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How Metro Boomin went from St. Louis high schooler to king of the trap

Earlier this week, Metro Boomin posted an Instagram announcing a new project.

The caption read, “tomorrow night #haterswillsayitsphotoshop” and Twitter immediately went into meltdown mode suspecting Metro was about to drop a full-length project or beat tape.

When it turned out that Metro was teasing a new single, “No Complaints,” with verses from Drake and Offset, some people were a little disappointed.

But Metro was quick to point that, well, he never said that there was any album!

The fact that rap Twitter went into quasi-meltdown mode because of a social media post shows just how massive of a figure Metro Boomin has become in the hip-hop world.

It’s been a ridiculously quick rise to the top for Young Metro, who went from having his mom drive him from his hometown of St. Louis to Atlanta while Metro was still in high school so he could collaborate with artists on the Atlanta scene, to becoming the most exciting young producer in hip-hop.

But how did a teenager from St. Louis go on to shape the sound and aesthetic of contemporary Atlanta trap music?

Metro Boomin, born Leland Tyler Wayne, wasn’t held back by things like basic geographic barriers. He saw where the culture was thriving most, where he could work within a tight-knit community of artists and flourish.

The St. Louis kid started making beats when he was in middle school when his mom copped him a laptop and he downloaded the primitive but seminal production program Fruity Loops.

After spending some time in the school band, Metro focused solely on hip-hop. Initially he was just making beats to rap over, but soon realized his talents were exclusively in the production realm.

During his junior year in high school, Metro and his mom began driving back and forth between St. Louis and Atlanta so the 11th grader could get his beats straight to the source.

Metro made his first splash in the game in 2010 and 2011, making the beat for Big Sean’s “Home Town” off Finally Famous Vol. 3: Big and multiple tracks on OJ da Juiceman’s mixtape Culinary Art School 2.

By going back and forth between Atlanta and St. Louis, Metro was able to work with artists face-to-face and collaborate with a litany of popular ATL artists.

Metro even moved to Atlanta for college, enrolling at Morehouse for a degree in business management, but he dropped out after a semester when the music shit was really taking off.

2013 was a breakout year for Leland Wayne, appearing on five different Gucci Mane mixtapes alone.

While that’s an obvious testament to East Atlanta Santa’s infamous work ethic (five mixtapes!), it also basically ensured Metro Boomin’s place as a figure in the Atlanta trap scene.

Once you get that Gucci Mane cosign, not to mention produce on five different mixtapes, you’ve gotten the official ATL seal of approval.

Metro’s career took off from there, producing his first major single, Future’s “Karate Chop.”

The original “Karate Chop” appeared on Future’s Freebandz label compilation mixtape F.B.G.: The Movie, while the remix added Lil Wayne and popped up on Future’s full-length album Honest.

Besides “Karate Chop,” Metro produced “I Won,” featuring Kanye West, “Honest,” and “How Can I Not” off Honest.

“Karate Chop” and Honest were the start of a career-altering partnership between young Metro and Future.

In 2014, Metro blew up. He produced for Migos, Waka Flocka, YG, Fredo Santana, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, Future, Nicki Minaj, iLoveMakkonen, Young Thug, and, of course, Gucci Mane, often producing multiple tracks off these artists’ projects.

Working with artists who were on the come up, like Migos and Travis Scott, meant Metro’s own career progression mirrored theirs. These dudes basically came up together, influencing each other’s sound and style.

That sound has become Metro’s signature. Often pairing menacing and dark synths with deep, banging bass, and snares and hi-hats that slap you right in the face.

When Genius asked Metro back in February what some of his influences were, he had an interesting response. Metro told Genius,

“Green Day, just because, when I started making beats back then, they had that shit out, American Idiot. Just the sonics of that shit—that whole dark, moody vibe. I naturally, when I make beats, aim for a darker tone just because I’ve always preferred those types of feelings. More than any artist, I feel like horror-movie music influenced my music more than all that shit.”

The horror movie part makes sense. I mean listen to the “I Don’t Sell Molly No More” beat, that’s some Friday 13th shit.

Partnering up with up-and-coming artists allowed Metro to make exclusive collaboration projects. In doing this, the producer can shape the creative direction and have his name attached to an entire project.

After years of hip-hop producers lingering anonymously in the shadows, youngins like Metro Boomin are changing the way they make money and make a name for themselves.

Metro’s exclusive collaboration with 21 Savage last summer was a haunting introduction to last year’s XXL Freshman member.

The summer before in 2015, Metro exclusively produced Future’s instant classic DS2 as well as the Future and Drake collaboration album What a Time to Be Alive.

While Metro had a little help from Drake’s right hand man Noah “40” Shebib on WATTBA, this stretch of work as an exclusive producer, even an equal artist, on some of the biggest releases of the last two years, made Metro Boomin a legitimate figurehead in hip-hop.

On What a Time, Future also gave Metro Boomin’ his now-infamous producer tag “If Young Metro don’t trust you I’ma shoot you,” a phrase that rings out across the hip-hop world, and beyond, today.

Most recently, Metro has produced all of Gucci Mane’s album DropTopWop, three songs off Big Sean’s I Decided, including the smash “Bounce Back,” Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which reached number 1 on the Billboard charts, and Metro’s own release on Friday “No Complaints.”

Next up is apparently “Perfect Timing,” an alleged collab album with Toronto artist NAV.

Metro Boomin has created an interesting new lane for hip-hop producers to come up. Instead of just finding random placements on big artists’ albums (which Metro still does), the St. Louis native provides the entire template for an artist.

That Metro collab, along with his now-famous producer tag, has become one of the most highly-coveted cosigns in hip-hop and a top-quality guarantee.

From driving 9 hours with his mom every weekend to Atlanta, to producing an entire collaboration album with Drake and Future, Metro Boomin has conquered the production world.