TM88 and Pi’erre Bourne long admired each others’ work well before they ever met. “I never told [TM88] this, but I would always download songs that he produced and freestyle over them,” Bourne tells Billboard. Individually, the pair have made their bones in recent years as go-to hip-hop beatmakers — there’s a greater-than-solid chance that either of the two has produced a song for your favorite rapper at this point.
Now, they’ve joined forces as a classic rapper-producer duo, with TM88 behind the boards and Pi’erre in front of the mic. The duo has graced listeners with Yo!88, their first joint full-length released last Friday (Dec. 10) through Capitol Records/Taylor Gang/Interscope Records/SossHouse.
Across the tape’s 11 tracks, the duo sit firmly in their assumed roles: TM88 lays an impressive array of beats — like the floor-shaking bass on opening track “OMS” and the synth horns on lead single “Block Boy” — under Bourne’s catchy and effortless bars, which may surprise listeners who know him solely as a producer. But the latter part isn’t fresh news to fans who have been keeping up with his solo work, like The Life of Pi’erre 5, which arrived midway through this year. “Before, I was just making beats for people,” Bourne says. “But I didn’t feel fulfilled all the way because I love to rap.”
The two have always wanted to work with each other, but did not know when or in what capacity they’d be able to: “We didn’t even think about doing a project,” TM88 tells Billboard of their initial discussions about collaborating. “At first, I had to ask him, ‘Are you trying to collab [on beats?]’ and he was like, ‘Nah, I’m trying to rap!'” The pair took advantage of the extra time granted from pandemic-influenced shutdowns to direct their full focus toward working on the tape, though they never truly got the chance to work in a studio together for it.
Yet, the pandemic did very little to hinder their collective creative output for the project, or the wildly successful years they’ve had on their own. TM88 notched a Hot 100 No. 1 alongside Too Dope! in September for producing Drake’s “Way 2 Sexy” with Future and Young Thug, the indelible nightclub crowd pleaser that prominently samples Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy.” Following its release, Bourne’s The Life of Pi’erre 5 peaked at No. 17 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 35 on the Billboard 200, and he has since taken the record on United States and Europe tours. Yo!88 took a minute to get right, but its timing couldn’t be more perfect — serving as the cherry on top of a memorable 2021 for the two artists.
With Yo!88 out now, Billboard caught up with TM88 and Pi’erre Bourne to discuss the project, how they first met and their individually impressive years in music.
How are you two feeling about the early reception to Yo!88?
TM88: Man, it’s crazy. A lot of the fans, they f–kin’ with the project man, they’re messin’ with it. Sonically, aesthetically, everything around the project, they’re messin’ with it. There’s just been a lot of good response on my end.
Pi’erre Bourne: Yeah, everyone that’s been hitting me up, they love that s–t. They love everything about it. Everything TM did, they goin’ crazy over that s–t! We got a great response, so I’m excited about it.
Let’s start from the beginning. Where did you two meet and get to know each other?
TM88: We met in [Atlanta.] We knew the same people, and we ended up linking through a mutual friend. Ever since then we’ve been rocking out. Eventually, we knew we was gonna get together and work. We been knew each other way before the project. So it was bound to happen anyway.
And I’m also a fan of Pi’erre’s music too. I used to hear his beats before I knew who he was, and I used to tell my homie, “Man, whoever’s producing your s–t is crazy” and he’d be like, “Yeah, that’s my boy Pi’erre!” I was always a fan of his sound and I just one day wanted to try to intertwine both sounds and see what we come up with.
Bourne: Yeah, likewise. I’ve been a fan of TM’s stuff for the longest time. You know how when you listen to people, you never really think to yourself that you’re [actually] gonna meet them. So I moved to Atlanta, I met some folks — and most people be cap as hell — but TM is a real one bro. Even from the first day I saw him working, I respected it. It was a lot going on but bro was just working.
And I be on the same thing. When I have my time to work, I don’t be tolerating too many distractions. Even though it might be a lot going on, I just be dialed in on my computer. When I saw him doing that, at the time I was like, whenever we work, I know we’re going to be able to click — because I be on the same thing. So yeah, always been a fan of him and the fact that we got to work on something together is crazy.
How did that initial “Let’s do a tape” conversation play out between you two?
Bourne: I honestly think I finally got some time to really just work. With COVID and stuff, everything shut down and I was just stuck in the house. So I didn’t want to get bored and I didn’t wanna start doing stupid stuff. I was trying to stay proactive, stay productive. So I hit TM up to send me a couple beats and see what I could come up with. And I thought, if he f–ked with it, then maybe we could do a project.
It was just a little idea first, and then the fact that I got TM’s support after I did the first couple of songs — he liked the songs. And I was like, bet, I’m on the right page there. So he kept sending me more. And I felt like we had enough that it was damn near a project. Finally I was like, “We should drop this.”
TM88: Yeah, it was more so just ideas at first. We didn’t even think about doing a project. I’m gonna be honest, I was like, man, he’s killing it rapping and producing, so I didn’t know which angle we were gonna take it. We ended up getting to this point now, but it wasn’t supposed to be a project at first.
Were the beats on this project made with Pi’erre’s raps in mind?
TM88: Man, I’m gonna be real. I was just trying to give him beats of any kind, really. I didn’t wanna limit anything. It just so happened that a lot of the stuff that got on the project sounded [perfect] for Pi’erre to get on. I wanted Pi’erre to get on the beats [I sent]. I needed that Pi’erre bounce on that motherf–ker, those wavy sounds and s–t. Just for him to even trust me to build a soundtrack around his vocals was just cool. Because he makes beats too, I know it’s hard for a producer to let somebody else do everything.
