chilling. I'm on the road right now doing some parties.
got a lot of dope projects coming up. The one that's got the most buzz
on HipHopGame is the Saigon project. Why did you choose to work with him?
Saigon's gangster for a minute. I wanted to work with East Coast artists
on "Gangsta Grillz" to branch out. There are so many artists
out there that are bringing so much to the table, and one of those is
Saigon. He is far from his peak. When I was looking at artists out of
the Northeast region, he was definitely in the forefront because of what
he's already brought to the table and where he's going. It was only right.
A lot of my mixtapes are built of relationships. It's not like I got a
call from Sai out of the blue one day. We've been talking for awhile and
planning it out.
you guys work together on it?
much handled his side of it, which was making some new music for the tape
and putting together some of his joints that have already been out and
have been fan favorites. The label told me they expect a lot from this.
If I'm doing a tape with someone, I normally don't like to put music on
it that's already been out. With Sai, I know that we're going to reach
audiences that are new for me and new for him. He got me the music, we
worked on a concept, and I wrote out a script for him to do. We pretty
much banged out everything. He sent me everything when it was ready and
I did my part. We went back-and-forth getting it right. When the music
is good, my job is easy.
you think your fans will react to Saigon?
I think people
are going to react positively. I realize that I have a very quality brand.
When I look at my career in the last year, it's really been a dream for
me. I've been at this since '92. I'm originally from Philly, but I rep
the South enormously. If it wasn't for Atlanta embracing me, my career
would not be where it is. At the end of the day, I'm a child of Hip Hop.
I was born in '78. Everything about my generation is Hip Hop. It would
only be right for me to branch out and work with Saigon in New York, Freeway
in Philly, or Game on the West Coast. It's all Hip Hop music. My man Banner
said that we are the only culture that breaks our shit down like, "The
South is running things, why isn't the East Coast hot?" Rock and
roll niggas don't talk about "What's up with Down South rock and
roll?" Good music is good music, and I represent good music. The
fans that fuck with me, whether they're from Atlanta, Connecticut, or
Oklahoma, they know that if I cosign something, they can expect quality.
I'm not going to do a Gangsta Grillz with some commercial-ass niggas.
I'm going to do quality music.
I don't mean
to cut you off, but another project that we're going to do is a Little
Brother tape. That's totally out of the spectrum from what people know
me as. I grew up on Tribe Called Quest. I loved Black Star, and I loved
that movement as much as I love T.I.'s movement now. Now that I've been
able to create a name for myself and I've broken through that door, now
it's time for me to push the limits and work with a Little Brother and
Saigon. If the music is good, then you can't say shit to me.
the T.I. tape coming?
"The Leak." That's 14 new bangers from Tip and seven or eight
songs from other artists in Grand Hustle. A lot of the mixtape movement
in the South started from the original tapes that me and T.I. did together.
This is our fifth tape together. In my opinion, '05 was a good year for
me. It was a big year. The type of dude I am, I stay hungry, I stay focused,
and I stay driven. I talked to Tip, and we had to start the year off right.
He's got his album coming in March, he has a movie coming, and I have
my album. We wanted to start the year off fresh. A lot of people say that
Tip has changed and isn't as serious, but Tip is one of the nicest in
the game to me. It's always a pleasure to do a tape with Tip.
another dude that doesn't really hit the mixtapes too hard. How did you
guys connect and start a tape together?
I have met. Of course I'm a fan to the utmost. Him and I have a good relationship.
