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How 808 Mafia became one of the biggest beat factories in music

Started by Southside and Lex Luger in 2010, 808 Mafia has a stable of producers churning out street hits with a variety of different sounds.

There’s the raw power of Southside, the nominal head of the crew. Then there’s the psychedelic weirdness of TM-88, the right hand man who has cranked out bangers like Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Lif3” and Future’s “Codeine Crazy.”

Next up is Tarentino, the young Atlanta producer who crafted “March Madness,” which may just be the best hip-hop song in the last five years… if not ever.

The hip-hop scene in Atlanta is wildly interwoven and codependent. If producers don’t have nationwide recognition with the masses, they are still known within ATL hip-hop circles.

That small community aspect of Atlanta hip-hop helped Southside and 808 Mafia establish themselves on the world music scene.

It all started when Waka Flocka proposed the idea of an entire roster of producers to assist his two main producers, Lex Luger and Southside.

Since then, the members of 808 Mafia have been as instrumental as anyone in creating the “trap” sound of Atlanta.

In 2010, Southside and Lex Luger predominately masterminded the production on Waka Flocka’s seminal Flockaveli album.

Lex Luger had “Hard In Da Paint”

Southside had “Fuck The Club Up.”

From there, Southside and co. were signed to Gucci Mane and Waka’s 1017 Records. This naturally opened the door to collaborating with the ATL Godfather.

If you’ve followed hip-hop over the past decade, you know Gucci Mane has eschewed in almost every important artist out of Atlanta. The Gucci Mane cosign opens doors to limitless potential.

Southside, TM88, and the rest of 808 Mafia were in house producers for Gucci Mane and Waka, responsible for almost the entirety of Gucci’s prolific output over the years.

Such was the impact of 808 Mafia’s rise within rap circles that Southside was brought on to Watch the Throne to produce “Illest Motherfucker Alive” along with Mike Dean.

Jay-Z and Kanye West are cool and all, but it was a partnership with another Atlanta artist that really vaulted 808 Mafia to where they are right now.

In October of 2014, Southside and TM88 joined up with Future, with either of the producers appearing on about half of Monster, the beginning of Future’s epic run.

Those tracks included the Southside-produced “Fuck Up Some Commas” which made it onto DS2 later on.

There was also the dirty sprite anthem “Codeine Crazy” provided by TM88.

And while Zaytoven produced all of Beast Mode, the 2nd of Future’s triptych of groundbreaking mixtapes, Southside produced all but one of the tracks on 56 Nights. The only song not to be produced by Southside? “March Madness”… produced by Tarentino.

Future’s rise to the top of the game was propelled by beats from 808 Mafia, that’s some pretty cool shit.

And that little siren thing you keep hearing pop up on all these hip-hop beats?

Yeah, that was TM88 and Southside. TM88 told The Fader,

“Me and Southside, we found the sound, but we didn’t think it was going to take over the world the way it did. Even artists now call me, like, ‘Man, can we get the Kill Bill in there? Or that little 808 Mafia sound?'”

Where did it come from? The answer might surprise you… as TM88 says,

“Every time something happens in Kill Bill, that little noise just comes out of nowhere. We were like, ‘What the fuck, that shit is crazy.’ It just psyches your mind out or some shit—it gets you real amped, and ready for the fight, like some real ill shit finna happen!”

And although “Danny Glover” (“2 Bitches”) was the first track they used the siren on, “On the mainstream level, it took off with ‘Commas.'”

Recently Southside has been releasing his own music under the rap name Young Sizzle, which makes sense.

Why let anyone else have the fire you’re making, especially if you’re just sitting on your own catalog?

It’s interesting that Southside has started to wander into the MC lane. He was initially a rapper but after the success he had on Flockavelli as a producer, Southside kept making beats.

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the role of producers within hip-hop.

In June, producer Sonny Digital went on Instagram to call out the hip-hop community for not giving beatmakers enough love.

Sonny isn’t wrong by any means… and producers like Mike Will have put out solo projects featuring rappers instead of the other way around.

In response to this, Waka himself said that producers should “stay in their lane” and just make beats. This is kind of an antiquated view from someone who was so influential at the beginning of the decade.

It also caught the attention of Southside, who used Waka’s statement that producers shouldn’t make albums to announce… that 808 Mafia is coming out with an album!

A statement that was soon backed up by TM88.

It’s lit.

808 Mafia represent this changing landscape of hip-hop, where producers are slowly becoming as important to a project as the rappers themselves.

We’re just hype for the album.

