TM88 is here to prove why he’s one of the greatest artists to ever do it. The Grammy Award-nominated producer is a staple in the Atlanta trap hip-hop scene, working with all the elites from Young Thug and Future to Drake and Juicy J. His distinct style and ear for beats lended one of Uzi’s biggest hits to date, “XO Tour Llif3. The record has since gone 7x-certified Platinum while the visual hails over 386 million views and counting.
Real name Bryan Simmons comes from humble beginnings, selling beats at 12 years old for $40 a pop to co-founding one of the most talented production groups to date, 808 Mafia. If you hear the producer tag “808 Mafiaaa…”, you already know it’s a smash. Consisting of Southside, Lex Luger, and TM himself, this group of talented producers and songwriters came up alongside Waka Flocka’s Bricksquad imprint. Their catalog to date includes Future’s “March Madness,” Big Sean’s “Moves,” Young Thug’s “Danny Glover”… the list goes on.
Now, TM is switching his focus to his own solo artistry, putting out undeniable bangers with all your favorite artists on one track. “Blue Jean Bandit” featuring Young Thug, Future, and Moneybagg Yo is one example of his talents. He states, “as an artist, being able to drop songs with artists with different rappers is a dream come true.”
Accolades aside, TM88 is as excited as ever to introduce his own production team, Crash Dummy. Regardless, he strives to have a lasting impact in the music industry for years and years to come. Flaunt caught up with TM88 via Zoom to discuss exactly how 808 Mafia came into fruition, how he creates a vibe in the studio, working with Lil Uzi and Travis Scott, and more!
How’ve you been? I know you’re working and cooking all the damn time!
Man I’ve been working with everybody, trying to stay loading people up. I had a song with Future that came out on his album, “Pray for a Key.” I had another song “Blue Jean Bandit” we put out a week before that with him, Young Thug, Moneybagg Yo, and Southside.
Was “Pray for a Key” [with Future] done in the studio?
I actually made the beat where I’m at now, my studio. I made the beat with one of my new producers TooDope, he’s signed to CrAsH Dummy. We made a whole bunch of beats one day like “man, I know Future’s working on this album. Let me send it to him.” Future hit back like “bruh, can you send me some more beats?” I sent 20 more. See with Future, you have to load him up. You have to because he raps so much and raps on so many songs.
You and Future have been working for a minute, how’s your guys’ relationship?
It’s a trust level now we all have with each other. He knows when he hits me up, if he asks for a vibe, I can give it to him. Thinking back to the first time I ever met Future, I was a fan of him then. Maybe 2013, we’re in the studio through Propane. Being in the Yo with him, seeing how he recorded changed my whole approach to the rap game.
You’ll be on some shit thinking “okay, I made 3 beats this week. I’m cool, I can wait till next week.” But in reality, nah bro. You need to try to make as many beats as you can. Of course make sure they’re good beats, but make as many as you can. The way that music works now, the way the internet is, you have to feed the people and feed the artist. It’s coming out faster than ever.
Talk about your own work ethic. How often are you in the studio versus not?
Every day. There’s never a day I’m not in the studio now. When I didn’t have my own studio, I was in the studio 4 or 5 days out of 7. I go in early. If I’m doing studio with Southside, Metro, all them, we’ll get in the studio late at night. 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 12am, 1am, we stay in there all the way till the morning. If I book my own session, I go in 4pm or 5pm. In there until 5am or 6am, then go home.
I want it! I try to not lose sight of my main goal and that’s to win. Win at my standards, not everybody else’s standards. When people hear my music, I want them to say “this man’s legendary.” Think of me on the level of Kobe and Jordan, the level of their mentality and the way they think. I’ve been trying to compute that to the rap game since I got in it. Ask my friends, I always say Metro is like Steph Curry. That’s how I look at things, everybody puts their points up. I want to win.
What is it about Metro that makes him Steph Curry?
Because he’s younger than us, he came in shooting his shot. He’s shooting from the half court. [chuckles] We all create this vibe and energy, it’s a whole other type of bond with the artists. I look at Southside like he’s Russell Westbrook. The way he attacked the game, it’s crazy.
Can you properly tell the story of how 808 Mafia came about?
