Hit-Boy – “Surf or Drown” review

Hit-Boy is a 35 year old producer, MC & singer/songwriter from Fontana, California who’s been at for 2 decades after Polow da Don took him under his wing by signing him to his Interscope Records imprint Zone 4 Records. His early production credits range from “Stronger” by Mary J. Blige to “Drop the World” by Lil Wayne & Eminem, but wasn’t until the winter following the last 2 jams where he would catch the attention of the Chicago jeen-yuhs himself Kanye West by producing his Christmas posse cut “Christmas in Harlem” & becoming an in-house producer for G.O.O.D. Music for 2 years approximately 5 months after that. It was there that he would cookup some notable bops such as “Niggas in Paris” by The Throne as well as “Cold” by Ye & even “Backseat Freestyle” off Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album albeit major label debut good kid, m.A.A.d. City. He then launched his now defunct Interscope imprint HS87 Music as his tenure under Kanye’s wing was coming to a close, continuing to build a reputation for himself by working with the likes of Beyoncé or Drake & Travis Scott for the remainder of the decade. But it’s no secret that these past few years have easily been amongst Hit-Boy’s most prolific yet considering his recent work with Big Sean, Benny the Butcher & more specifically Nas. So considering that & recently founding his own EMPIRE Distribution imprint Surf Club Inc., it’s only right for him to follow-up his 6 solo mixtapes in the form of his very own full-length debut.

After the “Big Hit” intro, “The Tide” fittingly enough sets off the album with Nas & Hit-Boy over a soulful beat with a trap switch-up later on displaying their tight chemistry whereas “State Champ” by Half-a-Mil & Jay305 find the trio accompanied by a cloudy yet vibrant instrumental representing Cali to the fullest. Dom Kennedy sticks around for “Corsa” admitting their hearts are still cold on top of some hi-hats & an airy backdrop leading into Curren$y being subbed into the game on the chill trap banger “Tony Fontana III” talking about how this shit is a marathon but they ain’t running a track.

Spank Nitti James takes up a bulk of “Just Ask” his verse is just ok personally although I love the hypnotically crooning trap production & the themes of asking before assuming leading into “NU.WAV” follows it up with a moody trap ballad about the way he formulates until “Slipping into Darkness”starts off with The Alchemist spitting a verse over a sample-based boom bap beat until Hit-Boy calls out those who tried to deflect him over some jazzy piano chords Uncle Al chopped up.

The song “2 Certified” goes full-blown UK drill as Avelino sets it off by helping the man behind the boards boast about their respective legitimacies in the rap game while the penultimate track “M.T.R. (Make the Rules)” is a vibrant yet chiller cut about how he simply knows the rules as opposed to making them. The album ends with a sequel to “Composure” off King’s Disease II with an aquatic yet jazzy boom bap instrumental getting more vulnerable lyrically.

Much like how The College Dropout cemented Ye’s abilities as a performer & The Life of Pi’erre 4 with Pi’erre Bourne, I think anyone who’s been fucking with Hit-Boy as long as me could tell you that’s exactly what Surf or Drown does for him. You get a good look into who one of the most consistent producers in the game today really is on the mic as he enlists a mainly consistent guest list that helps him rip his own beats to shreds ranting from boom bap to trap & even UK drill.

Score: 4/5

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