“I learned one thing from Kanye that I will always think of going forward. He told me to always make sure I focus on the music, and the money will come afterward. If I put all of my focus on the music, the music will sound better and I won’t have to worry about the money later on because it’s gonna come from the great music I’ve been making.”
As more time passes, people are beginning to realize just how much impact producers have and recognize the overall importance that they play in the overall creation of a song. One thing we have been seeing a lot over the past couple of years is producers getting listed as main artists on songs now, rather than their name being in the backend on the credits. Producers are letting their presence be known, and rightfully so, it’s about time. That being said, when speaking about the producer pioneers and the people who really helped shape and shift the culture, it’s very difficult to speak on that without mentioning 808 Mafia, and Southside.
Being the founder of 808 Mafia alongside TM88, Southside is responsible for hundreds of songs that we all know and love today. With producer credits that span well over a decade, Southside got his first big break back in the day producing songs for Waka Flocka Flame and Gucci Mane. Since then, Southside has gone on to produce many classic records from a lot of our favorite artists; those being Travis Scott, Future, Young Thug, G Herbo, and more.
After releasing brand new singles of his own this year, “Hold That Heat” with Travis Scott and Future, and “Save Me” with Lil Durk, I sat down with Southside to speak about how the journey all began. We chopped it up about the origins of 808 Mafia, him gaining knowledge and game from his OG’s, putting together an album, his legacy on the world, and more.
Read our conversation in full below!
LM: Two years ago, I interviewed TM88 and he broke down how the 808 Mafia journey began, but I’d love to hear about it from your perspective.
SS: Man, TM88 was always one of my big brothers and I always looked up to him. He was from where I was from and he always had hard beats. Eventually, I started hanging with him and learning from him; watching him make beats. I kinda went on my own for a while and then Slim Duncan was like “Bro, you gotta start working with T; you gotta go crazy with him”. Long story short, TM88 and I got back together, started going crazy and working together, and we formed 808 Mafia.
The name 808 Mafia originally came from Waka Flocka Flame, and it was actually supposed to be Lex Luger and I originally. He wasn’t really with it at first and he wanted to focus on being Lex Luger, so T and I took it full throttle and went crazy with it.
LM: When you first started making beats, did you imagine that it would be this crazy?
SS: Never ever, bro. Not this crazy. It’s like one of those things you sit in the house as a kid and dream about. I’m really living every bit of that dream, times ten right now.
LM: What was the moment that made you realize that this was working?
SS: I would say after Future’s DS2 came out, everything was just different. Just the way that everyone started to treat me after the success of that album, it all just quadrupled. All the respect, me going in trying to negotiate deals; it all just elevated after that album. After that, I was like “Damn, I’m really gonna be a legend. I’m gonna be a Pharrell. I’m gonna be a Timbaland”.
After that album, it made us become producer celebrities. All of the work that I put in before that album, I still had to tell people who I was and what I did. I used to have to tell people what songs I produced and who I worked with. After DS2, I didn’t have to tell anybody which songs I produced; people just knew.
LM: You’re one of the earliest producers who are responsible for the trap sound, who are the ones that inspired you and where did you get your sound from?
My sound was heavily influenced by Three 6 Mafia back in the day. I loved all of their music because of how dark it was. I love Juicy J; that’s my big brother, for real. I got a lot of my swag from them. As far as my jewelry, I got my inspiration from Pharrell. I always loved how he dressed and how his jewelry was always hittin’. I loved Timbaland and the distinct sound that he had. Swizz Beatz; I always looked up to him as well. Kanye West of course. Kanye is the reason that I rap to this day. I always looked up to those guys; the PRODUCER producers, you know?
LM: Seeing as you’ve worked in the game for so long, what is it that keeps you going?
