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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.