There’s a guy named Slim Dunkin, R.I.P. He’s not here anymore, he was in Brick Squad. He came to me one day like “bro, you’re too talented to be broke. You’re a good dude. You, Southside, and Lex Luger need to get together and do this. I’ma make sure it happens.” Me and Southside already worked together before, but we linked up again because of Slim Dunkin and our partner Tommy. Since then, we were going to take the company and make 808 Mafia bigger than our name. We had a lot going on, so Lex Luger didn’t want to pursue it. That’s cool, we moved on to the next. We kept building, kept building, kept building. 2012, we made a legendary company.
What was the turning point for 808 Mafia?
Southside ended up going on tour with Waka, I was still in Atlanta. Chief Keef and all them had started coming to the A. I remember one day they called me. Fredo, SD, Reese: “yo we’re in town, what’s your address?” They pulled up to the crib, we’re all sitting and smoking. Of course, I didn’t really have shit in my room. I didn’t have a bed, just a computer. At the same time, this is when I got the Future call.
I happened to do a mixtape for one of Shawty Lo’s artists. Long story short Propane tweeted” “who’s TM88? Tell him to hit me.” A whole bunch of fans hit me up, “this guy named Propane looking for you, he said Future wants some beats.” Got the email, sent the beats. Future did 12 songs. I pulled up the next day, that’s how we built our relationship with Future. I was originally going to sign to Future, but I was signed to Ms Debra Antney, Waka’s mom. She had her hands in Nicki Minaj, Guwop, etc. She really helped bring up all of us. When I look back, man I really had a legendary career. Not even the work but the situations I’ve been blessed to be a part of, it’s crazy.
How have you and Southside’s relationship evolved over the years?
Me and Southside have a long history. I called him 2 weeks ago. Even though I’m like his big brother, at the end of the day he was in the game first. He had the Kanye West and Jay-Z album, Watch the Throne. He’s working with Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Waka, Gucci, all these different artists. I’m like “damn, you really killing it bro.” I had to thank him, “bro you really shined your light on me so I could have a way to feed my family. Try to reach my goals and my dreams.” I could never be mad at him. We don’t hang as much as we used to because we got families. He might have a show, I might have a show. I might have a session, he got a session. But when we link up, it’s always good times.
How active are you on social media?
I’m very active. I don’t participate in the negative stuff because I’m very big on energy and balancing. You have to have balance when you wake up in the morning. You have to have your routine, that certain routine you do in the morning to fill out the rest of your day. Even if I’m out of town, I’ll still make time to workout. Call one of my managers and ask, I have to workout before I do anything. I make sure I get up before everybody and workout. It gives your body time to breathe, it opens your mind up. You knock out all the smoke, etc.
Who you bumping when you workout?
I definitely listen to a lot of my beats. I listen to my unreleased songs, songs I got out. I listen to Future, Nicki, Uzi, Young Thug, Gunna. I listen to other stuff too like Daft Punk. I listen to a lot of alternative rock, I might listen to dance music sometimes. If I’m working out with my trainer, he might play DMX. He plays a lot of stuff from when he was younger. Music in general keeps me locked in and loaded.
Speaking of Uzi, can you take us back to the creation of “Slayerr”?
We both were in LA. I was in LA working on my project, I had a studio crib. Everybody was pulling in: Fetty Wap, Travis Scott, Lil Dicky, Sheck Wes, G Herbo, MadeInTokyo, Juice WRLD. Wheezy was there, Southside, different producers pulling in. Juicy J, Trinidad James, a good collective of people coming through. It had a movie theatre, it had 3 levels. It had an elevator in there. It was cool! We’re cooking up in the garage.
I was up at 6am, about to go to sleep. Uzi hit me: “bro, what you doing? I need some beats.” I said “where you at?” He said “I’m in LA, I’m with Wheezy.” Sent me the addy, I got there at 8am. We’re all chillin in there, coolin’ it. Syd was there working on their song “Urgency.” We’re all choppin’ it up, talking about shit other than music. She ended up leaving, we talked some more. I loaded up some beats, “Slayerr” was the third song we did that morning. We’re running through songs, trying to find vibes. I said “bro, you know I’m working on my project.” He’s like “you can have ‘Slayer’.” It’s crazy because I’d told him “bro, you know you’re one of my best friends right?” He’s like “yeah, you’re my big bro.” I said “it still amazes me when you go in the booth and you really turn into the cartoon character.” You see his graphics? He turns into that person in the booth.
His dance moves and everything!
When he gets on the track, it automatically takes you to his album and mixtape covers. Even Travis [Scott] too. When you hear Trav, damn bro! Trav is amazing. Something he does with his voice, it’s crazy, I know he uses autotune, but he uses it in a different way. He takes you to a whole other planet.
