Exclusive: TM88 Talks 'XO Tour Llif3' Success & Teases New Projects
TM88’s accolades keep growing. After producing Lil Uzi Vert’s top 10 hit “XO Tour Llif3” this year, that became even more apparent, with his first double platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America. But TM isn’t stopping there.
Instead, the super-producer is forging ahead with a slew of performances around the country, including a concert at Avalon in Hollywood tonight (July 14) as part of the “How 2 Dr!p Tour,” which is set to continue through Aug. 5 in Austin, Texas.
Before continuing on the run, TM88 spoke with Rap-Up about his biggest song to date and how it evolved over the course of three years. Plus, he broke down what fans should expect from him and 808 Mafia in the next year, including collaborations with Tinashe, Future, Gucci Mane, Lil Uzi Vert, and many more.
How do you approach the live experience? What can fans expect from a TM88 show?
Before I started deejaying, I went to a lot of shows. I’m also a fan of music, so I love, when I do the live shows, just to get that reaction from the crowd. So, when I walk up to the board, I’m looking at everyone in the front, the middle, and the back, just seeing the energy, reading the vibe, and trying to figure it out. That’s basically how I come up with my first song that I’m gonna drop for the night. If fans have ever been to one of the Young Thug shows I’ve done, they should expect high energy, not being able to breathe for an hour or more, just fun shit, man. A lot of people don’t like to dance or whatever, but I want to make the whole party dance and everybody move, to forget about the hard times they’ve had during the week. You know? Just party shit.
What is the song that gets everyone moving?
“XO Tour Llif3.” Of course, you know [Lil Uzi Vert] is a rockstar and the energy and emotion he put in that song, when you play it, there are certain lines in there that everyone is going to scream. You can feel it. You know everybody in there is waiting for you to play “XO Tour Llif3.” You’re just building up the anticipation and each song they think is gonna be “XO.” You give it to ’em when they least expect it and they jump out their shoes. It’s a great song and one of the songs that people are looking forward to when they come to a live show now. It used to be “Bad and Boujee” or “Black Beatles.” Now, they’re waiting to hear [Playboi Carti’s] “Magnolia” or “XO Tour Llif3.”
You recently went double platinum with “XO Tour Llif3.” How does that feel?
I woke up on my birthday and it just broke the top 40. Within three months, it went platinum. Another month after that, it’s double platinum. That was crazy. That’s my first platinum and double platinum [record]. It’s crazy.
It’s been on the Hot 100 for 15 weeks, but took about three years to make. How were you able to develop that beat into what we hear today?
Basically, a guy that’s my producer now, J.W. Lucas, paid me $3-4,000 for a collab, to make a beat with him. It was a beat we made that was slow and it definitely didn’t sound nothing like “XO.” I was just doing it like, “Yeah, let me get that $3-4,000.” I never thought it would do anything. I think I was on my old computer and I found the old beat so I chopped the beginning, the intro, and half of the first verse, and sped it up and made it a whole ‘nother beat. There’s this program called Gross Beat. You throw the file in there and it slows it down but speeds it up at the same time. It’s some weird, nerd shit. It turns the sound into a whole new wave, so I basically sampled myself and got “XO Tour Llif3.” I made it on a Beats Pill and sent it to Uzi. I actually sent him 20 beats and that was one of the beats.
How long did it take him to get it back to you?
I think it was a couple of weeks. After he got back from Hawaii, I pulled up on him at the studio and he actually played me a lot of records. You know how you’re in the studio and somebody’s playing a lot of music? I was like, “All this shit is fire.” I’m like, “Put something out.” I woke up one morning and the shit was out. I was like, “Damn.” I thank Uzi every time I see him.
Everybody is now waiting on Luv Is Rage 2. Do you have work on there, as well?
Definitely. For sure. Since the 20 beats, I probably gave him 40 more or 60 more. We’ve really been working. I just talked to him yesterday so I gotta send him some more beats.
Wow. So, you might send him over 100 beats by the time the album’s done.
I kind of do that with every artist that I have a relationship with, whether it’s Young Thug, Future, Wiz Khalifa, Gucci Mane, Travis Scott, and a few others. You gotta load them up. Those kind of rappers will do 100 songs and they’ll be like, “Alright. I need more beats.” I’m like, “I just sent you 200 beats.” Half of the songs people make, they don’t put out. They wanna make new songs and that’s how you keep the relationships. That’s how you stay on the projects.
That’s a pretty impressive output. What’s your daily studio routine like?
I wake up, brush my teeth, smoke, and go straight to the studio. I think I’m in the studio more often than not, probably from 4 p.m. all the way to 4 in the morning. Sometimes 6 p.m. to 4. It just depends, but I try to work on my craft because there are always more producers and more artists coming out so you want to be ahead of the curve. With the evolution of social media and people able to see and get on YouTube and make TM-type beats, Southside-type beats, or Metro Boomin and Sonny Digital, and they’re kind of catching on kind of fast, so I try to stay like, four or five swags ahead. You gotta switch it up every few months, the style of beats you’re making. They’ll catch on kind of quick. So you guys are doing that? I’m gonna do this, something else, and make the rappers rap on this shit, so it becomes the new hot shit.
