Exclusive: The Memphis producer links with a fellow hometown hit-maker on "Clash of da Titans," and explains his D-Boy Fresh emcee persona, modeled after some Classical composers.
If you ask Christopher Gholson a/k/a Drumma Boy what he’s been up to lately, don’t be surprised if he draws a blank. From studio work with Musiq Soulchild, Jazmine Sullivan, B.o.B, Bow Wow and Gucci Mane to projects ranging from reputable veterans (DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia) to local stars on the rise (Drum Squad), the Memphis-born producer has so much going on at one time that he’d rather carry that momentum into the studio than spend energy reveling in his success.
And yet, as he continues to fill his production catalog with budding Billboard hits (Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands,” DJ Drama’s “Oh My” ) and street anthems alike (Young Jeezy’s “Flexin” , Gucci Mane’s “Too Turnt Up” ), the 27-year old is taking his career to the next level with the release of his debut solo mixtape The Birth Of D-Boy Fresh on August 11.
Showcasing his lyrical skills as well as hook-singing abilities alongside a few friends (Bun B, Young Buck, MJG), Drumma Boy looks to expand his musical reach while maintaining a reliability behind the boards that has gotten him this far.
In a recent interview with HipHopDX, Drumma Boy explained what he plans to reveal with his rapping alter-ego “D-Boy Fresh,” how unreleased material can provide a positive outcome, and what he’s been cooking up with Jeezy for his oft-delayed yet much-anticipated album Thug Motivation 103 (now reportedly due out September 20).
HipHopDX: Though you may be best known for working with artists from Atlanta, you’ve always done your part to show what Memphis, Tennessee has to offer. The latest project that’s been catching some buzz is your collaborative album, Clash Of Da Titans between you and fellow Memphis brethren DJ Paul. How did that project come about?
Drumma Boy: Clash Of Da Titans came about when me and DJ Paul were talking over the phone and he was telling me how much respect he had for me and I was sharing the same gratitude back to him. We felt like we were two of the best from Memphis, so I told him I had a record I wanted him to get on because I always want to do records with those who had already done it in my city before me to just pay homage and show the respect I have for them.
Later he sent me the verse for the song called “Get Rowdy” , and once he sent that verse back everybody that heard the song was like, “Yo, you and DJ Paul sound good together. Y'all should do some more work.” So the next time I talked to him on the phone I said, “What do you think about a project like Clash Of Da Titans?” It’s kind of like my side of things from Memphis and his side of things from the Memphis standpoint, and it’s just shit that caters to what I call ‘aggression music.’
DX: I listened to the “Get Rowdy” track featuring Young Buck and I have to say it does have that raw style that definitely caters to the streets, but also has that bounce that you can vibe to in the club. Would you say that track is a good example of the direction you guys are taking this project?
Drumma Boy: Yeah, pretty much. It’s not anything that’s worldly or real big, it strictly caters to the Memphis sound and what we represent just as far as on the street level.
DX: You’ve slowly been making that transition from behind the production boards to using the microphone as your weapon of choice. And we’ve gotten to see you showcase your lyrical skills on the Welcome II My City mixtape, and obviously Clash Of Da Titans is still on its way, but do you have any future plans of coming out with solo album?
Drumma Boy: Oh yeah, I got a mixtape dropping August 11 called The Birth Of D-Boy Fresh. A lot of people ask me, “What is ‘D-Boy Fresh’? We hear you say that before you rap or come in with your verse.” D-Boy Fresh is really who you’re talking to right now. D-Boy Fresh is how I verbalize my opinion. To me, it’s a part of what I represent through spoken word, that’s what Rap is to me. So you’re finding out more about me and who I am as a person because of the way I speak or the message I give you or the knowledge that I share with you. Drumma Boy is more of who you hear musically, like when I think of something in my head and I paint a picture of what I’m thinking about. When I’m thinking as Drumma Boy I’m thinking musically but when I’m thinking as D-Boy Fresh I’m thinking verbally.
DX: Who have you been working with on The Birth Of D-Boy Fresh?