What have you done with Travis Scott?
Throughout my career, I’ve done a lot of shit. I’ve been on all his albums. I did “No Bystanders.” I did “Coordinate.” The one before that, me, Metro and Southside did the beat with Mike Dean, “Nightcrawler” with Swae Lee and Chief Keef. I was on the Jackboys album too, the song with Don Toliver, Quavo, and Offset.
You created the visualizer to “Slayerr” right?
We made it. Me and our managers found the artist. That’s one of my favorite covers. Even though I dropped the song a minute ago, I’m still going to drop the video. We’re trying to do this video with Cartoon Network, give the fans something different to where it could air on TV. Something extra.
For “Blue Jean Bandit,” you say you’re just having fun with friends. How easy is it to call up these people for verses?
We’re cool. We all need favors from each other at the end of the day. You need beats? of course you’re going to have to pay for these beats, but we could work something else out. Me and Southside have a good relationship with everybody on the song. The whole process was easy… this time. Sometimes you have to deal with a lot of shit.
Like labels get involved?
Yeah, I don’t understand why they try to hold us back from dropping something so legendary. We could probably go Diamond off this shit, but it’s cool. We keep it pushing.
How do you create a vibe in the studio?
You have to have the lights. You have to have your bud. You have to be able to tell jokes. You have to level out the mood. You have to know how to read people. You better learn as much as you can about each person around you, that’s the smartest thing to do. Nowadays, people have people around them but they don’t try to learn them. You don’t know their tendencies, what they’re good at, what they’re bad at.
Candy, have Fruit Roll-Ups in the studio. Hi-C’s. You definitely have to have good beats. Video games, conversations, talk about stuff that has nothing to do with the studio. Animals, space, anything. It’s a lot we don’t know that we think we know. Thug taught me about a few animals and what they do. I didn’t know dogs had periods. Watching him one day, I inadvertently learned that dogs have periods. Him not knowing and him trying to figure it out. [laughs]
With his own dog right?
Right. He’ll talk about zebras, snakes, crocodiles, anything.
Talk about putting together “Hmmm” with Lil Yachty and Valee.
Valee’s fire, he came through the crib in LA. He kicked it with us for 3 days, we did about 5, 6songs. We put some extra pieces to it. One of my producers DJ Moon said “I’m going to add the end part to the middle, move the middle part to this part, move this part to the beginning.” That shit was fire! I called Yachty instantly: “I got a song for you, I know you’re going to go crazy.” I sent it to him, he said “wow this shit’s fire! I have to do my verse right now.” He did it the same day, sent it back in 30 to 40 minutes.
How is it having your own production team, Crash Dummy?
Right now, we’re 3x Grammy-nominated. We’re multi-Platinum. We went Gold 3x already this year, went Platinum once. It was time for me to do this because we took 808 Mafia from nothing and made it one of the best production companies ever. I wanted to give other people a chance and not water down the 808 Mafia brand by adding too many people. People don’t want to see or hear from the new members.”Where’s TM? Where‘s Southside? Where’s Pyrex? Where’s this person? Where’s Fuse?”
It’s me, TooDope, DJ Moon, my little nephew, Lil 88, my guy Sensei. We’re taking over. It’s time. We just had the Future come out. We got new Roddy Richh, Uzi, Thug, Swae Lee, Rich The Kid on the way. We got tons of music.
What made you name it Crash Dummy?
It’s a cool name. I was the crash dummy that went through the industry already and learned what I needed to learn. Now I can teach. I had to go through all the courses and crash out. Build relationships, tear down relationships that needed to be torn down. Cross other bridges.
What are some goals for yourself? You say you want to be the greatest.
Dr. Dre, Timbaland, I want to be considered on their platform. I’ve been working very hard to keep my dedication very high. Sometimes you can fall back a little bit because you do it everyday. You get to the point like “man, I feel burnt out.” How many times am I going Gold and Platinum? Hopefully this year or next year, I can win a Grammy.
I’m surprised you haven’t!
I’ve been nominated twice, so I’m knocking on the door. I’m going to get there soon. I’m always going to do music. That’s why I started my production company. I wanted to put some more producers on so they can go crazy. Potentially get to the level I’m at right now. I eventually want to go into the tech world, do stuff to push the music forward in the tech world. I’m trying to be on all the tech magazines. I want to do something for the producers, it’s in the works.