After “XO Tour Llif3’s” success, do you find yourself going back to your older beats now, more than ever?
Yeah… Instead of sampling people that are gonna charge you like, a choir or something — sometimes they want your whole pub — or you sample Quincy Jones, but why not sample yourself? You might come up with a whole ‘nother kind of beat, a whole ‘nother swag. I do it sometimes, not all the time. I guess, when I get bored, I go through my catalog and see what I can do.
Recently, you talked about working with Tinashe. How did that collaboration come about and what was the studio session like?
The collaboration came about through management, but the studio session was cool, super cool. It was my first time meeting her and she’s really down to earth. I enjoyed working with her and I’m really trying to get as many credits on songs for her album or EP, whatever she’s dropping next. But she was super cool. She’s dope.
What can we expect from the collaboration?
It’s different from what I do, but it’s definitely TM. I feel like the industry or the fans don’t really understand what I really can do. They kind of just picture it as one sound, like, “He got the Future shit. He got shit with Travis. He got Wiz or Juicy J.” But they don’t understand that we can work with Tinashe or Jhené Aiko, or Beyoncé, or anybody, bro. We can work with anyone. We got a sound that no one else has heard before and this year, you will tune in. We got a lot of shit, bro, and we’re working on this 808 Mafia project too.
What else do you have in store for 2017 and 2018?
Me and Southside are working on this 808 Mafia album. We got Future, Gucci, Thug, there’s a lot of people. It’s executive produced by me, but we got somebody else that’s big helping me out too. So, we’re also putting out a beat tape. We put out a beat tape on LiveMixtapes and we were the first producers to do that. That’s how we made our mark in the industry. So, me and Southside are gonna put out a beat tape on Apple Music so fans can get on there, stream it, and rap on the beat or whatever. This is before the 808 album. I’ve also got my label, Crash Dummy. I’m signing producers. I got three producers right now and I might be looking for more at the moment. Just doing a whole bunch of shit and just working.
You dropped TGOD Mafia last year [with Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J]. Will we see a follow-up this year?
We might. It depends. I know Wiz is working on his album. We’re putting his album out and I know Juice is working on his album too. So, I hope so.
Any other collaborations besides those?
I’m definitely working on whatever Future got coming out. He’s working on something new right now, but he’s always working on some new shit. I’ve been working with Smokepurpp, Nessly, Lil Pump, and all the majors. Moneybag Yo, Yo Gotti’s artist, we’re doing an EP. Me and Southside are finna put out the first single from the album soon and I’m working on my single, getting that shit together. We’re moving around, just trying to stay successful to keep inspiring the culture to be better and make better producers so we can keep this music shit going. That’s the only way we’ll keep this going. We’re in a position we’re in right now and we can help other people that are not in that position so one day, they can become us and keep the music going.
That’s a really good way to look at music as a whole.
I feel like I’m a facilitator, bro. Every producer that stay in Atlanta, I done worked with them before. I had a platform before a lot of people. Mike WiLL was always on but when we had 808 Mafia, we had a lot going on in the city of Atlanta. We were also working with MMG and other people too, but other producers weren’t getting their shine and I was facilitating. I feel like I see a lot of talent before they become major so I try to work with them before they become mega superstars.
It takes a specific kind of ear to be able to do that. Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine talk about that in “The Defiant Ones,” about paying attention to different artists and having that ear.
You have to. New artists make the industry go ’round. Music would be so boring if you just have the same old artists all the time. It’s funny you mentioned the documentary because I’ve been watching the documentary on Jimi Hendrix and the Playboy magazine documentary, just successful people, and it just showed that they really went, they O.D.’d on work that they really believed in, no matter if they had a girlfriend on the side. They really had to lose girlfriends after girlfriends. In the last 6-7 months, I’ve been relating everything I’ve been doing to these documentaries I’ve been watching.
Personal lives are often affected by work. How do you balance that?
It’s very hard because you want to be great at what you’re doing. Especially if your job requires you to be out a lot, girls don’t understand that you’re working. They think it’s fun. It’s hard to balance family because they see you gone all the time and think you gotta have super millions. “He gotta be up $20-30 million.” Your family is calling. Your girlfriend’s calling. Your child’s mother’s calling. Everybody, bro. It’s very hard to balance, especially when you want to be great. Your peers might have songs coming out and you’re like, “Damn, bro. I’ve been chillin’ with you. I need to be in the studio working.” It’s very hard to balance but you’re gonna work hard at what you love to do. Girls and all that other shit will come later.
You can catch TM88 live at Avalon Hollywood tonight. Tickets are available now.