Producer's Corner: Drumma Boy
Drumma Boy concocted the beat behind Young Jeezys hit single Put On, and there isnt a more appropriate song that describes the producers career. After lacing the likes of hometown heroes Tela, Pastor Troy and Gangsta Boo while in Memphis, he moved to Atlanta, where hed begin providing heat for bonafide superstars: Young Jeezy, T.I., Scarface, and others. But he keeps an ear to Memphis as wellhe insists that hes had a new song on the radio every month for the past five years since hes moved out, and hes giving opportunities to even other up-and-comers with his Drum Squad crew.
In an interview with HipHopDXs Producers Corner, Drumma Boy talks about choosing rap over classical, getting beat out in a Key To The City race by Master P, and working with Atlantas top dogs.
HipHopDX: Your family is classically-trained, musically. Your mother was a professional Opera singer, and your dad was a professional clarinetist and a professor. What was that like for you growing up?
Drumma Boy: Its crazy, because it wasnt bumping around the house like that. First of all, my mom and my dad divorced when they had me. So in my pops crib, I was listening to him practice, because he practices 18 to 20 hours a day, it seemed like. He was a Blues fan, and he liked the rhythm of Funk. At my moms crib, I was waking up toCurtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson. She was solid Soul. She was in the Opera, but she was still a sister, she was still from the south, born in North Carolina and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Growing up in Tennessee, it was heavy on the Blues. Rock & Roll and Country right up the street, in Nashville. So its so many zones of music where I come from, I just loved music.
DX: What artists from other genres do you look to for inspiration, and what do you take from them?
Drumma Boy: Man, its so many, because I listen to all genres of music. Quincy Jones was probably my biggest inspiration as far as being a musician and writing music. I learned how to play clarinet before I make beats. I couldve been in the orchestra, but I felt writing music, composing music and arranging music was a bigger challenge than just being in the orchestra, where the only music Im going to play is [Ludwig van] Beethoven, or [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, or [Johann Sebastian] Bach. It was interesting to me learning how to write.
Even Dr. Dre, as far as whos more relevant right now. Hes a person who believes in a certain type of sound. Then I look at his success that he had with N.W.A., and Snoop [Dogg], with Aftermath, the Chronic albums. Even with brand new artists, like 50 Cent [click to read] and Eminem. But Ive still got the business mogul side, similar to Puffy. He gets a lot of money branding a lot of companies, and then hes the first black man to own the biggest fragrance in the world. I look at myself as a chemistry of the Dre, Quincy and Puffy. I put all of that together, and give the world what they need.
DX: I just find it notable that someone was around other forms of musicespecially classical, to a certain extentand consciously made the choice of Hip Hop. The genres musicians and fans are often viewed as being short-sighted.
Drumma Boy: Hip Hop is the only genre of music that we as a people, or us as a culture, is our way to express our music. It was created out of New York, and Hip Hop is like a gift to us that was broadened to one of the most popular genres of music in the world. To me, Hip Hop is our way to express how we feel. Music is a way to express how we feel, too. Im a producer, so musically, I make music based on how I feel. I dont make a beat just to sell it and make money; I express my emotions through my music. Whatever genre that falls under, thats what it falls under; but you have to give back to Hip Hop. Show your respect, passion and love for Hip Hop. Thats the only genre of music that we can claim and say this is what we started, this is what we created, this is what we branded. Its the roots of where we come from.
But also, Im going to show you more of where I came from. Thats why I started Drumma Boy Live, why I came with Here I Am, why I came with You Aint Missin Nothin on the T.I. [click to read] [Paper Trail] [click to read] album. I feel like you have to expand, and I have to show the world that Im capable of creating a sound from scratch. They already knew that I was making beats, they knew I was producing. But the world thought all I was capable of was rap and Hip Hop beats. Rap was just what I had in my face. I played basketball, and my dad would always tell me, Take what the defense gives you. Thats what the defense was giving me; God was giving me rap artists. This was my stepping stone. If the majority of shit coming out of Memphis is on some gutta shit, nine times out of 10, to get respect, you have to get it from the streets. The streets start with rap music. I aint want to start off with Country, or start off with Classical, or start off with a genre of music that wasnt respected as much. Its all about respect, and thats one thing I learned first. With respect, you get power, you money, and you get an opportunity.
DX: Youre also one of many that migrated to Atlanta to get their career really popping.
