Hip-Hop

TM88 Talks Producing Drake's 'Way 2 Sexy' & How the Song Was Originally Made For Future

TM88
Daniel Kelly*

TM88

Drake’s eighth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, depicts the Toronto rapper in all his various hues. The 21-song LP delivers Drake the passive-aggressive crooner, Drake the vengeful rapper, and Drake the painfully paranoid celebrity in all of his toxic glory. All while maintaining his position as Drake, King of the Charts. 

Drizzy made history with CLB's debut week, when he became the first artist to have nine songs occupy the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, including all of the top five. Leading the pack was his No. 1 record “Way 2 Sexy,” featuring Future and Young Thug. Produced by Too Dope! and 808 Mafia’s TM88, the song comes equipped with a sample from Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit  “I’m Too Sexy,” an earworm of a hook, and myriad memes from its accompanying music video. 

Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 records are hard to come by, even for professional hitmakers like TM88.  “I don’t know how to feel about the No.1,” TM88 tells Billboard. “This is my first time, so I’m still trying to process everything.” The Atlanta-based producer had appeared on several successful projects before making his first major wave after lacing the beat for Lil Uzi Vert’s now-iconic song “XO Tour Lif3” back in 2017. The Grammy-nominated producer now has his own label, Crash Dummy Records, several platinum plaques, and a laundry list of credits with the likes of Young Thug, Travis Scott, Drake, and longtime collaborator Future.

TM and Future have been working together since 2013, and when he first gave the rapper the “Way 2 Sexy” beat that he made from scratch, TM said that Drake was actually the last artist to hop on the song. “It could’ve went to Future’s album -- but I feel like the whole time, in Future’s mind, he was going to put Drake on it anyway,” TM explained. “Because you know, Future came in and was doing the ‘Way 2 Sexy’ hook, and he was like, ‘Man, put that ‘Too Sexy’ sample in front of the hook.’ I didn’t hear it that night on the beat. Mind you, I heard it the next time I pulled up to the studio, and I was so surprised. It was Future’s idea to use that sample. He’s a wizard, bro.”

With a mix of TM88 and Too Dope!’s genius, Future’s wizardry, Young Thug’s charisma, and Drake’s Midas touch, “Way 2 Sexy” is the crown jewel of CLB’s chart takeover and acts as another shining example of the Atlanta producer’s skill. As he prepares to release a joint project with rapper/producer Pi’erre Bourne, titled TM88 & Pi’erre Bourne Present: Pierre Balmain, Billboard caught up with TM88 about how “Way 2 Sexy” came together, landing his first No.1 record with Future, and what other major artists he’s been working with. 

I feel like it’s almost poetic how this is both your and Future’s first No. 1. What does it feel like to share this accomplishment with someone you’ve worked with for so long? 

It’s super dope, just for the simple fact of how long we’ve been working [together], and how many projects I’ve been on for him and songs we’ve had. Even when we talked on the phone about it and he told me, I was like, “Seriously?” I thought he been had a No. 1 -- but he thought I had a No. 1 with “XO Tour Lif3,” and I was like, “Nah, it didn’t go No. 1.” And he was like, “Damn, this is our first No. 1.” It just feels great to share that moment, with somebody that I really love to work with, and we have amazing chemistry when we work together on songs. It’s just dope. 

When you were making it, did you think this song would be the one to top the charts?

Nah -- when we’re making beats, we’re just on a roll. So, once we finish with the whole pack, I go through the beats and I’m like, “All right, I hear Future on this, I hear this person on this, I hear Moneybagg [Yo] on this,” you know? Future ended up calling me and he was like, “Pull up to the studio.” So I pulled up to the studio and he was like, “Man, I’m going crazy right now. I need some beats.”

He was letting me hear songs that we did, and that was one of the beats. The “Way 2 Sexy” beat was one of the beats I gave him that night. That week we did, like, 15 to 20 songs, and “Way 2 Sexy” was one of them -- but when I made the beat, I didn’t feel that way. I was just making so many of them, just cooking up. When I heard the song, I knew it was crazy.

Walk me through the making of “Way 2 Sexy.” How did the beat come together and everything?  

For about three or four days me and my producer Too Dope!, the guy who helped me produce it -- he’s crazy on the beats -- we were just cooking, up and on the last day we got tired of using the same drum. So we went through some different drums, and picked them out and went from scratch. Man, we picked this one drum and it was hitting so hard, and we were like, “We have to use this in the beat.” We don’t care if we have to force it.

So, we started making the “Way 2 Sexy” beat, and I’ll be honest, we just looked at it like a regular beat. But it was hitting crazy, and when we got in the middle of the beat I was like, “We have to send this to Future.” When you get into the middle of the beat is when you figure out who you want to send it to. I knew Future had to get this, and this was in the pack of, like, 30 beats I gave him. 

Then he hit me on Instagram and was like, “Bro, you busy? Pull up to the studio.” I say "Bet," and pull up. I get to the studio, and he’s in there recording with some stuff I already sent him. I always email him something before I pull up so he can always be working. I pulled up, and he was like, “Pull up some beats.” That was the first beat he pulled up. Then I left, and [Young] Thug ended up pulling up to the studio, and he put his verse on there. After that, Drake put his verse on there.

