It’s a shame that the voting for Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time had already concluded by the time Drake released his new album Certified Lover Boy. While the record is far from perfect, it does have a song that, in my mind, deserves to be very high on the list. The much-discussed “Way 2 Sexy,” which arrived with its own absurd and therefore perfect music video, is one of those tunes that you simply have to let happen to you. The track asks for nothing from its listeners except vibes. Try as you might, it is impossible to escape its embrace.
“Way 2 Sexy” will undoubtedly be rinsed by DJs at nightclubs. It’ll be blasted out of cars on the street, and out of gym loudspeakers worldwide. You’ll surely hear it in sports stadiums, and probably at a few weddings. At some point very soon, your elderly relatives will be inspired to make their first TikTok to the track. They probably won’t figure out how to upload it, but what kind of grandkid would you be if you didn’t get up and join them?
Produced by TM88 and TooDope, the song includes a sample of Right Said Fred’s early Nineties hit “I’m Too Sexy,” and features verses from Drake, Future, and Young Thug (who informs us that he is too sexy to count). With respect to Ms. Aretha Franklin, it is a perfect piece of music. It’s also the number one song in the country right now, according to the RS 100, second only to Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License” for the biggest chart debut this year.
The already prolific TM88 has proven to be particularly skilled at crafting irresistible hits. He’s known for producing songs by Future, Travis Scott, Wiz Khalifa, and more. Basically, anyone that matters in hip-hop likely has worked with TM88 at some point. With the news of his latest creation’s record-breaking success fresh on his mind, the Atlanta-based producer spoke to Rolling Stone about how “Way 2 Sexy” came together. He also discussed some of the lessons he’s learned producing hit records over the years and gave us a hint of what to expect from his upcoming projects with Pi’erre Bourne Roddy Ricch.
So, “Way 2 Sexy” is the biggest song in the world right now. What’s the story behind how that beat came about?
Me and TooDope, who also helped me make the beat, had been in my studio for about four days just going crazy, making beats all day long. On this particular day we happened to make, I think, about 12 beats. We were using a lot of the same drums, so I was like, ‘the next beat, let’s try a new drum. Let’s try something else.’ And it ended up being the “Way 2 Sexy” beat. We tried these new drums from this kit we got, and man, it was going so crazy. I had to give it to Future.
So at first, you weren’t imagining Drake at all? You were thinking this was a Future beat?
Yeah, for sure. And Drake getting on the song, you see what it did. It’s on one of his most anticipated projects, and it’s going crazy, spreading like wildfire. It just happened to be the single, which shocked me as well.
How’d you land on the sample? Do you remember the first time you heard the original “I’m Too Sexy”?
I heard the song when I was a kid, just being five or six years old and seeing the video on MTV — vintage MTV. And you would hear it in movies all the time. But that sample was actually Future’s idea. He was like, ‘man, add this sample in there.’ And my boy who is his engineer, he was like, ‘I got it.’ He found the sample and put that little piece in the beginning. It happened to just ride through.
Is it crazy to see how many young people remember that song?
Oh, man. I’m a very nostalgic person so I love everything from the Nineties and Eighties and early 2000s and stuff like that. And with Future, he was already singing that line. He already had that hook in his mind. So it was like, ‘If we’re going to sample something, that’s the only thing you can put in there.’
Have you received any feedback from older people who remember the song when it came out?
Yeah bro, my mom, my mother-in-law. It’s a song for every crowd, I think. Even though the lyrics might not be for the super young, I feel like the beat can be for them. Older people love it. You can be at the gas station and you’ll see somebody’s dad who’s 50-years-old pulling up bumping that shit. It’s funny, my trainer, he loves this kind of music, so I’ll walk in the gym and he’s playing it as I’m walking in and I think he’s like fifty-something.
It’s been a lot of good feedback. And with any song that comes out, it’s going to be a lot of people that like it and it’s going to be a lot of people that don’t like it. So you just got to take the good with the bad. And the good just outweighs the bad in this case.
Did you have to reach out to Right Said Fred?
I think Drake or Future reached out to them and got it cleared. That makes it way better, too.
What was it like for you when you saw how big the song was on the charts?
