Anthony Parnther was impressed. The Los Angeles-based composer kept seeing the same name as he scanned the production credits for hit songs from Future, Migos, Post Malone, 21 Savage, and The Weeknd.
“I kept hearing Metro this, Metro that,” Parnther says during a call from his Los Angeles homebase. “But the thing that really turned my head beyond all of that was hearing what he had done for the newest Spider-Man movie, 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.' I thought that was just fantastic. It really elevated that film. His music is literally another character in the film.”
Metro Boomin’s work as Executive Music Producer for "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," which has grossed more than $690 million worldwide since its June 2023 release, indeed made an indelible mark on Parnther, a revered composer who conducted the music for such blockbusters as "Avatar: The Way of Water," "Oppenheimer," and "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."
Now Parnther and Metro Boomin are partnering to bring Red Bull Symphonic to Los Angeles. The pair will be performing live from the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on October 26, a one-night-only event that will feature Parnther leading approximately 45 musicians through an orchestral performance of 31 Metro Boomin-produced songs.
“A number of Metro’s works already have an orchestral feel to them,” says Parnther, a world-renown conductor who has led orchestras at the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Royal Albert Hall in London, among many others.
Backing Parnther and Metro Boomin at Red Bull Symphonic will be 13 violins, five violas, five cellos, four basses, two horns, two trumpets, a flute, a saxophone, a clarinet, an oboe, a bassoon, a tuba, a harp, a guitar, a bass, and a rhythm section. The production crew is also building a custom set that Metro and the orchestra will be performing on.
Given Metro’s objective, Parnther was the perfect person for the Red Bull Symphonic job. Chief among Parnther’s tasks is coaxing an authentic performance out of one of the largest orchestras – if not the largest – ever used at a rap concert.
“What I try to do as an arranger and orchestrator, especially in this particular instance, is to try to enhance what's already there,” Parnther says. “I also don't want to change Metro's given aesthetic, but I'm trying to think of ways that I can make it perhaps more epic in the way that only a 45-piece symphony orchestra could. If something that he is already created is aggressive, how do I make it a little more aggressive? If something's already sweeping, how can I make it more sweeping? If something's already lyrical, how can I make it more lyrical? So, it's really amplifying what Metro has already created, but not reinventing the wheel.”
As hip-hop celebrates its fiftieth birthday, its producers have been earning more and more prestigious accolades and opportunities in recent years. Dr. Dre, for instance, won the Grammy Award for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, in 2000, and RZA has composed the music for such high-profile films as 2003’s "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" and 2017’s "Roxanne Roxanne." Nonetheless, Parnther believes that Red Bull Symphonic can build on its successful sold-out 2022 show with Rick Ross in Atlanta to give rap producers more credence in the overall music world.
“This is a great opportunity for them to expand their normal musical palette beyond what is the standard instrumentation for rap,” Parnther says. “The great thing about having live players and live instrumentalists is that it adds a sense of depth and humanity and expression that you might not otherwise have discovered. It can add a level of vastness and epicness that you might not have had otherwise, both visually and aurally.”
As the Red Bull Symphonic performance date approaches, Parnther, Metro Boomin, and the musicians will be doing several music reviews, which will include a series of edits and tweaks to the set. They also have to get the final music copied on to sheet music and into the musician’s hands so that they can practice the material before the first live rehearsal. This type of intense prep work is the prime time where Parnther’s experience working with the tight deadlines typical with his film work comes in handy. He has to be able to adjust, process, and articulate his musical vision to dozens of artists who need to deliver a precise performance in front of 3,400 people at the Dolby Theatre.
The heft of the task is not lost on Parnther.
“I'm staying home the entire month of October to accommodate for this concert,” he says with a laugh. “The effort that it's going to take to organize all of the various elements, from personnel to the arrangements, to the rehearsals, to being available for all of these meetings, it does really take a village to pull off a concert of this level of complexity. So, I just think of it as an adventure – and I love the fact that every single day is a new adventure.”