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Keys to the City: How super producer TM88 is giving artists a platform to inspire

Legendary producer TM88 paired up with 1800 Tequila for Keys to the City in order to give aspiring rappers a platform and to identify what makes US cities sonically and culturally special.

Embarking on his musical journey, TM88 made his way to three cities to link up with J-Mulan in Houston, Cassidy Jordan in Miami, and Swizzymack in Philadelphia.

Sure enough, the vibes were on point and throughout his musical pilgrimage, TM88 was able to curate three different beats particular to each city he pulled up to.

For some time now Tequila 1800 has been a huge advocate for hip-hop by standing for creativity and with true innovators, like TM88, at the vanguard of culture. Through Keys to the City, they are able to demonstrate how music can connect and express a city’s identity with creativity and authenticity.

In light of this dope and progressive collaboration, we caught up with the icon of a  producer and he told us about what inspired him in each musical hub he traveled to.

First destination, H-town, the birthplace of chop and screw

During the Houston visit, he was particularly inspired by the come-up story of Slim Thug and his homies, who had a desire to clean up the neighborhood.

Slim Thug and his homeboys that he grew up with, they took their neighborhood and built it up. They took the older homes, and put up new homes in there for families to move into.

For the Houston beat, TM88 drew inspiration from the city’s deep history of hip-hop. He chose to honor both the old and the new sounds of the city.

I thought about new school and old school and kinda tried to put it together.

By blending the slowed-down style popularized by the legendary DJ Screw, and the innovate incorporation of different melodic voices by artists like Travis Scott, TM88 created a beat as unique as the city of Houston.

Second stop, Miami, a unique and high energy melting pot

Although he was born there, TM88 didn’t spend much time growing up in Miami. This trip gave him a whole new experience than what he was used to when visiting family in the Magic City.

“Miami’s always gonna be special to me ’cause I was born there, but I feel like it was better to see a different side of Miami that I didn’t know anything about.”

Miami is a uniquely diverse melting pot of a city and the beat needed to reflect this. For that, TM88 mixed in some Latin vibes with the traps sounds popular in Miami hip-hop. The outcome was an energy-filled track that everyone can get crazy to.

The third city, Philly, where grit and hustle inspire underdogs

When asked what made Philly special, TM88’s response was simple,

I got to try a real Philly cheesesteak.

The authenticity is what makes Philadelphia special. Whether it be the food, or the people you’re getting the food with. The people are genuine and full of energy and it was important to capture that in the Philly beat.

It’s a city of underdogs and the hunger from the musicians reflects that. People gather their authentic energy from the grit and grind of the streets, which can all be heard in the Philly beat.

Offering advice to artists who didn’t win the Keys to the City contest, TM88 embodied the Philadelphia hustler’s spirit, saying

Still keep grinding and still keep pushing…There’s going to be more opportunities ahead.

All three beats are inspired by the different cities, but the story behind them can inspire us all. When first approached by 1800 for the project, it seemed like a no-brainer for TM88. He described the three-city tour as:

Going to different cities that people normally go to and do things that people normally don’t do when they go there. Instead of going to all the hot spots, take ’em to like the offset spots and meet the people and learn more about the city.

TM88 proves that you don’t have to be just a rapper or an athlete to make it out and he uses his current platform to show other producers and artists that you can.

Still, we’re hype he made it through – the beats are dope, the story is inspirational, and there’s sure to be plenty more in the future.

Only you have the keys to the city.

By the way, don’t forget to check out TM88’s new song  “Slayer” featuring Lil Uzi. It slaps!