The first “Parental Advisory” album Metro Boomin ever owned was Nelly’s Country Grammar, which helped define hip-hop’s St. Louis sound in 2000. His mom bought it for him.
That record infused in Metro a great love of and pride in his hometown of St. Louis. Of course, he already loved his mom. “I’ve always been a mama’s boy, my whole life,” he says, pride boomin’ in his voice, over Zoom. “I’ve seen firsthand, with my mother, how hard it is being a single mother.” Metro was the oldest of five kids raised by his mom, Leslie Joanne. He remembers how she worked multiple jobs to care for them. Her work ethic, he says, inspired his own perpetual motion as a producer — contributing to a career in which he’s helped shape the sound of rap as much as anyone alive through collaborations with Future, 21 Savage, Drake, Gucci Mane, and many others.
Last week, the City of St. Louis recognized Metro Boomin’s love for both his hometown and his mother, who died last year, with a special ceremony in which Mayor Tishaura Jones gave Metro a key to the city. Jones also issued proclamations that Dec. 14, 2023, was both Leland “Metro Boomin” Wayne Day, “for his prestigious accomplishments and contributions to the music industry,” according to the document, and Leslie Joanne Single Mothers and Caregivers Appreciation Day. “May her memory be a blessing and may her zest for life remain in the hearts of those who loved her forever,” the latter proclamation reads. The day began with a luncheon where Metro met with the city’s civic leaders and ended with the Leslie Joanne Soirée, a gala honoring 250 of the city’s single mothers.
Metro, whose last 365 days were already exciting enough with the releases of his mega-hit Heroes & Villains album and his Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse soundtrack, was still processing the events of the day when he spoke with Rolling Stone. “From a kid to now, I’ve just had so much pride in being born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri,” he says. “Just to have an honor like this along with two proclamations, I can’t even really say, ‘It’s a dream come true,’ because I don’t even think I’ve ever dreamt of this.”
Metro Boomin Day began officially at 11 a.m. with a private luncheon at the city’s Stifel Theatre. Attendees included, among others, Mayor Jones, police chief Robert Tracy, state senator Brian Williams, and Ali Hogan, who owns Rung for Women, an organization whose mission is “inspiring all women to climb the economic opportunity ladder,” and which was a partner for the soiree later in the day.
When Metro spoke with the city’s leaders, he felt heard. “With or without the support, I was going to stay on the mission, but just to know that I have this overwhelming amount of help and support from so many key figures in the city was even more encouraging and inspiring to get this work done,” he says.
After lunch, Metro went to City Hall, where Mayor Jones gave him a key to the city and issued the proclamations. His siblings had front-row seats.
“He’s undoubtedly a family man and a philanthropist,” Mayor Jones said to those gathered. “Metro has partnered with local organizations to provide support to single moms and their families. And you know, when we talk about single moms, that hits me right here in my heart, because I have been blessed to be a single mom of the most amazing son, Aden Jeffries, who’s here with us today. I’m excited to share that I have issued a proclamation declaring today as ‘Leland “Metro Boomin” Wayne Day’ to recognize Metro’s success and generosity to the Saint Louis community.
“Proclamations are just one way for me to recognize one’s notable accomplishments,” she continued. “And I don’t get this opportunity too often to give someone a key to the city. It is our highest and most prestigious honor. It represents the culmination of lifetime achievement and, at 30 years old, Metro has done what a lot of people can only dream of. … Metro, you’ve made St. Louis so proud.”
At the ceremony, the producer told those gathered that the honor was “surreal,” and he still has trouble now expressing how he feels about it. “I just love St. Louis so much, so a key to the city is just like, I don’t know,” he says. “I feel like I’m still processing it.”
He also still feels a sense of shock after being surprised by the proclamation honoring his mother. “It just made me so happy, especially knowing my mom,” he says. “She was born and raised in St. Louis, as well, and she had so much pride being from St. Louis, so I know for sure that she’s happy about that and that she’s proud that it’s not only her day in St. Louis forever, but it’s also recognizing and honoring other single mothers.
“My mother, she was very proud to be a woman,” he continues, “and she was a strong Black woman. I just know how much that means to her, especially considering how much women go through, how much prejudice they go through, and how hard it is being a woman and how hard it is being a Black woman. There’s nothing harder to be in America than a Black woman.”
