“To try to do it all by yourself -- that’s the ego talking,” says Big Sean, pacing around one of the recording studios in a stylish rented house in Venice, Calif., near the ocean. He and superproducer Metro Boomin are playing songs from their joint album, Double or Nothing (coming soon), and they’re feeding off each other’s energy: Metro will scrunch up his face at certain lines of Sean’s, while the rapper will let out a spontaneous “Woo!” when Metro’s beats drop in.
Sean, 29, and Metro, 24, are at the top of their games -- each is one of hip-hop’s most in-demand talents -- and could easily claim the spotlight for himself. Instead, they’re shooting each other excited looks over the cranked-up songs they’ve made together. “Sometimes ego gets you in trouble,” says Sean. “You’ve got to be aware enough to have your teammates around.”
Collaborations like these were once commonplace in hip-hop. Rappers often paired off with a single producer, who would craft the entirety of a project’s beats and help execute the final vision. (Think KRS-One and Scott La Rock, Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.) Producers and MCs would come to be defined as duos; once they drifted apart to work with new collaborators, fans would pine for a return to their original form. “I was born in ’93,” says Metro, “and a lot of projects [from that era] had one producer, maybe two. They sounded more cohesive -- better as a whole.”