SS: I want more in life, always. Some people are cool with making two million dollars, or three million dollars. That’s two months for me. So if I want to live this life that I say I want to live and I say I want to be a billionaire when I’m 50-60 years old, I gotta keep working. Eventually, something else is gonna come that’s gonna make me get to where I want to get me closer to that goal, but it’s always gonna stem from music. I could never ever stop making music; it’s my first love when it comes to my business.
It used to feel like work back then, but now it’s all fun to me. I wake up and go to the studio every day, and it’s fun for me. I don’t care if we go to the studio just to kick it; I know that we gonna come out with at least two or three bangers by the end of the day. This is the best time for me to do music honestly. I’m having fun, I don’t have any worries, I have no stress. It’s not like it was before when I was broke and trying to take care of my kids. Now it’s like, my kids are taken care of and my family is taken care of. I have the best management. I have the best team. So it’s like, why wouldn’t I go hard right now when I have everything set up for me?
LM: Who are some artists or producers that you haven’t worked with that you’re still interested in cookin’ up with?
SS: To be honest with you, none. I feel like I done already worked with everyone who was on my list of people I looked up to that I wanted to work with. I was never really focused on working with the OGs like that though; I was more-so focused on getting the game from them and learning from them. Just a chance to sit down with them and see how they live and learn about their come up in the industry. How they fucked up, how they bounced back from a fuck up, you know? That means so much more to me than just making music with them and that’s it. I have mad respect for my OGs.
Jay-Z is a real OG to me. You know, it’s dudes out here that’s gettin’ millions of dollars and just out here doing crazy shit, just doing anything. Jay is a real dude who is about his business and he’s always helping others. There will never be two Jay-Z’s, ever. That’s the type of OG that I love to have around me.
LM: What’s the best piece of advice that you learned from your OGs in the music industry?
SS: I learned one thing from Kanye that I will always think of going forward. He told me to always make sure I focus on the music, and the money will come afterward. If I put all of my focus on the music, the music will sound better and I won’t have to worry about the money later on because it’s gonna come from the great music I’ve been making. I tell my boys that all the time like, bro, don’t worry about the money right away; it’s gonna come. Worry about your craft. When your craft is the best, your music will be the best.
LM: Your relationship with Future is one that has been ongoing for so many years now, and you guys have given the world timeless hits and classics. How did that relationship between you and Future come about and how do have you managed to stay close after all these years?
SS: It really began back with TM88 because he was one of the people who were really locked in with Future back then. It was TM88 and Metro Boomin. Metro really threw me in there with Future. We made hella songs like “Chosen One”, “100it Racks” and a lot of the songs from The Movie, we made those in one night. That’s really my big brother, like, he can call me on some other shit not related to music and I’ll always answer. He will always tell me when I’m wrong, if I’m doing too much, you know? We can go to the studio and don’t make anything sometimes. I was in LA recently and he came and pulled up on me, just on some “Let me slide on you right quick” type of shit. We ended up recording a song together that I’m gonna put out soon. We are real brothers though. Whatever he asks me for, I’m gonna do it.
LM: Crazy enough, I just read an article that said Future has officially sold over 95 million records and I’m sure you’re responsible for about half of those.
SS: Yeah, I think I made about 45 million records with Future over the span of the last five years or so. We really are locked in, bro.
LM: What’s one thing that you feel is missing in the producer industry right now or what do you wish you saw more of?
SS: I feel like a lot of these new kids are too quick to give up everything, you know? When I was coming up, I wasn’t no groupie or anything at all, bro. I didn’t care if you were the most famous person in the world. I feel like a lot of people are willing to give up everything they have just to be attached to that name. I was never the one to be like, you can give me $750 and I’ll give you all of my publishing and all of my ownership just so I can work with you. I’d rather starve and we can find another way to eat, and I can go and get this money three years from now.
