Behind the Boards is a new series where we spotlight some of the biggest producers in the industry and dig into some of their favorite projects. For this edition, we sit down with producer TM88 to hear about his work with Drake, Future, Travis Scott, and Lil Uzi Vert.
As a co-founder of the producer collective 808 Mafia, TM88 has had the opportunity to collaborate with some of hip-hop’s biggest superstars, including Future, Drake, Travis Scott, and Lil Uzi Vert. When he spoke with Consequence over Zoom in mid-September, the Atlanta native was celebrating his second No. 1 album of 2022 after placing three tracks on DJ Khaled’s God Did (Future’s I NEVER LIKED YOU also debuted atop the Billboard 200 in May).
What really has made the difference in TM88’s career are the relationships he’s built along the way. After breaking through in 2013 thanks to collaborations with Gucci Mane and Future, he was able to take his career to the next level by taking a chance on a flight to LA which led to him landing placements on Travis Scott’s Rodeo and Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
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Though he first booked a hotel, TM88 ended up staying at Scott’s rented studio house, where he linked up with the rapper and a group of producers including Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, WondaGurl, and fellow 808 Mafia member Southside. Not only did this lead to him making the beat for “Nightcrawler” with Southside and Metro, but he was able to soak in a different approach to producing from being around a creative mind like Travis Scott.
“Working with Trav opened my eyes up to different things and different artists and different ways to attack the beats because working with him, you can’t just give him the normal beats that you would give like Future or anybody,” TM88 tells Consequence. “We got to tell a story with this beat, but also have it to where people can go crazy at a show.”
Being around Scott at that time also led to TM88 producing the beat for Drake’s “Company,” an experience he doesn’t take for granted. “I feel like if I never would have met Travis Scott, bro, I probably wouldn’t even be on half of the stuff that I’ve been on because it challenged me to do different stuff and it’s either you’re gonna quit, or you’re gonna get with the program, you know, and I got with the program,” he says.
On a more personal level, Lil Uzi Vert’s 2017 hit “XO Tour Llif3” came out of a conversation between the producer and rapper during which TM88 was still processing a traumatic experience from a mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale airport. Though TM88 thankfully was alright, he lost his bookbag containing his computer and all the session files saved on his hard drives during the chaos. This led to him being forced to make do with a broken laptop when he got home to Atlanta.
After hooking it up to a TV and a Beats Pill speaker because he had nothing else to work with, TM88 made the best of the situation. “I’m like ‘Man, I don’t know what else to do. I’m about to make beats,'” he remembers. “Because at this point, I’m about to break down, this my life. So, I get to making beats and ‘XO Tour Llif3’ was like the sixth beat that I made.”
Burnt out from making 20 beats in two days, TM88 then received a call from Lil Uzi Vert during which they were able to lift each other’s spirits. After the rapper vented about being in funk, TM88 empathized with his own recent experiences and gave a small motivational speech that led to the making of “XO Tour Llif3.”
“Just having those talks, man, that’s why I feel like artists and producers gotta be more in sync,” TM88 says. “Because everybody feels like they’re too cool to talk. Like bro, we’re human. Only robots come in and boom, boom, boom and that’s it. That’s why it’s no emotion on a lot of records because you getting a beat from somebody and you’re just rapping.”
Though TM88 doesn’t talk with Future about topics like living on Mars, he values the rapper’s contributions in a different way: for bringing new ideas into the studio. As an example, Future picked what TM88 thought was a throwaway beat for “Way 2 Sexy” and turned it into their No. 1 hit with Drake and Young Thug. He even came up with the idea to sample Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy.”
As for DJ Khaled, the hip-hop mogul brings more to the table than people realize. “Even hearing the tone of his voice, it make you just want to go hard for him,” TM88 says. “I feel like he bring the best out of a lot of people because he challenge you to make things that you’re not normally making because every record Khaled do, he’s trying to go No. 1, he’s trying to go big.”
Besides the motivation, TM88 says Khaled’s ability to piece a song together brought his beat for the Future and SZA collaboration “Beautiful” to another level. “He knows how to put together the record, take certain sounds out and put them somewhere else,” TM88 explains. “I feel like the industry is blessed to have a person like DJ Khaled in it because there’s not many people that care enough.”
TM88 tells Consequence he hopes that getting an R&B record like “Beautiful” on Khaled’s album allows him to dabble in other genres like pop and country. Rather than getting boxed into the trap beats for which he’s become known, TM88 wants to bring out other emotions through his music.
“When you hear these beats, you’re gonna hear everything that I’m going through,” he says. “If I hear a story from my friend, I take that and I go make beats and I put that emotion into the beats. So that way, when you hear ‘XO Tour Llif3,’ you hear the emotion. I was hurting, I lost everything. I didn’t know what I was going to do. So it was like, ‘This what I know how to do.’ I know how to put my emotions into the beats and make you feel it.”
While we await more music from TM88 and his Crash Dummy Records, take a deep dive into his collaborations with Drake, Future, Travis Scott, and Lil Uzi Vert below.