I got a call from his manager about how he was about to put his album
out. They were throwing around ideas about doing a mixtape, and my name
came up. To be able to work with Pharell is great. He's a genius and an
icon, and to have a nigga like that come to me to do a tape, it's only
right that I do it. He sees what I'm doing in the streets and what I bring
to the table.
people are sleeping on him lyrically. What he gave me for the tape is
bananas. It's going to shock a lot of people. He had a lot of things to
get off his chest on this one. With this situation, I was working with
him in the studio. On Gangsta Grillz, I try to get niggas to stunt a little
bit. Pharell's not that type of guy. It's funny for me to be in there
telling him what to say. He did it in his own way. That project is going
to be crazy. I'm just trying to continue the movement. There's really
no slowing down at this point.
at Pharell, Jeezy, T.I
they all got money and usually it's the broke
rappers that hit the mixtapes. What makes these guys want to work with
At the end of the day, we're all students of the game. We're all fans
of the game. Money is good, but you should never stop working. A guy like
Pharell, he loves what he does. It's his passion. For me, my money is
good right now. For the first time in my life, I could stop working and
kick back, but why? We're all in positions that the majority of the world
would love to be in because of the fact that we can do what we love to
do and get paid doing it. Once you get on, a nigga like Jeezy, he won't
stop working. Pharell doesn't go to the club. He wakes up, goes to the
studio, and goes to sleep. I'm a DJ. I've come from being out in the club.
Now that I'm here, there's nothing else important to me besides family
and work. I love it. I'm going to sit down and work my hardest. The money's
great. Money makes everyone's life easier, but you can't forget where
you came from.
of Jeezy, you were one of the first to break Boyz-N-Da-Hood. You guys
must have a good relationship today.
my dude. Him and T.I. mean a lot of my career, as I do to theirs. We both
helped each other come up. He knew what I had, and he came to me like,
"This is what I got." I met Tip in 2000 when he was just getting
started from a major label perspective. I'm living it. I've spent a lot
of years in the game and I've seen a lot of dudes come up. These guys
are good dudes. They're doing this to feed their families. I meet a lot
of artists. The industry is the industry, but I've come to find out that
everybody's working and everyone is pretty regular. Once you get on, it's
a whole different challenge and frame of mind that you have to deal with.
I just saw
the Rolling Stone where they mention the best DJ's, and my name was at
the top of the list. I was over the Clue's and Green Lantern's. Now that
I'm in a category with them, I have to stay here and stay on my grind
because there's a lot of other dudes on their hustle that would love to
honestly see Jeezy blowing up like he has two years ago?
not. What Grand Hustle and the Aphiliates did, we created a different
formula. We started it in another direction. We did the mini-album with
T.I. In the South, no one was really taking advantage of that situation.
When I put the T.I. tape out, that tape escalated his buzz. Then I went
on to do a Bun-B tape. He's a legend. Up until that point, the tapes I
had been doing were already with made men. When Jeezy came to me, he said,
"Look Dram, I want to follow this formula. I see what you do. The
streets fuck with you heavy. This is my music. I want to break it through
you." I had never been in a situation where I had broken an artist.
The reason people fucked with the Jeezy tape was because my name was on
it. Once people heard the music, people saw how good Jeezy's music was.
When I first did it, I just heard little inklings in the streets that
it was hot. I was thinking, "Damn, Jeezy's on to something."
Jeezy's manager and I go way back. I never thought that it would have
the impact it would have. He did what 50 did for the South. In the mixtape
world, Jeezy was the next coming after 50 Cent. He took the mixtape game
to a whole different level. The way I see it, there are two periods in
the mixtape world, "Before 50 Cent" and "After 50 Cent."
Jeezy is one of those few that are successful after 50 Cent. Since "Trap
or Die" came out, I have conversations about that tape every day.
Did I see it happening? Hell no! I would be a liar to say I did, but looking
back on it, it all makes sense. It opened my eyes up. That situation goes
both ways. I know he helped my career and I helped his. We'll always have
that. That means a lot to me.
tape you did with Project Pat must have been fun.
was a good look. Shout out to my man Matt the Mayor. We were driving one
day, and he told me that I had better do that Pat tape once Pat got out.
I hollered at Juicy J and we did it. Because of Pat's situation, I have
yet to meet Pat. He's still in the halfway house. Pat is a legend and
from what people were telling me, they were all excited about me doing
that project. I wish there could have been more exclusive music, but it's
no one's fault because of the situation at the time. That's definitely
one of my better tapes. I know I'm DJ Drama, but I'm still that nigga
that listens to everybody. I'm happy to work with these dudes.
been the best thing to happen to you because of the Gangsta Grillz series?
getting this record deal through Atlantic Records. If someone could have
told me in '94 when I was on the bus in Philly listening to Clue's "Back
to School Part 2," that would have blown my mind. I've made tapes
where people don't even necessarily have to look at the playlist, they
just go out and get it. "Gangsta Grillz" is something that I
made up at the crib one day just off the top of my head. It wasn't any
highly thought out plan. It's true that if you build it, they will come.
I'm living. I'm loving what I'm doing. I have a lot more work to do. I
have to put together a good album. Just to achieve this amount of success,
that's a great feeling because my team and I did it our way. I didn't
go to a radio station and get on. When promoters were trying to low-ball
niggas, I said, "Fuck it."
world is saturated as shit. There's a million tapes, and a lot of them
are wack tapes with hot covers. To watch Jeezy's career and to know that
I was the first dude to do a tape with him, and to work with T.I., Bun-B,
and Project Pat
when I do tapes, I always find myself asking, "How
can I top that?" How do you come after a Big Boi tape or a T.I. tape?
It's a rollercoaster ride. You have your ups and downs, and luckily, I've
been able to have more ups than downs. I enjoy all of it, but I don't
get caught up in it. Two years from now, we can talk about "Trap
or Die," but I'll never live off it. You have to keep up. I like
to be happy about my accomplishments. I take it step-by-step. I've been
in meetings with Kevin Liles, Paul Rosenberg, and Russell Simmons. I've
seen that side of it. I'm looking at the big picture. For me, this is
just the beginning.
is it to stay humble in the game?
it's very important, and two, it's very difficult. I've always been very
high on respect and loyalty. Those things go a long way. At the end of
the day, I know my shit is hot and I walk with a swagger and I hold my
head up high, but I get a lot of artists and fans that come up to me and
show me love and try to get on. It's real difficult because I can't do
a third of what people want me to do, but I try to give everybody that
respect, from the littlest man to the biggest man, because you never know
who anybody is. When I first started, my goal was to get my name on a
flier. When a rapper comes to me that wants to get on, I'm going to hear
him out, look him in the eye, I'm going to take his music, and I'm going
to do my best to listen to it. You have to make sure your shit looks right
though because there's so much competition.
people in the game, when I was coming up, do little shit to me, and I've
never forgotten that. I don't hold any grudges on anybody, because I realize
everyone has to take their own steps. There's some little niggas that
I've met that will be "that nigga" soon. I want them to realize
that even if we couldn't get down, they know I'm a good dude. You have
to respond to the people, that's who made me. I got made by the streets.
It's difficult. You're dealing with a lot of egos and money. In this game,
everyone walks around thinking they got the biggest dick in the room.
I've been around people like T.I. or Nelly, or even 50, and they are what
they are because they handle their business. Look at what Pharell has
accomplished and he's one of the most humble dudes I've ever met. If he's
humble, how can I be cocky? How can the next man be cocky? I'm definitely
not what Pharell is. Humility goes a long way and people respect that.
ever get caught up in any of the beefs and forced to take sides?
To some degree.
It goes both ways. I've been caught up in some DJ beef, which is some
dumb shit. There's no reason that DJ's need to be beefing. That's just
dumb. I've also been in some rapper beef, where niggas I fuck with are
beefing with other niggas. It's complicated. Competition is always good
for the sport. As long as shit stays on record, then it's cool. There's
nothing wrong with competition. When a nigga disses me, I'll do my one-two
thing on the tables to show what I got. It's never good when it escalates.
A lot of times when other niggas get involved, it can get serious. It
happens. That's where we come from. There are a lot of egos involved,
that's the other side of it that you have to deal
with. From a business standpoint, I don't want any beef with anybody.
I'm a DJ. It's very important that we stay as neutral as possible, but
it doesn't always happen if you're affiliated with someone. I did "Down
with the King," which was a tape going at Flip. I've learned my lessons.
The situation was what it was. I'm just trying to get money out here.
charge artists to get on your tapes?
I have never
charged an artist to get on my tape. I don't believe in that. I've charged
niggas to do their tape, but I've never charged anyone to get on a Gangsta
Grillz. My tape is very important to me and it's not for sale. If your
shit is hot, I put it on. I'm not against anybody charging if that's how
you're living. That's not my way of making money. I'm very into marketing
and branding, and I realize the importance of branding. If I was to sell
my tape, you'd have people waiting in line and wondering where they were
going to be. I'm not going to put any wack shit on my tape. I'm not for
sale. That's the thing with DJ's. From where I come from as a DJ, I play
what's hot. Money is good, but money doesn't make me. If I stay true to
my shit, I'm going to get money. Niggas also come to me to do their tapes.
If your shit is wack, I'm not going to do your tape. I'm not going to
work with you no matter how much money you have if you're wack. Sometimes
the best thing to do is to build your own movement. Why pay for me when
you can come up with another DJ?
about the game being so oversaturated, what does it take for a new DJ
to make it today?
quality and relationships. It's the same thing that's always been. I've
seen some other people that are definitely on the come-up. It's definitely
harder now because the game is more saturated, especially the mixtape
game. It's at an all-time high. For real, if I can do it, anybody can
do it. I've been at it for a minute, but I never got any breaks until
2001. It's not overnight. I sold tapes for years, myself, with my own
table, before I ever sold a tape in a store. It took years for me to get
here. It's not overnight. Especially for people that are making tapes
on their computer and sending them to websites trying to get on. It's
more than that. I'm on the road, and I'm still handing out free CD's.
Quality speaks volumes. If your shit is hot, it'll get around. The game
is so saturated, so you have to stay in people's faces. When I was new
in the game, I would do a tape every week or two. I would do Hip Hop,
reggae, and R&B tapes, and I would give people the tapes so they could
see I was on my job. Relationships are also everything. Being in Atlanta,
I've been in the mix of a lot of things. Right now, I would rather be
here than be in New York. Even though New York is the "epicenter"
of everything, I'm in a market that is wide-open. I'm around all these
artists that are on the verge of blowing. My relationships took me a long
way. That helps with everything. You have to be able to call a nigga's
manager or get at an artist and be personable to them. That goes a long
are always consistently dope. Do you stay with the same designer for everything?
with the same designer for almost two years straight now. His name is
Rob Petrozzo from Paperwork Graphics. I owe so much to this guy. I've
had good designers in the past, but the problem between designers and
I were that the artists took too much damn time on the covers. That shit
is not acceptable. I was looking for a neat dude, and through the grace
of God, I found Rob. Since he started doing my covers, I have yet to go
to anybody else. He does a lot of people's covers. He does Smallz, Big
Mike, Green Lantern, and Clinton Sparks. He's a workhorse. I have to really
give that man credit. He'd done a lot of classics. I know how important
it is to have good quality covers. I don't want anyone thinking my tapes
are bullshit. Rob just comes with that heat. We go back-and-forth on things,
but he's definitely an artist and he knows the game. He's given me some
classics and I think I've also helped his career out. It feels good. I've
seen a lot of people come up around me from me being a part of them.
being on the radio help your movement?
We have two
shows. We have a Serius show on Shade45 and we're on Atlanta radio. From
a Serius aspect, it helps because it's a national platform for people
to hear what we do. There's niggas listening to us all over the place
that wouldn't normally hear us. The radio in Atlanta is another outlet
for us. Because we did it our way, we're in a situation where we can do
us on both stations. We make our own playlists. That's very powerful.
I didn't want to go to a radio and use their playlist. I would feel like
my career is going backwards. How could I go on the radio and play "Laffy
Taffy?" They'd think Drama fell off. On Shade45, look at who they
got, Clinton Sparks, Kay Slay, Felli Fel
we fit right in over there.
With what we've been doing in the streets, we couldn't be denied. I like
to be on the radio and broadening our situation. It's been a blessing.
I like the fact that we were able to do it our way. People know when they
tune in that they're going to hear good music.
feel that it's fair for radio and mixtape DJ's have their own artists?
I have my own artists. It's radio, and it's big business. If you're in
a commercial radio situation, no radio DJ can just blast off their own
artist. Niggas get fired for shit like that. We're DJ's, and it's our
job to be up on new music. At the end of the day, if you're the only one
playing your artist, then something isn't right with your artist. I don't
think it's bad for Hip Hop. Realistically, corporate America on the radio
is worse for Hip Hop than a DJ having an artist. And from a mixtape perspective,
that's my shit. How can anyone tell me that I can't put my own shit on
there? I'm breaking that next dude. Look at Screw in Houston and the artists
that have come up under him. There are so many DJ's that have broken their
own artists. I think there is a lot of corporate things and DJ's that
fuck up Hip Hop, but I don't think it's from them having their own artists.
I don't play my artists all the time or give them the first five tracks
on a tape. I give them the slot they deserve at the time. Some of my artists
aren't ready yet and I'm building them for that.
do you see satellite radio going?
the limit right now. With Howard Stern on now too
radio will always
have it's place, but to me, satellite radio is the future.
we be watching for from the South in '06?
I have to shout my people out first. Attitude, Willie the Kid, Young Dro,
Young Jacque, Young Capone, Swishahouse just signed this cat Qualo, Rick
Ross, Smitty is hot, Bo Hagen is crazy, Jody Breeze from Boyz-N-Da-Hood,
he's a first-round draft pick. I'd look out for all these guys.
opinion, is there a king of the South?
king of the South. He was the first one to say it. A lot of people have
comments about that, but T.I. proclaimed himself the king of the South
and he did it. It's funny, there's always debate about who's the best,
Jay-Z or Nas, and in the South, we talk about who's the best out of T.I.,
Wayne, and Jeezy. All three of them have their own names and bring something
different to the table. I respect all of them, but T.I. got that title
and nobody else wanted it until he made it. As far as who's on top, there's
a lot of niggas on top, like Ludacris. A lot of people sleep on Ludacris.
Everybody does their thing.
do you think is the North's biggest misconception about Southern music?
I used to
feel that the North's biggest misconception about Southern music was that
Southern niggas can't really spit. I don't feel that way now. I grew up
on Smif-N-Wesson, Wu-Tang, and The Roots. Being in the South when Crunk
music was so big, I felt that no one really respected Southern music.
Look at Andre 3000, Big Boi, Scarface
the list goes on and on. Right
now, in my opinion, the South has proven itself. I think a lot of times,
the South has so much love for East Coast, New York, and music in general.
New York is the epicenter of mass media and they're always going to have
the upper hand. If you make good music, you make good music. That's what
it should be about. I don't care where you're from. If you're making that
heat, people are going to pay attention.
you think is wrong with New York Hip Hop right now?
not what it used to be. I think niggas in New York are definitely making
good records. I don't know what to say on that because I'm not in New
York. I can't pinpoint it. I know who I like and who I want to see blow.
It's hard for me to say if it's big business situations. When big business
gets involved, it fucks shit up. In '06, everyone needs to get away from
that simple-ass music. Some people say that's a shot at the South. No,
it's a shot at bullshit music. I see the East Coast having a resurgence.
I definitely see it coming. New York City is always going to be there,
and everything goes through there. MC's in the South want to get accepted
in New York. I want to be right there when New York City Hip Hop comes
you tell us about your Aphiliates crew?
with three other DJ's, Don Cannon, DJ Sense, and Mike Mike, who started
the whole situation. We grew to seven DJ's with Jaycee, Ludacris' DJ,
DJ Ox Banga, and Amanda Diva. We're a real tight-knit family. Don Cannon
produced "Go Crazy" for Jeezy and Jay-Z. I've been running with
Don Cannon since '96. As a DJ crew, it's very important for us to keep
it small. We are at the forefront of the Southern movement. Right now,
with The Aphiliates, it's very evident that DJ Drama is the top of the
light-pole and the face of the movement. But I couldn't have done that
without my team. I'm only as strong as my team. We're all friends and
we keep it real. We'll always tell each other when we're making mistakes.
We've accomplished this much off of our passion, so I would say the sky's
the limit. We're all trying to provide for our family's and make moves
that we're proud of. At the end of the day, a DJ crew is not going to
make or break you. If you're not repping for yourself, what do you think
a crew will do? We all have different goals that we want to accomplish.
We all argue and fight like the best of 'em. I like to think back to '96
when Sense and I used to split $150 for a party and now we're doing big
business with big business motherfuckers, that's a good feeling.
your artists and what made you want to work with them?
Willie the Kid, and Attitude. They're three different hot-ass artists.
And that's not including our producers Detroit Red and Don Cannon. We
had relationships with these guys before. It's not like we just found
them. That's very important to us. We have a standard to our brand. I
see The Replacementz doing wonderful things. They're like a young Outkast
to me. Willie the Kid is like a young Nas, and Attitude is one-of-a-kind.
Everybody is hungry and ready to grind. They were already a part of our
movement, so it was only right to make it official.
you want to sign with Atlantic?
I liked what
they were doing with their projects. Grand Hustle was already over there.
I sat down with Kevin Liles and he thought I was a key piece to the puzzle.
I saw their movement and the success that a lot of their staff had over
at Def Jam. Some of the people at Atlantic were involved in Clue's project,
and I have a lot of respect for him. We got the numbers right and we signed
you tell us about your album?
to be crazy. I have a lot to live up to. We already have a good brand.
I'm going to get the best of the best. You're going to see all your favorites
on it. I'm really trying to make a classic. I don't want to make a DJ
album, I want to make a Gangsta Grillz album that represents the movement.
It's great for me, but it's a lot bigger than me. I feel that I have a
lot to live up to. It's either go hard or go home. It's not just me, I
have a whole team of people helping me on this CD. I just want to make
at Atlantic add pressure for you to support their artists like Saigon
or Little Brother?
No. You know
what's really crazy is that nothing that happened was planned. I did a
tape with Juvenile, I did a tape with Bump J, and I have tapes with Saigon
and Little Brother coming out. It's great that I have the label's support
on the projects, but all of that was built up in the relationships that
I already had. I thought people might see everything being Atlantic-influenced,
but that was built off of what I did.
the "Respect the Game" DVD out, what do you want to tell people
I just wanted
to give people an inside look at the business side of things and what
their favorite artists thought about lyrics and production, all of those
things. It took me a year and a half to chop it up and get information
on things. I wanted to give people jewels. Everybody starts from somewhere.
That was my gift to the fans. I didn't want to put out a DVD with a bunch
of dumb shit, guns, and dumb talk. I'm a college-educated nigga, that
doesn't mean that everyone has to be, everyone has their own route, but
I'm a businessman. I love this music and it's bigger than a lot of these
DVD's are showing. There's nothing wrong with the streets. I wanted to
make sure that people respected the game, because if you don't, you will
fall the fuck off.
we expect coming up from you in the next couple of months?
hard. Look for the T.I. tape, the Little Brother project. Don't be surprised
if you see another Snowman tape. I have the Pharell project coming. Just
be expecting the same shit from me. There's no falling down, it's only
uphill from here.
you want to say to everyone reading this?
not just the DJ's, I'm living proof that you can be what you want to be.
I grinded my shit out and I'm here because of that. I stayed true to my
goals. Anybody can do that. I built my career off of quality. I've seen
a lot of people get on, like The Roots, Talib Kweli, T.I., and Young Jeezy.
I breathe this. And nine times out of ten, if you're on HipHopGame, chances
are you breathe it too. I read HipHopGame all the time. And I appreciate
all the support from everybody. Keep grinding.