Drumma Boy: A lot of producers out of Memphis were successful before me, but didnt take it to the level that I felt it could be taken to. Theres so much musical talent in Memphis, but we dont get the credit we deserve. So I took it upon my mission to be heard globally, and represent that message the best way I could. Go to a city and say, Youre the music mecca? Im going to go to you, and tackle you. Thats how I approached Atlanta. When I got to Atlanta, Jazze Pha [click to read], DJ Toomp [click to read], Dallas Austin [click to read] these were some of the biggest producers. A couple of dudes werent even producing. Polow [Da Don] wasnt even making beats; thats my dude, I came up with dude. Thats why I go so hard.
DX: So I heard you got a key to the city of Memphis?
Drumma Boy: Nah. I was a number one candidate to get the key to the city of Memphis, and the key was given to Master P. Which is crazy to me, but shout out to Master P, shout out to Romeo. They do a lot of hood events, a lot community events, a lot of charity, and a lot of real estate projects in Memphis. Theyre working with school systems and educational methods with the kids. Theyre doing a lot more than I was community-wise, but musically, Memphis already knows what it is. And as far as I was concerned, I already had a key to the city. You dont need a physical key to have a key to the city. So not to say too much on that, but it is what it is.
DX: What are some differences between working in Atlanta and working in Memphis?
Drumma Boy: Working in Memphis [is] going to be a little bit slower, but at the same time, I can get more shit done because Im not doing as much. I get to focus a little better. Atlantas becoming a New York type of city, where its real fast-paced. When I work here, Im always working three to six multiple sessions, so Im always juggling. Ive got five different artists working on my shit at the same time, so Im bouncing around from studio to studio checking on each one. At the same time, you dont get to focus on one particular thing, but theres a lot of multi-tasking being done. And Ive got people handling each particular situation. Ive got engineers that Im working with that I can trust, so even if Im not there, I know my engineers going to have it right. Ive got people in linemy machine is still moving, my engine is still running.
Different cities that I work in, I get certain sentiments. Making music in Phoenix or L.A., Im going to get a different vibe. Its always good to get that hometown vibe when Im in Memphis. Its more grimy, more triumphant, more hood, gangsta mixed with a little bit of symphony. Its that hometown sound when Im in Memphis, for real.
DX: You work with a lot of artists from Memphis: Tela, Gangsta Boo, etc. When I look at Kanye West, when he first started to blow up, he was still working with the likes of Dilated Peoples and Slum Village. Youve gotten placements with the likes of T.I., Jeezy and Monica. Do you feel its still necessary to work with artists from Memphis?
Drumma Boy: Hell yeah. Since I stopped living in Memphis, weve still had a song with a new artist from Memphis on the radio every month for the past five years. We have not stopped. Theres new artists such as Young Key, Cristal, Young Phenomenon, Miscellaneous. Its crazy, theres so many new brands. When Im in Memphis, its more like Im putting niggas on and putting people in position. Giving back opportunity that I succeeded upon. Its not like my city is already on. It aint like dudes is getting money off of music in Memphis. Only people making money off of music in Memphis is 8Ball & MJG [click to read] and Three 6 Mafia [click to read]. That sums it up, long story short, as far as on the Hip Hop end. Yo Gotti is the other one. Those are [mostly] groups that have been out five to 10 years already. Those are the vets. But youve got new cats. Its a whole nother generation thats on the verge of poppin, on the verse of getting to the money. So thats what Im trying to make bubble over.
Its a grind, it aint easy. Atlanta had their run, and theyre still running. But Atlantas one of the most traveled cities in the south. Look how much traffic comes through Atlantathrough the airports, through the highways. When youve got that much money coming through the city out the wop, the citys going to be successful. Youve got the most Fortune 500 companies in the south, so its going to be a lot more jobs, a lot more clubs, a lot more women, a lot more everything. Memphis is just a little more behind that, but as far as musical talent, its so much unsigned hype in Memphis. So I want to put on for my city. And Im doing it through the music, through the beats, through the talking, through the motivation. Youre going to hear my mixtape coming soon, January or February. Im just giving knowledge back.
DX: Since you brought it up, lets talk about Put On. Whos idea was it to make Kanye West use the autotune?
Drumma Boy: Thats all Kanye. When I made that shit, I made it specifically for [Young] Jeezy [click to listen]. Every time he calls me, hes like, I need some more yams, whats up with that macaroni? I hit him back like, I got yams, cornbread, muthafuckin black-eyed peas, pork chops with the hot sauce and cotdamn gravy with the sauted onions. Because I knew what I had; I had just made that beat from scratch and put his name on it. I knew nobody else would be able to rock that muthafucka. I gave it specifically to him on a beat CD, and probably a week later, he called me in and played the record. It was just him on it at the time.