Bourne: Yeah, I honestly enjoy rapping on other people’s production more because it’s easier for me to think of the words for the songs. But when it’s my own production, I’m thinking about changing something or manipulating this sound. Just not thinking of words and lines for the song, I’m still thinking of how I can edit the beat. But with TM’s beats, I’ve never had a problem with them.
You two got verses from Wiz Khalifa and Young Nudy on the project. How did that come together?
TM88: Wiz spazzed, and Nudy went crazy. Pi’erre can explain better why he wanted Wiz on it, but I always knew he was a fan of Wiz, and I knew it would’ve been super dope to go ahead and get Wiz on this project. I know Pi’erre doesn’t really do features like that, so it was just a dope thing for fans to see him doing features with other big artists as well.
Bourne: Wiz did his thing, Nudy did his thing too, I won’t leave him out. But me working with Wiz, I was a big fan of [2010 mixtape] Kush & Orange Juice and the engineering and mixing behind that, it kind of influenced me early on when I was still a kid, at about 15 or 16. But it influenced me lots, I was an aspiring artist at the time and I was making beats. I used to be a huge fan of him, so the fact that he’s on my song, man all my friends from high school called me. Everybody. They were like, “Bro what! You got Wiz on your song?” I’m like, “I know, ain’t it crazy?” I’m really happy he’s on the song with me, and he did a great job. You can tell he didn’t just play around, he did his thing.
Nudy, I’ve always wanted to do music with Nudy. I wanted Nudy to win on his own first, if that makes sense. We started together, but I was just his producer at first. So it’s cool that we actually did a song [for the first time] — like, that’s my brother, for real. I’m happy I got him on this album.
What lessons did you two take away from collaborating on this project?
TM88: It wasn’t hard to do this. Maybe the lesson I did learn was that things can go smooth if you do things with people that you really f–k with, you know, that really f–k with you. I’ve been in situations where — I mean, I’ve got projects in the vault right now that’s probably never coming out, just because everybody’s not on the same page, everybody’s doing other s–t. This is what happens when everybody’s able to stay on the same page to reach the goal. You get a fire album that the fans love, one that we love too.
Bourne: I’ve pretty much learned to keep believing in myself. That’s all I’ve ever been doing. Just working with people that believe in me just as much as I believe in myself, or people that believe in me more than I believe in myself. But mainly just surrounding myself around like-minded, talented people.
TM, we can’t ignore how huge “Way 2 Sexy” was this year. It’s only been a few months, but how are you looking back at the success of that song?
TM88: I still haven’t had time to really just sit back and think about it too much. Of course, I was working with Pi’erre on this project, and I’m still working with Future on his. But it’s super dope, man. I’ve been working a while and it just shows that you’ve got to have patience, man. To catch the No. 1 with Future, with this being his first, he’s one of my favorite artists — and Drake and Young Thug are some of mine too. It was just dope bro.
Do you ever feel pressured at all to recreate that magic when you’re trying to come up with and produce new stuff?
TM88: Nah, nah, you shouldn’t. I don’t know any producer that stays hot all the time, everybody has a down time. So you gotta know how to take that time and make the most of it, working on your craft, staying in the gym and shooting shots. Because even when people aren’t watching, you’re still getting that practice in.
I’m cooking up like, 50 beats a week man. I’m just finishing up this 500 pack. I just told my partner earlier, I’m on my fourth 500 pack of the year. Not saying that every beat coming out of that pack is gonna go crazy, but it’s repetition and I’m putting in my 10,000 hours every year.
Pi’erre, it’s been six months now since you dropped The Life of Pi’erre 5. How are you feeling about the project now that fans have had time to live with it and you’ve been able to tour it in recent months?
Bourne: I feel good. With all the COVID lockdowns, shutdowns and restrictions, man, it’s been a blessing to be able to still be successful in these times. With me just completing something, that’s how I feel, like I don’t even care if people like it or not. I’m the one that spent all my time on it, so I like it. But the fact that it’s out and people are receiving it well and gravitating towards it — we’re on the same page. But I’m just going forward, just trying to keep going and keeping my foot on the gas.
You announced recently that you’re teaming up with Pepsi to launch the Music Lab program. Can you talk about that and tell me why you felt it was important to get involved?
Bourne: When I was presented with the opportunity, it was something I couldn’t really turn down. Based off this [music] camp that we’re doing, I could possibly go and build my own team and work with these artists that we find. It’s dope that we’re looking for new artists. And with my production side, I can really sit and go crazy, get access to several studios and such.
If TM wants to come in and work on something for it, it would just be great for the culture and doing something good for the game. I’m happy Pepsi reached out and presented me the opportunity, I just don’t wanna let them down. So when it comes with the upcoming sessions with those artists, I’ll make sure we load them up with the right music, with the right set of people.
There you go, TM. You have an open invitation to get involved if you want.
TM88: Oh, I’m always down to work with my boy, man.
How will you two remember 2021?
TM88: Legendary. I went No. 1, man! Me and my boy Too Dope! But shoutout all my producers at Crash Dummy and everyone that helped us out with Yo!88. I enlisted a lot of people to show that we can push the producer culture forward by adding new people on and giving them an opportunity and a shot to make it with their dreams and goals.
Bourne: I feel like I finally figured out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. The fact that I’m on the road and people are seeing me every day, I’m finally making that connection that I’ve been trying to make for the longest in the studio. This is my life now. I can go to the studio with Nudy, lock in and make beats for him, and then go do Rolling Loud LA and perform Yo!88 in the same day. Before, everyone was like, “You can’t do both.” And yet, I’m literally doing both.
If 2021 was this good? Oh my God, I can’t wait for 2022.