker magazine The Fader. He danced alongside DJ Esco and Future in the video for the latter’s “Where Ya At,” creating one of 2015’s most indelible moments and helped turn dabbing into a national craze. Most importantly, he is evolving into an increasingly rare commodity: a superstar rap producer.

Metro Boomin is a teenage prodigy who began working with Southern trappers like OJ da Juiceman, Yo Gotti and Waka Flocka Flame while he was in high school

At the dawn of the 2000s, that club teemed with men who bragged of charging tens of thousands of dollars for a hot beat, like The Neptunes, Just Blaze, and Kanye West. Others, like J Dilla, Madlib, and 9th Wonder congregated virtual cults with their college radio classics. But the rise of mixtape culture, where countless musicians crank out hundreds of tracks or “loosies,” then scatter them across sundry projects and online services for listeners to pick out like Easter eggs, has had an unexpected and unwelcome democratizing effect. Producers often stick to software programs like Fruity Loops, leading to a blandness that makes one beat indistinguishable from the other.

Metro Boomin, who hails from St. Louis, Missouri, and currently lives in Atlanta, is emblematic of rap’s laptop era. A teenage prodigy whose name is inspired by St. Louis’ MetroLink subway, he began working with Southern trappers like OJ da Juiceman, Yo Gotti and Waka Flocka Flame while still in high school. His breakthrough was Future’s “Karate Chop (Remix),” a blend of 8-bit video game quirks and trap booms that attracted controversy for Lil Wayne’s outrageous lyric about civil rights icon Emmett Till. He often co-produces tracks with friends like DJ Spinz, Southside, and TM88. In fact, much of the reason why his name stands out among his peers is simply because of his famous drop — “Metro Boomin want some more” — that surfaced on his 2014 production of Young Thug’s “Some More,” and later on the Drake and Future project.

alternative text

Some of the biggest rap releases of the past 12 months feature Metro Boomin’s handiwork, including Future’s DS2, Travis Scott’s Rodeo, Young Thug’s I’m Up, and 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne’s ColleGrove. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1,” one of four tracks he worked on for West’s The Life of Pablo, may be the most impressive beat on that album, a hallucinatory swirl of gospel shouts, squelching bass and percussive clicks. It also starts with a fresh drop voiced by Future (and taken from Uncle Murda and Future’s single “Right Now”): “If Young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you.”

But “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” also symbolizes the murky process of modern studio production, and the resulting public tussles over highly prized songwriting credits. Metro Boomin worked on the track with West, Mike Dean, Rick Rubin, DJ Dodger Stadium, Allen Ritter, and engineer Noah Goldstein. While listeners assumed Metro Boomin made the bulk of it due to that “I’m gon’ shoot you” tag, another TLOP producer, Hudson Mohawke, has claimed that the former only added “a few additional drums” to a pre-existing beat, and that Mohawke deserved to be credited on the song, too.

Metro Boomin’s rapidly growing discography, which already encompasses hundreds of tracks, may not bear the unmistakable sound signature once generated by the likes of Mannie Fresh and Lil Jon. His talent for arranging rolling hi-hats and off-kilter drum patterns may be his strongest calling card. It’s a small detail that can give hits like Future’s “Low Life” and Travis Scott’s “3500” a sense of excitement and unpredictability. As heard on singles like Tinashe’s “Ride of Your Life” and Future’s “Where Ya At,” he makes spooky keyboard melodies that evoke the icy cold wave tones of ‘80s synth pop. And of course, all of those co-signs from the rap elite help, too. It’s why he’s turning into one of the most trusted men in mainstream rap.