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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.