On Mon., April 4, the day Atlanta producer TM88 turned 30, he woke up to the news that Lil Uzi Vert's "XO TOUR Llif3," which TM produced along with J.W. Lucas, had debuted at No. 49 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. "I was like man... that's God!" TM tells XXL. "He's helping me out. It’s some shit you really dream about, and then you actually wake up to that shit. It’s crazy."
Two weeks later, the song would shoot up to the No. 8 slot, making it TM's first-ever Billboard top 10 song.
For one of rap's most prolific producers, it's surprising to find out "XO TOUR Llif3" is the first song of TM88's to chart that high. Over the last few years, he's landed production credits on classics for artists like Future ("Codeine Crazy," "Chosen One") and Young Thug ("Danny Glover," "Ill"), working hard to constantly stamp his name on new tracks from rap's biggest stars. But while he's produced for over 10 artists in 2017 alone, ranging from pop star Tove Lo to Miami rapper Smokepurpp, It's Uzi's breakout single that's finding him the most commercial success.
TM88 used Fruity Loops to make the "XO TOUR Llif3" beat on a portable Beats Pill speaker after a wild experience in Florida, where he's originally from. He had flown into his hometown of Miami to work with Future and Gucci on some new music, and while waiting for his return flight to Atlanta from Fort Lauderdale, a shooter opened fire in the terminal next to his. While footage of the shooting quickly went viral online, TM remained stranded in the airport for 10 hours, eventually driving to Miami in order to fly back to ATL. But in the process, he lost his laptop charger, so when he got back to his main studio, he couldn't use the laptop he'd normally hook up to his studio monitors.
"I had my old computers in Atlanta, and I couldn’t use the speakers because I didn’t have the hook ups," he says. "And I wanted to make beats so bad, I had a lot in me, I had a lot going on in my head, so I grabbed the Pill, sat down and cooked like a 20 pack. Sent Uzi like 10 or 12 of ‘em, and… 'XO TOUR Llif3.'"
Before he made the beat, he'd been FaceTiming with Uzi, whom TM considers a good friend. "I was actually at home in my room, smoking and vibing out," the producer, born Bryan Simmons, remembers. "Uzi happened to call me. We were on FaceTime for about an hour, just chopping it up about the industry and what’s going on and how we’re the real rock stars in this. We start a lot of the stuff that goes around. And us having that convo really gave him enough motivation to go in the studio and just go crazy and make a whole bunch of music. I know for a fact 'XO TOUR Llif3' came out of that session."
TM had two beats on Uzi's breakout 2015 project LUV Is Rage ("Queso" and "Lamborghini Dream" with Young Thug), so the two had developed a rapport throughout the years. "We're actually friends. We talk often, all the time," he shares. "We pull up on each other, all that. So we had the convo, and you know how sometimes, you kind of need to talk to one of your friends to get some motivation, like you’re working on projects, and we constantly seeing people stealing energy and shit, so you gotta get around the real energy and get your energy back."
He credits using the Beats Pill for the song's harder, more underground feel—something you don't always get with top of the line speakers. "Me and Southside used to make beats in the garage or anywhere we could make beats at. And it was real underground, trapped out crazy. You know, the Gucci, the Waka, all the music from that time frame was real gritty and trapped out and dark. [Producing on the Pill] brings you back down to like, What if I didn’t have speakers and I had to use the Pill? Could I do it?"
The producer heard the finished track three weeks before Uzi released it, and soon after it dropped, TM knew the song was special. So, he hit DJ Drama and Don Cannon, two of Uzi's managers, to let them know they had to give the song an extra push. According to TM, the song got passed around to five or six different engineers, resulting in the first iTunes mix that fans disapproved of. After seeing the backlash online, they got it to another engineer who restored the original version.
"XO TOUR Llif3" is set to be on Uzi's upcoming LUV Is Rage 2 project (featuring a secret surprise guest), and TM says he has "over 50-something songs" with the Philly rapper, so expect to see his production on the new project as well. The Atlanta-based producer is also working on EPs with MoneyBagg Yo and Smokepurpp and has been working on new music with The Weeknd, Travis Scott and Migos, to name a few. Plus, he's planning to drop his own solo EP as well as an 808 Mafia project later this year.
"I try not to force it," the beatmaker states when asked who else he wants to work with. "Like when labels try to put me in studios with artists, it’s kind of like a boot camp. I’m like bro, I’m not going, because I want it to be more organic."
Like Metro Boomin, he hopes to expand his own brand as a producer this year. "The TM brand, it’s getting bigger," he affirms. "I’m DJing a lot of shows, I just did Coachella. I’m making TM88 a bigger platform this year, and hopefully I can start with this 'XO TOUR Llif3.' Hopefully it goes to No. 1, and then we’ll have a different come up."
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