On many of the tracks we've mentioned, TM88 isn't the only name in the production credits. This has become more common in the wake of Kanye's nine-producers-per-song work on Yeezus, but as 808 Mafia (and more broadly, all of Atlanta) have shown us in recent years, collective, collaborative beatmaking might be the new wave.
For TM, having 808 Mafia's name and tag (rather than his own) on tracks began as a branding issue. He estimates that he contributed to 95% of the crew's credited beats, and admits that "A lot of my early tracks would say 'Produced by 808 Mafia,' even if I made it by myself." He explains: "I was just like, ‘Nah, put 808 Mafia on there, ‘cause one day I wanna go get a deal for over a billion dollars.’"
Although he's recently distanced himself from the collective and racked up more credits under his own name, TM hasn't stopped collaborating with top-tier producers. He routinely works with ATL's other big names-- Metro Boomin, DJ Spinz, Zaytoven, Sonny Digital-- and credits this to long-standing friendships that predate most of their musical careers. "We became friends first, before we started really just working together," he says. "We’d be seeing each other out, and then we would just pull up and talk for a long time, smoke, whatever. Then we just started making beats together, and decided that we needed to keep this circle like we had it... then we could take over the world."
This bond is immediately apparent in Young Thug's "Some More" video, in which TM appears alongside his co-producers, Metro and Sonny. As with the song, the video was a spontaneous collab between all parties involved, shot in Metro's garage at four in the morning.
Never before has there been an era in hip hop where so much production is a result of cross-pollination between various artists. It always seemed to me like producers, unlike rappers, were so tied to their sound, the secrets behind it, and their reputation, to want to compose material with their peers. After all, you can't just hop on tracks for a "guest verse"-style interlude as a producer. Real, organic cooperation has to happen. With that inevitably comes competition, but thanks to the pre-existing bonds TM had with most of ATL's production world, it doesn't taint the success of his friends:
"It’s always a competition, but we family, so once they get a record, I’m happy for them. Like you know, Meek Mill’s album’s out, and Metro and Southside got two on his album, and I congratulate them. That’s fam. And I’m pretty sure that when they see me have records, they’re like, ‘Man, TM got another record.’ So that makes it even better for us to come together and make a whole 50 pack, when all of us got records that are moving, moving, moving. Then send out the 50 pack and the whole industry wanna rap on it— that’s how we get a lot of records. It’s fun, it’s friendly competition. Everyone wanna win."