Drumma Boy: On this particular project I did a record with Bun B, MGJ, and I’m singing hooks and doing so many different vocals man. My mom, when she hears me sing she always says that I remind her of Earth Wind & Fire because every different record from them always had different tones. You could almost never point out or individualize the tones, like that’s Maurice White, that’s his brother, etc. Just the harmonies, they were having fun. It was never like, “Oh, he can really sing.” It was about doing your version of it, like they never really got caught up on who’s the best. You really have to share your spirit, your soul, and for me that’s what I do with my music, whether it’s verbally or musically.
Like you really didn’t even know who Kanye West was until he started rapping. He did so many great things and had produced for so many great people. But once he started rapping it was like, “Aw man, Kanye [West], Kanye.” It’s kind of like been the same thing for me. Since I’ve been rapping and people have been able to see my face, they’re like, “Damn that’s Drumma Boy? Man, he’s rapping better than all the people he produces for.”
DX: It’s interesting that you bring up that comparison with Kanye West, because initially people were hearing his production and it was like, if he has these types of ideas when he’s producing, who knows what he could say over a microphone. And I’m sure the same thing could be said for you. With all the production you’ve done, and yet we’ve never really gotten to hear Drumma Boy’s voice.
Drumma Boy: Right, and a lot of producers don’t really get to share their story. It’s like if I had to compete with myself meaning Drumma Boy has to compete with D-Boy Fresh and the objective of this is to see who can voice their story the best, who can present their story to the world the best. And then I go to Drumma Boy and say okay, you present your version of the story, which would be like [Amadeus] Mozart or [Ludwig Van] Beethoven or Sebastian [Bach] or one of those great composers. Drumma Boy, he would probably write music for an orchestra or use all of these big instruments and great musicians of the world to help compose this great masterpiece that could be played 500 and 600 years later. And then D-Boy Fresh would present his story to the world with this great dissertation of his life. It would be two different versions and one you could listen to that had no words on it by Drumma Boy. This is the story of his life, and it is told through music. That’s what Mozart did, you had to listen to his story through music. And you were like damn, I wonder what he’s thinking but it’s beautiful. But some people would rather hear somebody tell their story, so that’s the vocal side of the story.
To finish answering the question before about who I worked with, I did one record with Bun B and MGJ, I did one record with Tity Boi (2 Chainz) and Rocko and I did another record with Tity Boi and Gucci Mane which is gonna be crazy. It’s called “I’m On World Star,” and we’re shooting a video to that. I got another record with this dude named Young Dolph out of Memphis, he’s one of my homeboys that I’ve been riding with. Also a couple folks from Drum Squad like Gangsta Boo and Allie. I’m waiting on a Nipsey Hussle verse, and you’ll probably hear Young Buck, DJ Paul and 8Ball as well. But I’m really trying to show who I am and what I represent.
DX: You just mentioned the Drum Squad, and from what I understand you guys have volume two of Welcome II My City in the works. How is that coming along?
Drumma Boy: We’re trying to drop that around September 19, which is around the time of the Southern Heritage Classic. We do that event which is Tennessee State University versus Jackson State University, so it’s kind of like a big rivalry between football colleges and it’s always held in Memphis. It’s a pretty big deal, so we’re planning on dropping the mixtape right around then.
DX: There was a recent video clip that was posted of you and Atlanta’s own B.o.B doing some work together. Was that something for his sophomore album or were you guys just kind of building chemistry in the studio?
Drumma Boy: That was stuff for the next album. We were working on stuff for his album, and he’s also a writer and writes for other people as well so we were working on a couple other records. We came up with some crazy records out of that session. One of the tracks should definitely end up on his album, another one you’ll probably hear on somebody else’s album featuring him.
DX: And with so much heat under your belt in terms of production, how do you usually approach working with an artist. Do you give them like a dozen or so beats and let them sample or do you handpick tracks that you think they would sound great over?
