Hit-Boy's Storied Career Led Him To The Swingy Sound Of Nas's 'Ultra Black'

The rapper-producer walks us through his highlights for 'The Method,' including that 'legendary' Nas moment

With an impressive résumé that includes notable collaborations with Ye, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Travis Scott, and more, Hit-Boy is no stranger to artists shouting him out and working together with him to create lasting music. “But having Nas put that stamp on it was more legendary,” he tells MTV News correspondent Dometi Pongo about having the hip-hop icon name-check him on his 2020 single “Ultra Black.”

Hit-Boy, a longtime rapper-producer, worked on Nas’s three albums in 2020 and 2021: King's Disease, King's Disease II, and Magic. Both King’s Disease albums were highly praised by critics and even earned Nas his first-ever Grammy; he took home Best Rap Album in 2021. A large part of that is thanks to his fruitful partnership with Hit-Boy, something Nas nods to on the track. “Hit-boy on the beat,” he raps, “This shit 'posed to slap.”

In the newest episode of the MTV News documentary series “The Method,” Hit-Boy discusses how his long career behind the boards — working on songs as varied and popular as Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle,” and Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself” — led to the creation of “Ultra Black” as a great power anthem for the Black community. “The message of it was uplifting our people,” he says. “It was [to] celebrate your Blackness.”

While the track brings in a blend of jazzy piano chords and laid-back breakbeats, Hit-Boy’s instrumental also “tapped into how Kanye was producing when I first met him, just putting sounds together.” He calls back to Ye’s 2011 collaborative album with Jay-Z, Watch the Throne, and how his beat for “N---as in Paris” brought heightened visibility to his career. Hit-Boy first worked with Ye in 2010, producing the holiday track “Christmas in Harlem,” and then later signed a two-year deal with his GOOD Music label the next year.

“I found that drum pattern and had a different melody on top of it,” he said of “Ultra Black.” “And then I chopped the piano and just placed it off the one, so it was a swingy tempo and a swingy bounce.” The rapper-producer can be seen mixing these chill beats in the music video for “Ultra Black,” which also features his young son.

In the end, Hit-Boy sees Nas giving all the love and credit to him as “major,” and the rap legend continues to bring that spark of inspiration for future music. “That’s why I’ve taken my time to really appreciate what he’s doing and just try to get better with each project,” Hit-Boy says. “As long as we outdo ourselves, it’s going to be solid.” Learn more about Hit-Boy’s origins, his creative process, and how “Ultra Black” came together by watching "The Method" below.

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