The honor was also special since it recognized his and his mother’s connection to the Gateway to the West. “St. Louis is such a special place,” Metro says. “I feel like no one would really understand unless you’ve lived there. It’s a very historic city, a hardworking city.” In addition to Nelly and his St. Lunatics crew, Metro cites Maya Angelou, Chuck Berry, Cedric the Entertainer, Redd Foxx, Josephine Baker, and T.S. Eliot as some of his hometown heroes. He hopes that younger generations look up to him and see the positive work he’s doing in the community, the way he looked up to those who inspired him. “I want kids to see me as an example, like, ‘Yo, he’s from here too, and look at what he’s doing,’” he says.
After the key ceremony, Metro embarked on a tour of St. Louis to take in parts of the city that need support. Neil Richardson, who is president and CEO of St. Louis Development Corporation, guided him on a tour of the Banneker School, which needed redevelopment. “We have so many schools that are closed down,” Metro says. “So I was looking at some of these properties and seeing what I can do to get them and just turn them into positive things to help the communities.”
He also visited the Sankofa Unity Center for Youth, where he met with children and families, giving gifts to the kids, and speaking with all of them. “There’s this man, Darren [Seals], and he owns and runs the place and provides it as a safe haven for kids with nowhere to go or kids who are just floating around in the streets,” Metro says. “That sparked a lot of ideas for more things I want to do for the city and just hearing about the work that he’s been doing and the differences he’s been making in these kids’ lives.”
Metro held his first event honoring mothers, under the banner Single Moms Are the Real Superheroes, seven years ago. It’s become a Christmastime tradition for him “because I know how extra tough it gets around that time and all the sacrifices [my mom] made always to make us smile on Christmas.” He hopes to effect change in his community by supporting women with job opportunities and supplying positive activities for their kids.
This year, he held the event at Rung for Women’s St. Louis HQ, beginning at 5:30 on Leslie Joanne Day. “Rung is providing real careers for these women to re-jumpstart their lives and careers so that they can go off,” Metro says.
He renamed the event the Leslie Joanne Soiree this year in honor of his late mother. Last year, Leslie Joanne died in a tragedy that that’s still painful to think about. Even though he’s been productive in the past year, he has been mourning. “When I lost my mom, God bless her soul, [21 Savage] came over to my house with my brothers and sisters,” Metro recently told Rolling Stone in another interview. “Even while I’m over there just crying or whatever in the other room, he over there talking to my grandma for hours. None of that has anything to do with making an album. You feel me? But all that stuff counts.”
When he talks about Leslie Joanne now, it’s with gratitude for the way she was a role model to him and his siblings. When he got interested in making beats, she bought him FruityLoops software to work with and later drove him to Atlanta to meet with rappers and play them his beats. “She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever come across in this life ever,” he says. “She always put everything to do with me and my siblings ahead of her. Whether that was not eating, not sleeping — just anything for us. And just how hard she worked.
“Everybody always, constantly tells me,” he continues, “‘Yo, you work so hard. You never stop.’ It took me to be an adult, it took me until now to realize I definitely got that drive from her without even noticing. It wasn’t like anything she vocally taught me like, ‘Yo, you got to work this hard.’ She just led by example. … The hard work, I picked that up from her. My faith in Christ and how true I am to that, I definitely picked that up from her. How well I work with others, how I treat and respect people — really just everything. I’m really her junior. I feel like when people see me, they see her, whether they realize it or not.”
The Leslie Joanne Soiree honored 250 single moms with a special dinner and the bonus of babysitting so the moms could enjoy it. “There was a game room for kids so they could play, and they had another room with kids doing yoga and face painting,” he says. “It was just beautiful. Seeing the joy on not only those mothers’ faces but their children [was special] because the children are the future.”
At the event, he expressed humility for everything single mothers go through to raise their kids right. “Moms make the world go ’round,” he said. “My mom has always been my greatest influence, my hero, my inspiration, my everything, and growing up with a single mother, I know firsthand how it gets, the ups the downs especially around this time of year. So this is very close to me and I just want to show my appreciation. What a woman goes through day in, day out, what it’s like to walk even a step in your shoes, the constant uphill battles that you are faced with day to day — I’ve seen them firsthand with my mother. So even prior to her passing, doing what I can for single mothers has always been something very important to me.”
Metro and Rung made the event extra special with a surprise performance by Brandy. “Shout out to Brandy, too,” Metro says. “She’s a single mom as well, so it was definitely a blessing to have her out, and it just brought so much joy just seeing how happy and joyful all of the moms were when she came out.
“It was definitely a blessing,” he continues. “I cried so many times yesterday.”
Now with Metro Boomin Day behind him, it’s time for the real work to begin in his hometown. “I want to do to enhance and better St. Louis,” he says. “I know a lot of people say things like that, but it’s always been in my plan to make this one of my life goals and missions. It’s something I’m going to work on for the rest of my time that I’m blessed to have here on earth.”