A month later he calls me out the blue, like, Man, Ive got a surprise for you. Probably two or three days later, Im riding down the highway, going to get my haircut. Im listening to the radio, and Ms. Shaneka on 107.9 is blasting off Put On [click to read] Theyre like, New Jeezy, featuring Kanye West! Im like, Oh shit! Just listening to it coming through the radio was like Wow! Everything he was saying, I could relate to, because I know how many niggas I done put on. I know how many bitches "owe me sex." All of that shit is real shit.
DX: You think that music historians are going to look at that song and say, This was a turning point for Kanye?
Drumma Boy: Man, I know its a turning point for Kanye. That song has already been nominated for seven or eight awards, and the biggest nomination of all, I just found out that we're nominated for a Grammy for Put On. Best Rapping Duo. The whole world knows. Thats probably one of his best verses ever spit, and I brought that out of him. First of all, you havent heard Kanye rap on too many other peoples beats. I just consider that a blessing, and I consider it a blessing to pull that out of him to make him say what he said.
And shout out to Jeezy, because Jeezy came with a crazy hook. Thats what he felt, thats what the music was telling him. If thats what my music tells you to say, thats damn near who I felt. Who doesnt represent for they city? We do that day in and day out. Every football team does that, every basketball team do that, every organization does that. Youve got a team, and a place that you rep. Yankees fans go hard for the Yankees. Hip Hop fans go hard for New York. Wherever youre from, you gon go hard. And even if youre not doing anything positive for your city, youre still repping it. Its still something thats a part of you that says, Man, thats my hometown right there. Its a special record, and were going to keep bringing em. Even Jay-Z [click to read] had to get on that song, and speak what was on his mind. People say thats one of his hardest verses of the year. Ludacris [click to read] got on the remix and did his thing, Rick Ross [click to read] did his thing.
DX: You work with T.I. and Jeezy, and I think a lot of people group them together just because theyre both from Atlanta. As someone whos worked with both of them extensively, what do you look to make for T.I., and what do you look to make for Jeezy?
Drumma Boy: To me, Jeezy and T.I. are totally different dudes. Were all going to have similar ways of speakingbut as far as artists, theyre totally different. Tip isnt going to be afraid to try anything around a 360 degree angle, whether its a ballad, R&B feature, up-tempo dance, real commercial feature, or just some plug Techno music, R&B soulful music, street symphonic musicwhatever type of music, I think Tip is open to that.
Jeezy is going to have different elements of music on top of the drums, but as far as them drums, you have to get him some hood drums. Even if its a New York feel. Even on a Kanye beat, Jeezy will sound dope on. Like with, ["Can't Tell Me Nothin' remix] [click to read] but even that beat was a Toomp beat, if Im not mistaken. Certain sounds youre going to hear Jeezy on are going to be more hood. Hes going to give you that gangsta look on pretty much everything he do, because he wants to stay in that one look, which is cool.
DX: What was it like making the beat to the ethering of Shawty Lo on What Up Whats Haapnin?
Drumma Boy: Shit, it wasnt really no feeling for me. It was just another diss. I work with all of these dudes. Its about clientele. I work with Gucci [Mane] [click to read], I work with Shawty Lo, I work with Luda. When you get on the song and say what you got to say, its just you venting. It dont got nothin to do with me. I hear what youre saying. One nigga might have a hard punchline, another nigga might have a hard punchline. Its just like comedy in a way, because a lot of people bust jokes, or he might get on you in the crowd. You might be out with your wife, and you have on some crazy-looking shoes, and he gets the getting on you, you gon laugh! You have to just go with the flow. Punchlines are meant to be laughed at, so we take it for what it is, laugh at it, and keep it moving. Hopefully nobody got hurt. We aint tryna get individuals hurtI just make good music and keep thangs crackin.
DX: Like you said earlier, you seem to have a clear understanding for the business just as much as the music. How important is the business side?
Drumma Boy: Its equally, 100%. Everything you do needs your 100%. You cant treat it halfway, because thats the one that gets got and come up short. When I do business, I look at business 100%. When I look at the music, thats 100%. In order to do certain things, some things require teams. Some things require staffaccounting, lawyers, management, just to name a few. Just to make sure your business end is 100%, you may have an A&R department or a recruiting end or someone to stay on the lookout for that next Diddy, next Drumma Boy, next Johnta Austin. Thats where evolving comes from, thats where branding comes from. And thats what Drumma Squad is about: deeper roots uniting music. We put on whats great and let you evolve to be you; everybody has the gift to be their own person, and thats up to your own work ethic. Thats what we develop. Youre never born a starstars are developed. You earn your starship.