Bro, I’m still processing it now. It’s crazy to me because I have been in the game for nine years now. And we’ve had a lot of success so far. Between 808 Mafia and myself, we have been on a lot of number one albums. But to get the number one song? Bro, it’s a whole other feeling that I can’t even explain. A lot of people ask me ‘How does it feel?’ To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still in the studio. I’m working every day like I don’t have a number one because I’m striving to get more. It’s way more projects coming out and it’s way more work to do. You’ve got to stay in the gym.
Has your phone has been blowing up since this song came out?
A lot of artists have always been hitting us up. But right now, as you can imagine, it’s going crazy. Drake even hit me like two days ago and was like, ‘I need more beats.’ It’s to the point where I’m not even trying to leave the studio. I’m trying to just cram in as much work as I can because I know I’m going to have to start getting back out traveling soon. You’ve got to be prepared for when that time comes. You might be in the studio with Kendrick or Cole, and you want to have them vibes ready to go.
You and Future obviously have a deep working relationship. What’s the creative chemistry between you two like?
It’s hard to not make a beat and be like, ‘man, I’m going to send this to Future.’ So most of the beats I make, if I’m making trap stuff, it’s to cater to Future’s rap style. Because a lot of people that come to us for beats, they want the type of beats that Future would rap on. So if I’m already in that mode and always thinking about it, then I always have beats for him when he’s ready to rap. Being able to go in the studio knowing you got 20 beats and he’s going to rap on 20, and out of them 20 at least 18 of the songs is going to be crazy, that’s an amazing feeling. And I feel like with Future I work the best. I don’t know, I feel like we have the best chemistry out of 98% of the artists that I work with.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I got this Pi’erre project coming out, it’s called Balmain. And I’m working with Roddy Ricch, working with Future, working with a lot of people. I’m trying to bring out new artists as well. So definitely in the mix of all the stuff that we have going on, I want to be able to bring some new talent to the game. It’s a lot of stuff: R&B, hip-hop, everything.
And it’s been COVID for the past year. What’s it been like for your own productivity?
I have time now to sit down and actually think and bring good vibes to the table versus before. I was constantly gone 24/7. I didn’t see my house for two years. I’d be at different sessions and making beats on the spot. And you’re not really having that time to just sit back, read, or do research or anything like that. So I’ve been able to start learning keys more and start actually trying to put my beats on a whole other level. I know a lot of people would be like, ‘Man, your beats crazy.’ But it’s still more levels. And each year you should strive to get better than you were last year. On top of that, I’ve been able to chill with my daughter more and I feel like that’s a really important part of my growth as far as being a man. To put that time in to see your child grow. It humbles you and brings you down to where you need to be.
You got in the game pretty young, what have you learned in the past decade in hip-hop?
The fact that times change. And that’s what I think some producers don’t understand. Like, you’ve got to change with the times. That doesn’t mean you change your sound to sound like somebody else. But your stuff got to at least fit into what’s going on. Just being able to stay relevant through different waves coming through. I’ve also learned that it’s important to stay in your own lane at your own pace. Just because somebody else got it, doesn’t mean you’re supposed to have it right then. Take Southside, for instance. He had a bunch of records coming out before I even got with him. I can’t come in and be like, ‘Oh, I think I deserve what he has.’ You got to work for what’s yours and strive.
Speaking of keeping up with the youth. How did you and Pi’erre Bourne link up?
We have known each other for years just being around different studios. We actually met through a mutual friend. His name is Strick, he’s on YSL. We were in Atlanta and he said, ‘Man, I got a producer I know. He engineered for me.’ And I met him, and we’ve been cool ever since. We always wanted to work together but it was a timing thing. We finally got to a point where we were like, ‘Bro, we need to do something. Our fans will love it. It’ll be something new and refreshing for the youth.’ So we finally got together. I think we got 12 songs on this project. I wanted to basically go into Pi’erre’s world, figure out how he thinks, and then bring him to my world and make a whole new world out of the process. Fans are gonna hear a new wave of music.
When you guys met, he was around the age that you were when you came into the game. Do you feel on a certain level like you’re passing the torch to the next generation?
Yeah, man. But Pi’erre, he made it himself. So I feel like it’s more like us trading powers. Like if we were Dragon Ball Z characters or something. We can share energy and create something that neither of us expected. That’s exactly what happened.
Is there an artist you still haven’t worked with that you’d want to tap in with?
I’ve been sending beats to Cole a lot, we were talking for a minute. I definitely want to get on one of these Cole projects coming out. And I also want to show that I can do R&B. I just want to show the growth and show that we can do any kind of beat.