DJ Drama

DJ Drama

BandHip Hop

Biography

Ask any rap fan to name the most talked-about DJ right now, and the words DJ Drama are sure to spew out of his mouth. Having introduced the rap world to platinum-selling Def Jam artist Young Jeezy and ATL sensation Young Dro – as well as keeping fans satisfied with exclusive pre-albums from Lil Wayne, Young Buck, Bun-B of UGK, Eightball & MJG and Project Pat with his Gangsta Grillz mix tape series – Drama has supplied stirring street soundtracks to every block, back alley, and trap house like a pirate radio station on disc.

For this, he had the doors of his offices kicked in by the boys in blue, was hauled off to jail with fellow record spinner DJ Don Cannon, and was federally charged like he was a disciple of Freeway Rick. Refusing to do down without a fight, the Atlanta-based mix tape messiah brings his street music and struggles with the law to the mainstream with the release of his debut Grand Hustle/Atlantic mix tape album, Gangsta Grillz.

In light of criminal allegations and an impending trial, the grimy lead single, “Feds Taking Pictures,” seems most appropriate to fuel the album. Young Jeezy, Willie the Kid, Jim Jones, and T.I. rip through mid-tempo production, a shrill horn section, deep-bottomed synths, and your favorite DJ screaming confident adlibs over the chorus.

“You roll down your window in any hood and you’ll hear a Gangsta Grillz drop,” says Drama. “You can go to any hood in any city and ask somebody if they got a Gangsta Grillz mix tape. They gone tell you yes. If you don’t know who DJ Drama is, you don’t know nothing about hip-hop right now.”

Born and raised between West Philadelphia and the city’s Germantown sections, Drama moved to Atlanta to attend Clark Atlanta University. A fan of DJ culture since seeing Omar Epps’ character DJ Gee Q on the big screen in the classic hip-hop film Juice, Drama first stepped behind the ones and twos after copping his very first mix tape – DJ S&S’s Old School Part 2 – during a trip to New York City as a kid with his older sister. He found his calling and knew it.

Early on, Drama created a local buzz selling tapes in his high school and naturally brought his hustle when he relocated to Atlanta and began peddling mix tapes on campus. Offering a catalog that included reggae, instrumental, and neo-soul mixes, his bread and butter came when he dropped his first southern-based tape Jim Crow Laws – his fastest-selling tape at the time.

He renamed the series Gangsta Grillz and asked then-upcoming crunk king Lil Jon to host. He used that drop as roll call for every following edition. Before long, Drama got a call from Grand Hustle co-CEO Jason Jeter, who wanted Drama to do something that had never been done before – compile an album-like mix tape with only artists from the label’s group Pimp $quad Click. Like a domino effect, classic mix tapes from many of the rap game’s top players came back to back.

“The brand has been the success of many careers – myself included. It’s helped Young Jeezy’s career; it’s helped DJ Don Cannon’s career; it’s helped T.I.’s career. It’s helped the streets,” Drama insists.

Following the same formula that branded his trademark, Gangsta Grillz flows with blended, mix tape transitions between songs and features many of the hottest names in rap music. The album’s opener is a recreation of the police task force just minutes before they stormed into Drama’s downtown Atlanta offices. Lil Jon follows up as he welcomes listeners with his boisterous baritone screaming over jarring, high-energy production.

On the stinging, Cannon-produced “The Art of Storytelling Part 4,” 3000 and Big take us back to the days of Aquemini as they spit abstract rhyme patterns over futuristic instrumentation and jazz horns.

Cash Money boy wonder Lil Wayne swings his nuts like num chucks on top of Just Blaze’s muffled heavy metal guitar riffs, while Drama gives motivational speeches on the hook like a boxing trainer on the stunt fest “Million Dollar Baby.”

But just because Drama delivers the best that the Dirty South has to offer, don’t think that his limits are below the Mason Dixon line. Beanie Segal and Cassidy collaborate on the 80s-influenced “No Rules.” Testifying over a faint electric guitar and dramatic piano chords, Beans bears witness to his situation with Dame Dash while Cassidy advises about the cautions of central lock up.

“This won’t be the first time that street music came to the table, but I’m going to show them what I got. I introduced a lot to the world, and now I’m gonna introduce it on a bigger plain,” Drama explains. “This album is going to bring the movement of southern rap culture, the mix tape game, quality hip-hop to the masses – where they no longer have to go to a street corner or a bodega or the Internet to know about Gangsta Grillz.”

Already ghetto gold from mix tape downloads, bootlegs, and iPods, Gangsta Grillz is packed with more hits than your favorite rapper’s MySpac