In the coming years, the line between a free project and an official, retail album will either continue to be blurred or possibly just disappear altogether. Such is the case when living in the Digital Age. In that sense, Fontana, California producer-turned-rapper Hit-Boy provides the perfect Instagram snapshot of the current times. The man behind Watch The Throne’s “Ni**as In Paris,” G.O.O.D. Music’s “Clique,” and a host of other hits offers his All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of project in strictly digital form. The fact that the album was originally streamed freely via MySpace.com—causing scores to dust off their seven-year-old usernames and passwords—speaks to the post-modern climate it represents.
While this is technically a compilation under his Hits Since ’87 imprint, headlining and logging time behind the mic and the boards means Hit-Boy has adopted the archetype of producers with superstar emcee aspirations. Kanye West comparisons are inevitable—especially since Hit Boy produced two of the biggest recent singles to feature West. And Hit emulates West and others’ similarly comfortable balance between ignorance and excellence. He hints at social commentary on “Enormous,” offering, “Young O.J. on the field / This is black glove rap / And for white people who feel that all blacks love rap / They who cut us the deals and the bad contracts / That we signin’ / ‘Cause it’s cars out there we wanna be ridin’.”
Such moments are sparse, as Hit-Boy and his cohorts spend the bulk of the album stunting and generally enjoying the spoils of stardom and wealth. The production varies between grandiose as on the aforementioned “Enormous,” and wanders into Electro-infused R&B territory on “Do Me Now” and “Tonight.” But Hit-Boy doesn’t forget what landed him on the charts—thudding club bass and syncopated, hiccupping synths. All of the above are showcased on “T.U.,” “Fan” and “Caution.” The trio of tracks could have easily been culled from the Luxury Rap sessions that spawned “Ni**as In Paris” and “Clique.”
All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of may potentially go a long way toward legitimizing fellow Inland Empire products Audio Push and removing them from the realm of the commercially successful but generally disdained, “Teach Me How To Jerk.” Hit-Boy, Oktane and Pricetag all show improvement since their last respective outings—most notably an ability to switch rhyme cadences on the fly—although Audio Push tend to favor “Punchline Rap” and a double-time scheme more often than not. But there’s still room for improvement. Despite Hit-Boy’s attempt to elevate them by association with the mere act of throwing them on the massive posse cut “Cypher,” they’re not quite there yet.
Hit shows promise on the microphone. And while his bars don’t yet garner as much acclaim as his beats, it’s safe to assume a few of the singles will end up on the charts. While HITStory was about cashing in on his G.O.O.D. Music and Roc-a-fella connections, All I’ve Ever Dreamed Of bears his unique stamp. Co-opting tracks like C-Murder’s “Down 4 My N’s” on “Them Ni**as” and resurrecting the five-minute mega-cypher sans hook provides for an interesting golden era contrast with the general, inventive ratchetness that anchors the project in 2013—despite the MySpace cross-branding.