Metro Boomin works his head-spinning sonics into 'Am I Dreaming' for 'Spider-Man'

Metro Boomin has a clear vision of how he’d want to design his own superhero character: not quite someone who’s incapable of being killed, but a figure with the fortitude to will himself back from the brink of doom.

“I’d want some kind of regeneration, like Wolverine,” said the St. Louis-born super-producer. “I wouldn’t want to be invincible … that’s too boring. But if it has some kind of fault, where you could die if you’re not careful enough, I’d take that. And some crazy fighting skills.”

Superheroes have shaped the life of the man born Leland Tyler Wayne. He fondly remembers family trips with his mother and his four siblings to see the newest Marvel releases as soon as they’d hit the theaters. It’s also a theme that’s framed much of the 30-year-old producer’s robust discography; when he’s not creating chart-topping hits for the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Migos, he’s leaned into the supernatural on his two albums, “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” and “Heroes & Villains,” both of which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2018 and 2022, respectively.

Metro’s own cinematic universe revolves around head-spinning sonics; the producer often favors eerie textures and melodies, drilled into memory with the help of thudding 808s that have landed him squarely on the Mt. Rushmore of trap producers.

“Even before I understood music theory, I just knew I always wanted all my beats to bang,” he said. “It could be hip-hop, it could be R&B, it could be anything. But it always has to bang.”

Fresh off the success of “Heroes & Villains,” Sony Pictures called him up to offer what every Marvel-head dreams of: the opportunity to contribute to the studio’s then-upcoming summer blockbuster, the animated sequel “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” What started as a request for Metro to work on a few songs for the project blossomed into a role as the soundtrack’s executive producer — along with a cameo role voicing his own character in the multiverse, the Metro Spider.

“Even from age 13, I’ve always dreamed about doing a soundtrack, and a score,” he said. “I grew up with good soundtracks, like ‘Above the Rim,’ ‘Friday,’ ‘Dr. Dolittle.’ They felt like real albums. I’d been approached different times before to make a soundtrack, but I was holding out for the right opportunity. But Spider-Man lined up in the hero lane I’m already so into, so it was perfect.”

The diasporic soundtrack dovetails neatly with the identity of the movie’s Black Latino star, Miles Morales. After Lil Wayne kicks off the affair with a creepy-crawler-verse filled with spider-themed wordplay on the intro track “Annihilate,” the album careens forward with a blend of hip-hop, Latin, afrobeats and pop music, brought to life with vocal performances from Nas, James Blake, Don Toliver and A$AP Rocky, among many others.

Particularly noteworthy is “Am I Dreaming,” the evocative tune featuring A$AP Rocky and St. Louis-born singer Roisee that’s gaining awards steam as an original song contender. Metro remembers asking his frequent collaborator Peter Lee Johnson for some maximalist violins in the theme of 2010-era Kanye West, and the resulting product formed the base of the song’s stirring instrumental.

“That’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever been a part of,” Metro recalls. “I remember when [writer Phil Lord] had first showed me an early, half-animated cut of the end credits scene, and it had that song on it. He sent it to me and didn’t say anything. I got chills.”

But to fully realize the family-bred dream of working on a Marvel movie, he’s had to utilize the same resilience he’d instill into his own fictional character. In June 2022, his mother was killed near Atlanta at the hands of Metro’s stepfather, who took his own life soon after shooting her.

“I used to always go in her CD bins and listen to everything,” he said. “When I was young young — before kindergarten — I had the Romeo and Lil’ Bow Wow CDs, because they wouldn’t curse in their music. But when Nelly’s ‘Country Grammar’ came out in 2001, that was the first explicit CD she got me. I listened to it front to back, every single day, go to sleep to it and wake up listening to it. He was from St. Louis, so it fueled a lot of my inspiration to get into music.”

In the face of tragedy, Metro poured more of himself into the music than ever before while stepping into the spotlight with resounding force. In April, Metro closed out the Sahara Tent on Day One at Coachella, bringing Diddy, Future, John Legend, the Weeknd and more to fill up the marquee. True to his taste for grandeur, he also loaded up on set design, choreography and synchronized visuals to ensure he lived up to his prime-time billing, money be damned — he previously told Billboard he spent four times the amount of money he was paid to execute the performance.

“I just saw it as an opportunity to show people and really put them on notice,” he said. “People around me thought I was crazy when they saw how much money it would be, like, ‘Do you really want to spend that?’ But money will come and go, and things like this will live past me. I went way over budget with ‘Heroes & Villains’ too. It’s the passion to get the best thing.”

That triple crown of his own No. 1 album, high-profile Coachella slot and blockbuster movie soundtrack makes Metro a fearsome competitor as awards season heats up. The banner year has him positioned to potentially secure an Oscar before he wins his first Grammy. But even if the order isn’t quite standard procedure for a man who made his bones in the music industry, he’ll tell you it’s always been a part of his vision just the same.

“I’ve always wanted to expand into the film space, because I just have so many ideas,” he said. “It’s a goal of mine to get an Oscar. I think this past year is probably the first time I’ve started to feel a shift in how I’m viewed and perceived.”

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