I feel like the producer community could hold out a little longer and don’t give themselves away too fast. This is your art, you know? You’re the only one with those sounds, that style, that creativity, you need to protect that. That’s priceless. You can’t be scared of the struggle. I think I play a part in that sometimes though. We have 808 Mafia and we do put a lot of these young producers in positions, but at the same time, I like to keep them grounded. I tell them all the time that they’re competing with me. Yes, we’re on the same team, but don’t think I’m gonna walk away from my records to come get you poppin’. No, you gotta put that work in.
I keep them motivated and it helps because we all win. I want all of them to strive for more. If we all aim for nothing but the best, that means we can have placements on number one, two, three, four, and five, you know? Then at that point, we run music. We’re all over the charts. We all can’t be number one at the same time. I tell them all the time that I’ve been number two my whole life. I’ve never been number one but I’m richer than all the number ones. It’s all a friendly competition and it’s love always, but we all have to put that work in.
LM: I love that you’ve been preaching that to a lot of the young producers since everyone is big on ownership nowadays. It shows them to be more appreciative of their art.
SS: Always, bro. Not everybody gets it out there, but I understand. Some people are cool with making their one million or five million dollars and then they go missing, and that’s okay, but I can’t do that. I need five billion, and then I’ll go sit down. Even then, I’ll think about it. I’m not slowing down. I don’t give a damn what nobody says.
LM: You’ve been getting into making collaboration albums like you and G Herbo, Doe Boy, etc. How does it feel working on your own albums instead of just producing singles for others?
SS: I look at all of it the same, to be honest. I think that a lot of the work that I’ve done with other artists and making these collab albums, really just helps me out with my own album. I like to just work and then whatever comes from it, is what comes from it. I think now people are starting to come to me about collab albums, but before, I was never thinking about it. Thug could call me and be like “Bro, let’s lock in for a week”, and then we make like 30 to 40 songs. Then it’s like, shit, if ten of them are hard, then we might as well drop a tape. Free my boy Thug, by the way.
LM: You currently have a new single with Travis and Future called “Hold That Heat”, tell me a bit about how that came about.
SS: I made the beat for “Hold That Heat” like four or five years ago. Travis had the idea for that song back when we were making one of the Rodeo albums. Some kind of way, he ended up getting his old drive back. My homie pulled the beat up and when he pulled it up, it was only filled with adlibs and cadences on it, but the beat was so crazy. He told him to go in the booth and do two verses and was like “Bro, you need to get back on this wave”.
Travis ended up coming to Atlanta and he put Future on the song. I thought the song was perfect the way it was because Travis’ second verse is crazy. But it ended up being crazier with Future on it. Travis called me and told me that he was gonna do Rolling Loud and perform “Hold That Heat”. I tried to make it out there, but my flight was delayed. I was mad because Future was supposed to bring me out and then I was supposed to bring Travis out for that moment. It’s all good though; it just made me feel great seeing the energy that the song had and the impact of that moment.
LM: Your follow-up single “Save Me” with Durk just released as well; Talk about the creation of that song.
SS: Durk had the song made and it was supposed to drop for his album 7220 because we produced “AHHH HA” for Durk too. He ended up using “AHHH HA” for the album instead of “Save Me”, and he was gonna put it on the deluxe. I hit him before the deluxe dropped and was like “Bro, I need that song; don’t put it on the deluxe” and he was like “Shit, you can have it, bro”. Durk is my brother for real though and I have nothing but love for him.
LM: What are some things outside of music that you’re currently working on?
SS: I don’t wanna give too many of the ideas away but one thing I am working on is getting some kits together for the producers. Plugins, sounds, all of that. Looking into doing a producer school as well for kids to learn how to make beats. I want to do the first school in Chicago. We working on it though. Chicago is my second home; I love Chicago.
LM: When it’s all said and done, what do you want the world to remember Southside for?
SS: I want people to think of Southside and say he was one of the most real. He was one of the people who gave people a chance and gave them that position that he always dreamed of when he was young. I don’t care about how much money I made or none of that. I want people to look at my impact on the world and the game and see how much I changed the culture.
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