Track-by-track: TM88 is one of hip-hop’s preeminent tastemakers

As hip-hop becomes more expansive and diverse, producers, as much as the artists themselves, are pushing the music forward, finding new sounds and directions in an eternal search for the coolest shit out.

TM88 is one of these producers at the forefront of the genre, making wild beats. Along with Southside, TM88 makes up the helm of 808 Mafia, a production collective that has shaped the sound of ‘New Atlanta’ over the last five years.

808 Mafia helped transition Atlanta away from the post-crunk era to the current trap sound, arguably the defining genre in American music today.

TM88’s first major beat was on Wacka Flocka’s Triple F Life on a track called “Lurkin”. The beat itself sounds kind of like Lex Luger lite, which makes sense seeing as Luger was a founding member of 808 Mafia.

“Lurkin” is fire, but more than anything it shows how TM88 has grown as a producer over the years.

In 2013, TM and 808 Mafia began cheffing up for Gucci Mane, with production credits on five projects Gucci released that year.

TM88’s dark, menacing sound is slowed down and sludged up from his earlier stuff, the producer found his sweet spot, like so many others from ATL, working with Gucci Mane.

TM88 also began collaborating with Metro Boomin’ (through Gucci) in 2013 on songs like “Squad Car” off Gucci and Young Thug’s Young Thugger Mane La Flare.

2013 was easily TM88’s breakout year, making beats for Gucci Mane and Future, in what would become a renaissance period for ATL hip-hop.

If TM88 broke out in 2013, the 808 Mafia honcho established himself as one of the prominent producers in the game in 2014.

With appearances on the late great ATL legend Bankroll Fresh’s album Life of a Hot Boy and Future’s massive Monster mixtape, TM solidified his position in the game.

I mean, dude produced “Codeine Crazy” so you know he’s a GAWD.

TM88’s style kept getting more and more different, pushing barriers and finding new sounds. In a 2015 Fader interveiw, TM88 talked about his sound,

“If I could explain it… shit man, I be on drugs. Them ‘xans and all that shit. So it’s real drug, pharmacy music.”

“Codeine Crazy” is certainly that.

One of the best aspects about ATL hip-hop is how the community seems to support itself.

Established producers will work with young artists, bringing them into a certain lane, which is what TM88 and Metro did for 21 Savage on his debut mixtape The Slaughter Tape.

From 21 Savage’s debut to Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, TM88 was truly doing everything in 2015.

My dude TM was truly out here making music with A-Trak.

You know when you’re smoking loud in A-Trak music videos you’ve pretty much reached the peak of the music industry.

And that siren sound popping up all over hip-hop beats? Yeah, that was TM88 and 808 Mafia. They ripped it from Kill Bill. TM told The Fader,

“Every time something happens in Kill Bill, that little noise just comes out of nowhere. We were like, ‘What the fuck, that shit is crazy.’ It just psyches your mind out or some shit—it gets you real amped, and ready for the fight, like some real ill shit finna happen!”

The first time it came up was on Young Thug’s “2 Bitches” (Danny Glover), but as TM88 says, “On the mainstream level, it took off with ‘Commas.'”

TM88 has gone from member of a production collective 808 Mafia to a hip-hop tastemaker with solo releases and collaborative projects, including an album with Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa, TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening.

Dude has made some of the hottest beats of the last couple years, including multiple tracks off Thug’s Jeffrey.

If you’re unconvinced of TM88’s impact on the game, he produced probably the biggest song in hip-hop right now (sorry old heads), Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Lif3”.

Comparing “XO Tour Lif3” with “Lurkin” from back in 2012, TM88’s growth through the years is pretty wild. The synths on “XO Tour Lif3” could hold their own in pretty much any genre beyond hip-hop, a far cry from trying to sound like 2010 Lex Luger.

TM88 is the truth, after making his imprint on the upper echelons of hip-hop, he’s working with up-and-comers like Lil Uzi and Smokepurpp.

The ATL beatmaker also has a way with words. When talking to The Fader about producers stealing his Kill Bill siren tag, he both shot down all the imitators in hip-hop production and also described his own process with one of the truly greatest quotations about music ever.

“Yeah, a lot of people using it. But you know your sound, you know who’s making this shit. I think people shouldn’t even get the shit confused, because you know when you hear those real 808s. A lot of people shit be sounding real soft; it don’t be that real thump. We just get high, man. If you really listen to the beats, we just put a whole bunch of sounds together that wouldn’t match, and make them match. It’s weird: it’s like banging trashcans together and getting angels to come out that motherfucker.”

Dude said “banging trashcans together and getting angels to come out that motherfucker”.

TM88 is going to keep pushing the music forward and getting angels out that motherf*cker.