Drumma Boy: Either or, it’s never one way. I’ve done both situations, as well as cooked up beats from scratch. I had been sending Waka Flocka beats for about two or three years but every time he was like, “Naw man, let’s wait and do it right. I’m gonna wait until I need you.” I remember when Gucci Mane got out of jail for the first time we did “Abnormal,” we did that on the A-room side of Patchwerk [Studios]. Then I walked straight over to the B-room and cooked up [Waka Flocka Flame's] “No Hands” in like five minutes in front of a crowd of like 60 people. The room was all noisy, but I still did it. It was like we were live in the club. Girls were in the studio dancing, liquor being passed around, but I just faded everything out and zoned into making a beat. Roscoe Dash went straight into the booth and made the hook. After that we knew it was a hit.
They come so many different ways. I’ve given Young Jeezy a beat CD on the corner of 14th and Northside Drive at a Shell gas station. I wait on him to pull up, we do the exchange and then we pull off. The next I know he calls me a month later like, “I got a surprise for you.” I turn on the radio the next day and hear “Put On” with Kanye West and I’m like, “Yo, I got a song with Kanye?” That was one of the best feelings in the world. Like, I got Kanye who doesn’t even rap on other producers' shit saying some of the hardest rhymes of his career.
DX: One question I wanted to ask you concerns unfinished or unreleased records that never get their due spotlight. Case in point was that track “Dying In Your Arms” you did with T.I. and Jazmine Sullivan that unfortunately didn’t make the No Mercy album. Does that ever bother you when the situation occurs where you thought you had a production placement and then it doesn’t work out that way?
Drumma Boy: I mean, you always look forward to seeing certain things work out but I really wasn’t even anticipating being on [T.I.'s] No Mercy because of the way the project was being put together and how they were rushing to finish it. But, I was cool with having the record out. Sometimes you have to leak a record and sometimes a record gets leaked, but I’ve seen so many records never even come out. So for my record to get leaked and at least get the opportunity to be heard, sometimes that’s better than not being heard at all.
DX: That’s true because even if you don’t make the album, you still get that exposure online with people posting it up on their blogs and websites. But on the financial side, do you get paid for those records that don’t come out?
Drumma Boy: A lot of times you don’t. The one thing that you do get is, let’s say I had three studio sessions of musician fees and my guitar guy came in and did all this work on a particular record that never came out. The one thing that will get accounted for are those sessions.
Also, I still get that attention and exposure, and now because of that particular situation, Jazmine Sullivan reached out and was like, “It was unfortunate about the record we had with T.I., but let’s do some more stuff. Let’s get back in the studio and do some more records.” So it’s one thing that leads to another thing that could be the number one record I have with Jazmine Sullivan by the end of this year or next year. You never know what steps will lead into other steps. So for me, I’m always a person who turns negative situations into positive situations.
DX: One project fans have patiently been waiting on for a few years now is Jeezy’s Thug Motivation 103. Of course you guys gave us The Real Is Back mixtape last month to feed our hunger, but what can you tell us about that project? Aside from “Lose My Mind,” how much work have you done with him thus far?
Drumma Boy: I’ve done about 10 records with Jeezy for TM103. I even incorporated Travis Barker into one record. I called up Travis and I was like, “Yo man I got this record with crazy drums and I want you to put some more drums on top of it,” and he came through and played his fucking ass off on that, so I’m hoping that record makes the album. On his The Real Is Back mixtape I also did “Flexin” as well as “The Real Is Back.” And I have another few records that I’m definitely looking forward to hearing on his album.
Jeezy’s just been going in. He puts so much pressure on himself and wants his fans to be happy and full of content with this next project. I think he’s gonna blow a lot of people’s minds. It’s gonna be, at least to me, his best album. And I know it’s hard to hear people say he’s gonna top Thug Motivation 101, but I think with people anticipating it for a long time, I definitely think it’s gonna be worth the wait.
DX: Yeah like you said, there’s more pressure on him now because since he came out the gate with a well-accepted album and has been consistent throughout his catalog, he kind of has that pressure of continuing that legacy.
Drumma Boy: Honestly, I think there’s a lot of people who fold under pressure and then there are those who perform better under pressure. And I feel with TM103 he’s just gonna exemplify why we call him Jeezy.
You can follow Drumma Boy on Twitter @IAMDRUMMA. Learn more about Drumma Boy and his Drum Squad collective at Drum-squad.com.