“Way 2 Sexy” sounds like one of those festival songs that get the crowd moshing and also does great in the clubs. What was it like seeing the crowd's reaction to it at Wireless Fest in London?

It’s fire, bro. I get butterflies every time. I think about it -- because you know how you just be working, working, working. And you’re trying not to think about it, so it doesn’t throw you off. But once I get some downtime when I’m finished cooking up, I get to thinking about it -- and I see footage and I’m like, “Dang, bro.” I wanted to be on Drake’s album, but I just wanted to be on the album in general. I wasn’t worried about getting the single or anything. So for it to be the single and for it to take off the way it did, God’s blessing me a lot.

Is this feeling you have now similar to the one you had when “XO Tour Lif3” went viral?

Yeah it’s similar -- but this is different, because, on my end, there’s no type of negative energy around it. “XO” will always be the track that I’ll love forever, but this is different. To have a No.1... I can’t compare them, but I can’t put “XO” over this one. This is No.1! 

Just to see the love from my peers -- Southside, Metro Boomin, Mike WiLL [Made-it], Murda [Beatz], everybody really -- this is what you want. I compare everything to sports, so when you’re an NBA player and you get that No. 1 spot, this is what you want! And you want your peers to celebrate with you. It’s like winning a championship, so I feel great. I feel like I didn’t need it to validate me, but it feels great.

This is your first time working with Drake since making “Company," off 2015's If You're Reading This It's Too Late. How has the process of working with him changed since then?

I’ll be honest. We worked on that record for, like, a month. I feel like this was an easier record to do, because it was more comfortable for me. Working with Trav [Scott], and having the version that Drake had already [of “Company”], you don’t want to mess it up. While Travis was recording, we had to build the beat around him recording. So it was one of those situations that were new to me, but when we did it, everybody was excited. We were running around the studio, Trav was jumping on equipment and stuff. “Way 2 Sexy” was just way more comfortable to do, and it was a way more fun record to do versus “Company.”

It was fun, but it was more technical. I’m working with Wondagurl and Allen Ritter. They’re already crazy on the beat. I know they love my stuff, but I also love their stuff -- and you always want to bring something fire to the table when you’re working with heavy hitters like that. Then this one, I get to share it with my producer. All them nights when we cooked up together, sat down and talked about him finally getting his opportunity and what he was going to do when he gets his opportunity to go crazy. I’m happy for him, Too Dope!.

You mentioned that you made 15 to 20 beats for Future the night he chose “Way 2 Sexy,” and you’re always cooking up stuff for him. Do you think a What a Time to Be Alive 2 could ever happen out of all the beats you make for him and Drake?

I hope so. The fans want it. I’m pretty sure all the producers want it, because everybody wants to get an opportunity to get in on that. What A Time To Be Alive went crazy. You know Metro would have to be a part of it. Southside has to be a part of it too. I don’t know. Maybe they might come up with something new. With them two, you just never know.

I just try to stay prepared and always have beats on standby. And it’s kind of hard, because the stuff I send to Future and Drake, I don’t send to anybody else. So I have to make a whole new pack of beats -- and then you got Roddy [Ricch] calling, you got Trav calling. Just having to have your mind in so many different spaces, you have to stay focused.

Speaking of collabs, talk about the joint project you have Pi’erre Bourne coming out soon. How do you two initially connect?

Me and P [Pi’erre Bourne] always wanted to work. We always said, “Okay, we’re going to cook up together, we’re going to do this.” My first thought was that I wanted to collab on the beats and give them to different artists. He wanted to rap on the beats, so that was the misunderstanding that I had in my head at first. I’m like, “Aight, well let’s do it!”

So one day, we were on Twitter and we hit each other up like, “Bro, let’s do this project.” And he was like, “Man, send me some beats. Let's start working.” I sent him some beats. One of my managers, Dre, pulled up Pi’erre and dropped off some beats when they were in New York, and probably did 20 songs. I went through a lot of the songs, started switching beats up, putting transitions in them. Basically, just putting them on steroids. 

The concept that I had in my head for when we decided to do this project was that I wanted to bring my world to his world and create a whole new world. A whole new sound of beats, and get people to hear Pi’erre differently. He’s used to rapping on his own beats, so I wanted to give him something fresh and new. The fans are going crazy. They can’t wait for it. I can’t wait for it. The project is done, we’re just figuring out the cover art right now. Figuring out the cover art hasn't been this hard in years.

Does the project have a name yet?

Yeah, P named it. It’s Balmain. TM88 & Pi’erre Bourne Present: Pierre Balmain. Balmain for short. 

Are there any other projects you’re on coming out this year that you're excited about?

I know we’re on the Roddy Ricch album. I’ve been wanting to work with bro for a long time, so just us being able to vibe out and cook up was fun. He pulled up to Atlanta one time and we did some songs. We’ve been working throughout the whole quarantine. We’ve been keeping in touch and making songs, so I’m really excited about what we got on there. One of my producers, Lex, he’s a new guy and plays keys. He’s on Roddy Ricch’s album. There’s so much new music that’s about to come out. Southside and Polo G have a project that’s coming out, so we’re on there like crazy.

It’s a lot of stuff. And I’ve been working with some newer artists that people don’t really know and they’re very talented, especially in the R&B world. From putting on new talent and working with all the talent I’ve been working with, we got a lot going on.