Jalen Rose learns what makes a song with producer Hit-Boy

TRAVEL & LIFESTYLE: Jalen Rose learns what makes a song with producer Hit-Boy

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Some might remember Myspace as a fleeting blip in the short history of social media. But for my “Renaissance Man” guest, the platform opened the door to a constellation of stars. I mean superstars. People by the names of Kanye West, Nas, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.

Chauncey Hollis Jr., who is better known by his stage name Hit-Boy, started posting his beats on the now-defunct site Myspace and he caught the eye of megaproducer Polow da Don, who plucked him out of obscurity. The rest is Grammy history. The producer/performer now has three of them, long-standing collaborative relationships with all the big artists in nearly every genre from soul to rap and a new single “Scholar.”

Yes, the Southern California native started creating his own music in high school, but he’d learned the industry as a young kid purely by osmosis.

“My uncle was in a group called Troop, so early on in my early days, I watched his whole process,” he told me.

“I got to go to video shoots, so I got to go to studio sessions. Like the fashion, just the whole lifestyle I got to see that side of things. So I was already kind of getting bred for music without even realizing it. It was just downloading into my DNA. So that was a good thing about just being out here, just all the creativity and the people that were doing something with music or just something in the arts,” continued Hit-Boy.

Before his musical talent crystallized in the 10th grade, the now-35-year-old was busy playing basketball.

“I actually played basketball my whole ninth-grade year. And then I was about to start playing my sophomore year and I started making beats a couple weeks before the season started,” he said.

He told his coach that he wasn’t playing anymore and he wanted to make beats every day. “He was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was confused. And I just knew back then I was like, ‘Man, I’m doing this one way or another.’”

And even though he was making a racket in the house at all hours, his mother was always behind him and his dreams — though I can assume she had a good set of earplugs for nighttime.

“She would let me make music all hours,” he said. Even friends and family would ask: “‘Why do you let him just make this random noise? Like it’s just too loud? What was going on?’ And she just was happy that I was in a crib doing something productive.”

Productive is an understatement. He had a lot of success, including a notable relationship with Kanye with whom he had a falling out. The rapper the Game has brought them back together, so who knows what they’re cooking up now. He also produced Beyoncé’s “Thique” off her new “Renaissance” album, out last Friday. But we spoke just before it was released, so he didn’t want to be presumptuous that they chose the track.

Hit-Boy said, “I can’t get my hopes up because you got millions of people to beat out to even get on an album. So that’s just if it really goes down, it’s an honor. But I still it’s like unbelievable still to be there.”

I may be partial, but my favorite Hit-Boy production is Big Sean’s “What a Life” because it contains the lyric “My brother Jalen Rose got an academy. Dis ain’t a game.” He said Big Sean has always sharpened him artistically.

Hit-Boy said: “We know our bond is developed on a friendship level, but just on a music level, I feel like he’s pushed me to the point where it’s like don’t settle your first idea. He might do something that I think is incredible, he’ll take a listen to it for a few days and be like, ‘Nah, I think I can level that up. I can say it in a quicker, more clever way.’ Just to see him put these words together like that, it’s like unbelievable.”

Someone he hasn’t worked with who’s on his collaboration bucket list? That would be Kodak Black. But there is one requirement when working with Hit-Boy (who’s constantly juggling work and family): You must be good with kids. So Kodak, start reading “The Baby-Sitters Club.”

“I got a 2-year-old son, so sometimes know I might have to bring him into the studio,” he said.

If he’s Hit-Boy’s boy, I’m sure he’s already dropping beats and is probably featured on Nas’ next album.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.



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