For Memphis producer Drumma Boy, he's just an "intellectual gangsta nerd" whose dreams came true. Backed by a musically gifted family -- his mom was an opera singer and his dad was a music professor -- Drumma's love for music developed at an early age. After forging relationships with hometown MCs including Yo Gotti, Gangsta Boo and Tela during his time at the University of Memphis, Drumma's talent and gift of gab allowed him to take his talents outside of the city. By his junior year of college, he was working alongside rap legends Scarface and Bun B.
With a résumé that boasts credits from the likes of Gucci Mane ("Photoshoot"), Jeezy ("Put On" & "Lose My Mind"), Waka Flocka Flame ("No Hands"), August Alsina ("No Love") and Migos ("Look at My Dab"), he continues to keep a busy schedule, working with Empire's Yazz the Greatest (Bryshere Y. Gray) for the hit Fox show's soundtrack next season, while also partnering with Young Buck and Too $hort on their respective projects.
Billboard recently caught up with Drumma Boy to speak about his current projects, who he considers the Mount Rushmore for Atlanta rappers, why he's one of the originators of trap music, and why he relates to the late, great Tupac.
You've been in the studio with Yazz from Empire. What impresses you the most about his skill set?
I would say his vision. He definitely got a vision for a young dude and he definitely has put himself at the right places at the right time to be very successful. He understands that. Not a lot of people understand that from the artist side. They'll have this massive amount of talent, but no well-rounded development. He knows music. It seems like he's a musician, but an early musician who's still trying to pinpoint exactly what he wants. That's why people come to me, to help polish that up. His rapping ability and his freestyle I would say are the best things that he can do. He can just go in the booth and freestyle all of these amazing melodies and all of these amazing cadences and concepts. I'll take those parts like, "Oooh. This part that you did at 2:56, that's the hook. Yo, this part at 1:30 seconds, let's make this the bridge." Then, we'll take those cadences and start filling in the words.
Which of the artists that you've worked with surprises you the most in terms of their growth?
I gotta say Gucci Mane is one of them. I wanna name a couple of people because I've worked with so many people and this is a fun question. When I first met Gucci Mane at the pool table in Big Cat Records, it was like we were homies. It was like, man, we've always been friends and our conversations were cool, even before the music. So the first record that we ever did was "Photoshoot." Just looking at where he at now and what we were on then and how he's polished his raps up, he's finally getting what he deserves. I'm happy to see him in that successful mindset. I'm glad to see him finally get his just-do because Gucci has been that star artist. It just takes, sometimes, a little polishing up to get yourself together. He still delivered hits throughout the process like "Ferrari Boyz," "I Think I Love Her" and coming back with "All My Children" recently.
Number two, I would throw Rick Ross in the picture because just seeing him from "Hustlin'" and me coming into the picture and producing "Here I Am" featuring Avery Storm, is like a huge difference on just life and the way we're living. It's wonderful working with those two guys. I could keep going on and on and on, but I would say those are my top two.
You recently linked up with Too $hort and produced "Ain't My Girlfriend." What amazes you about his work ethic the most, especially with him being such a veteran in hip-hop?
What amazed me most about Too Short -- because we're all fans of his music -- is his character and how humble he was and how respectful he was towards me. He was so much of a fan towards me, as I was towards him. Same with Snoop [Dogg] and a lot of the West Coast OGs, like Kurupt, but, specifically, Too Short. I just hit him up recently like, 'Yo, we got an event and we're about to blast the record out. We got a big party tomorrow in L.A. and he was like, 'Whatever you need me for.' He's just so responsive and quick, as opposed to some guys. They might hit you back next week, next month, or not even hit you back. I think that's why guys stay in the game so long because they keep all of their relationships well-watered. Relationships are a key ingredient to remaining successful.
Take us back to 2009 when you worked with Jeezy on the "Put On" record. What were your initial thoughts when you first found out that Kanye West was going to be featured on the track, and then finding out that JAY-Z was on the remix?
I didn't even know that Hov was going to be on the remix. When I made the beat, I made the beat at my house. I'm in my house now. I got a house studio in Midtown Atlanta. I was making the beat and I was pissed off to be honest with you because of a few things had happened. There were a couple of placements that I wanted that didn't happen. So I was like, "I'm just gonna go crazy with the artists that are f--king with me. Like Jeezy giving me this opportunity. Let me just focus on Jeezy."
So I just remember making this beat for Jeezy and as soon as I finished it, I bounced it, put it in Pro Tools, and split it out. Me and Jeezy always hit each other up, kind of like how me and Yo Gotti used to do. We call them "drug deals at the McDonalds." [Laughs] I'd pull up with a CD full of beats for him and he'll pull up with the money. We'd do quick exchange and keep it moving. That's the same thing I did with Jeezy. I'd hit him up like, "Where you at? I got them yams for you." I'd always call the CDs the yams. We pulled up and met at the McDonald's and I had like seven tracks on the CD. "Put On" was on that CD and I forget, but I wanna say "Amazing" was on there.
Next thing you know, Jeezy hit me back like, "Yo. I got a surprise for you." