The Gangsta Grillz album leaked online. Do you look at that as a good thing?
I think it’s a good thing because that created a buzz. In today’s world, if your album doesn’t leak, you need to be concerned. I’m just happy because it didn’t leak earlier. I’ve been getting a lot of good feedback.
Are you happy with the reaction on HipHopGame to the songs off Gangsta Grillz?
Yeah, I’m ecstatic. I’m definitely ecstatic. I have a lot of songs that mean a lot to me. The Outkast song, more than anything, that’s good for hip-hop.
How did “The Art of Storytelling Part 4” with Outkast and Marsha from Floetry come together?
It was a great thing, man. I was speaking with Dre and Big Boi for a long time. They told me they wanted to work on my album. I had been sending them joints for months and months and nothing was really sticking. Cannon had made that beat after the raid and that beat was for Dipset. I had sent it to Juelz and he sat on it. I sent it to Marsha and I told her I was inspired by it and that she should write something about how they can’t stop us and how we’re not going anywhere. I had energy from being raided and I was staying strong. She sent it back and it was crazy. I sent it to Dre and he was like, ‘I think I might have something. Stay tuned.’ He hit me that night and said he was going to send it to me the next day. Then Big went in and the rest is history. That was one of the first songs done right after my arrest. It was done in January.
How hard was it getting these big-name artists to agree on beats and concepts on the Gangsta Grillz album?
It was a challenge, but it’s part of the fun of making music. Nothing comes easy. It’s hard, but everything’s hard. My whole career, nothing’s come easy. I’m walking it step-by-step. People don’t realize how long I’ve been in this and how long I’ve been doing things. I like a good challenge.
Was coordinating the “5000 Ones” video shoot a challenge?
It actually wasn’t that hard. We really pulled it off.
How did “Talk About Me” with G-Unit come about?
It was simple. We had the beat and went to the studio. Buck went in and banged it out. I figured we might as well go in and make it a G-Unit song. I sent it to Lloyd and I sent it to Yayo and we got it done.
How much attention do you pay to what people say about you?
I pay attention to it. It’s better that they’re talking than having them not talking. I’m content with myself. I’m a confident, young man in America. I’m a confident, young, biracial man in America, for those who keep asking. My father is black and my mother is white, so get off my motherfucking dick. It is what it is. I’m on both sides. I’m on the radio and I interview people and I DJ. Once you interview people, it comes along with the territory. If you can’t take the criticism, then you might as well get out the kitchen.
Is the art of interviewing a lot harder than it looks?
That’s a great question. That was a good question. It’s a lot harder. It’s a science and there’s a formula to it. I have yet to perfect it. And just because you are a DJ, it doesn’t make you a great interviewer. Interviewing is a talent in itself. I just did Wendy Williams the other day and as controversial as she is, she really went in on me. It was probably the most fun interview I did because she’s a master. That’s why she is who she is. She’s a master of what she does. You have to be able to ask questions to people and at the same time, there’s a line. It’s a science and there’s a lot that goes into it. I’m glad that I’m in a position where I get to do a lot of interviews, because I’m always challenging myself. And it makes it even more difficult because a lot of these people are my peers. Sometimes it becomes challenging when you have to ask them the questions that you know the people want to know but that it might touch a nerve.
You actually got Pharrell rapping on “Cheers”. How did that record come together?
That came together pretty organically. While Pharrell was in the studio working on our mixtape, he heard it and he pretty much laced it first. From there, I got it to the Clipse and they got on it. It was the last song on the album and the reason for that is because the skit before that is talking about the raid and it’s making a link. The song is called “Cheers”. It’s a celebration and I wanted to end the album on a good note. “Cheers”, we did it. The success happened. It was a good look.
You have a really nice buzz because of the album and the singles. Do you like this kind of buzz better than the buzz you had for dropping mixtapes every few weeks?
It all matters. If it wasn’t for what I did on the mixtapes and me dropping week after week and getting that love from the streets, then I wouldn’t be in a position today where my video is on TV and I’m getting major write-ups in magazines. I couldn’t have one without the other. My favorite word right now is “organic”, because I feel I’ve had a very organic career. I haven’t skipped many steps and I’m still walking up the ladder. My come-up is why people respect where I come from and where we come from. I feel like I’ve been in every angle of it. I’ve been hustling in the schools and on the streets myself to releasing a major label debut album. It’s a beautiful grind story. I just think I’m a representation of it being able to be done. Go for what you believe and make it happen. I’m no different than anybody else who chooses a different career path.
How can I hate on the comments that are about to be on HipHopGame with the people dissing me? Come on, man. It comes with the territory. I’m built for this!
Did you ever think when you started that you would be releasing a major label album with the biggest names in hip-hop on it?
It’s weird, because I think back and I look back, and it’s like, on one hand I can say “yes” and on one hand, I can say “no.” When I first got on the Source and the XXL cover, I thought back to when I was 14 and 15 and I was in my mom’s basement, smoking and making tapes with my homies and rapping ‘til the sun came up. Would I have believed then that it was possible? When I’m on the airplane and I’m looking in the clouds and I start reminiscing on my career, I realize that I’ve really walked that path and it was really meant to be. A part of me can see it, but sometimes it’s too hard to even believe. It’s suspenseful and I love it. I’d be doing this shit regardless because I’ve done it for so long and you hit so many points where you’re frustrated and you wonder when it’s going to happen, and here we are.
Do you ever worry about falling off or can you not even allow yourself to think like that?
I stay hungry. That’s real. Just imagine if I would have been shook after the raid, like, ‘I need to cool out.’ Falling off in the game…It’s a little different because I’m a DJ, but hip-hop is constantly moving forward and it’s very important to stay relevant and to stay on top of your game. You have to make good music and make good quality music. I’m not worried and I’m not concerned, but at the same time, I don’t want to get comfortable. It’s like Ciph says, “Don’t get gassed.” I don’t get caught up in being DJ Drama. I’m a man and I have to prove myself, day in and day out.
My father was real active in S.N.C.C. in the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60’s and he talked about how people thought they needed to be respected for what they did back in the days, but he said you have to be respected for what you do today. I can’t sit here and say, “I did Dedication 2 and I did Trap or Die!” Those tapes were 2 years ago. I have to consistently stay ahead. I don’t want to always talk about this album. I want to talk about the next one and the success that Willie the Kid has had. Right now, I have my album out and now my next challenge is to make the rest of the world see what I see in Willie the Kid. You have to be accountable for your actions day in and day out. And that’s where the falling off factor comes in.
Look at Hov. Look at that American Gangster album. Say what you want to say, but that boy is making hip-hop music at the age he’s at. He doesn’t have to do that, but it’s in him. That’s how I feel. It’s in me and I’m going to keep doing this.
Are you happy with where you are in the game today?
Definitely. I’m very happy. I’m very happy. My goal when I first started was to get my name on a flyer. I know that shit sounds like, ‘Yeah, right, Dram.’ But in ’95, I got my name on a flyer. There were all these DJs with their names on a flyer and my name was on the flyer. That was one of my goals. Everything else is extra. It’s a blessing. Even on the radio, look at where that took my career. It’s very humbling to be in the position I’m at. I’m very thankful for that. I’m a DJ. I go all over the world and get recognized and respected. It’s a beautiful thing.
Even though you didn’t make any beats for the Gangsta Grillz album, do you think you will get more respect as a producer for putting the collaborations together?
I don’t know. I brought a lot of the concepts together. I A&R’d and executive-produced it. I consider myself a producer in some sense. Obviously I’m not sitting there on a drum machine, but a lot of work goes into this. I don’t care how I’m looked at. I just want people to like the album.
What are your goals for the Gangsta Grillz album?
I want to be able to have a good album that people ride to and that people keep in the deck. I want to inspire people to make good hip-hop music. I think ’07 was a very special year for hip-hop. I’m glad I’m able to put my album out and have so many people that are relevant on the album. I want to make good music. It’s not about regions and ringtones and sales. Regions don’t sell records. Good music sells records. Let’s make good ol’ hip-hop music again. Let’s get back to that.
What did Mr. Thanksgiving do for Thanksgiving?
I helped feed the hungry in Atlanta. I had a turkey drive. I chilled with the family. I was with the family later on in the day. And then I flew out to Houston and did a Mr. Thanksgiving party later that night.
What do you want to say to everybody?
To all the bloggers and to all the people who leave comments, I would love to comment on everything I see. Let me see if I can touch on a couple of things. My dad is black. My mother is white. I’m going to keep saying the word “nigga.” I’m from Philly. I love Philly. Philly is what made me, but I represent Atlanta and I love Atlanta and it’s also home to me. What else? “What does Drama get credit for? He doesn’t do anything. All he does is talk on the shit.” If it wasn’t for me, none of this shit would have come together. You better thank me now because you’re going to love me later. What else? Bloggers, write more nasty comments. I love HipHopGame.
Don’t forget the ones who diss your beard.
Don’t be mad at me. Be mad at my barber. He’s from Philly. Hopefully you’re not mad at that. I only fuck with Philly barbers. And keep your comments about the South and if I hopped on the South’s bandwagon…Do y’all even listen to the music that I am bringing y’all? Did you even hear “The Art of Storytelling Part 4”? Do you understand what I am doing? Are you telling me my nigga T.I. is not one of the nicest niggas out here? Are y’all serious? Y’all niggas gotta be playing. And I said it again, “nigga.”