When “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” was first recruiting artists for its soundtrack, Metro Boomin was not yet offered the role of executive producer on the album. “The original plan was to have me contribute a few songs or something for the movie, and the chemistry between everybody in the team just ended up being so great,” the current Grammy nominee for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical said to IndieWire over Zoom. Then, in December 2022, he released his latest album “Heroes and Villains,” which was not only on theme, but debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200, and went on to become the best-selling rap album of 2023. The opportunity to have a much higher stake in making music for the sequel to the Oscar-winning animated superhero movie soon followed, with the greenlight for Metro to also release the soundtrack under his own label. “The timing couldn’t have been better.”

The job became an immersive experience, with multiple screenings of the film in various stages on the Sony lot, seeing “some rough animations and stuff just to get in the world and the story of Miles [Morales] and what he’s going through,” mixed with correspondences to his studio containing “packs of scenes that they needed music and specific feelings and emotions for. And I would just create those songs off of those scenes.”

Metro also began coordinating with the film’s composer Daniel Pemberton via text and phone calls, “just ensuring that the score and the soundtrack both fit together hand in hand,” he said. “So you got the beautiful score, and that could transition to this song, and the song didn’t sound too out of place with the score, and vice versa. And coming out of the song, the score comes back in and it just all feels like one cohesive thing.”

When it came time to produce “Am I Dreaming” featuring newcomer Roisee and rapper A$AP Rocky, the film’s Best Original Song contender, “I was in the gym one day and I just had an idea about a grand champion sounding major string progression, something to invoke a lot of emotion. So I called my boy Peter,” said Metro, referring to violinist Peter Lee Johnson. “He came up with a few options and that one [on the song] was the one, and I just built off it from there. I had Roisee write to it. She recorded her part. I produced on it some more, pulled up on [producer/engineer] Mike Dean, had him play on it. And then I had gotten Rocky’s verse and everything tied together perfectly, after I had all the pieces.”

Already a pro at assembling a compilation album, the producer felt very prepared in successfully casting the right collaborators to be featured on the soundtrack. “It’s really about the people that I think are going to be better to tell this story and narrate, but loosely narrate Miles’s life in a way,” he said. “These different perspectives, these different amazing voices and tones. And just knowing each of these artists, all of their skillsets and knowing what they bring to the table and how they can help enhance and execute the vision.”

While having Harlem-native A$AP Rocky on the track for the New York-based film was a no-brainer (“I just felt like it had the potential for a great big moment. I knew he would put the verse there that needed to be there”), “Am I Dreaming” has become a breakout moment for Roisee, a singer-songwriter from his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri that Metro found on YouTube and has since been collaborating with and developing. “Explaining to her everything about the movie, I knew she would whip something up on the feeling we were trying to capture, and she did. She definitely delivered and knocked that out the park,” said the producer. 

Never was it a situation where Roisee was meant to be the reference track for a more well-known vocalist to come in and sing her parts of the song. For one, “they really trusted me in my vision and really let me do me,” said Metro of the “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” filmmakers. And also “I felt like it was also a great opportunity to introduce her to the world without it being forced… We’d made so many great songs by then, all that building up to ‘Am I Dreaming.’ I already knew and was confident in her abilities as an artist and a songwriter to bring something fresh for this.”

Even though “Am I Dreaming” was among the last songs written for the film, after the producer had a great grasp on all the emotions the film invoked, it was not initially made specifically to soundtrack the end credits. It just so happened that at the same time Metro was working on it, he and the film’s writer-producer Phil Lord were going back and forth over text, “trying to figure out what the vibe or what we were going to do for the end credit scene because this is a few months before the release.” The producer added, “One day I had sent him just the strings by itself, and he was just like, ‘Yeah, this is amazing, but I don’t know what to make of this.’ But I was just sharing it with him in real time. And then I came back around with the full song and it blew his mind too. And he ended up testing it with the picture on the end credit scene that he sent to me.” Again, perfect.

At only 30 years old, Metro Boomin (born Leland Tyler Wayne) has been working in the music industry long enough to be credited for shaping the current sound of Southern rap, having made classic singles with Atlanta artist Future like “Karate Chop” as he was coming out of high school just over a decade ago. Since then, he’s had over 100 entries on the Billboard Hot 100, producing No. 1 hits “Bad and Boujee” by rap trio Migos, and “Heartless” by The Weeknd. 

Making the soundtrack for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” his first job on a major motion picture has been the kind of turning point he’s been dreaming of. “I definitely feel like I leveled up with some experience points and learned a lot with this process. And know, for the next time I do something like this, what I would lean more towards, what I would do differently and what I could do better,” said Metro, who still awaits the official call to work on the film’s upcoming sequel “Beyond the Spider-Verse.”

Often credited as having a cinematic sound even in his rap records, Metro had already tried to approach every album “like a filmmaker would making a film. So storytelling colors the arc of it. And characters and the scenes, who’s in what scene with who, who reoccurs, who comes in and goes,” said the musician. “I approach every album like that. So it was great to actually do it with an actual film and an animated one at that.”

In other words, to borrow terminology from the film, the “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” soundtrack has been a bit of a “canon event” for executive producer Metro Boomin. “Since a kid, I always knew [this is] something I wanted to step into one day, but I just like to let everything just grow and evolve just as a journey. ‘Ok, now we’re going to add this. We’re going to add the soundtracks,’” he said. “‘Ok, we maybe do some soundtracks for some years,’ or who knows? I can’t put a time on it because who knows when the right opportunity is going to be here, but then some scoring. It’s the beauty in the growth.”

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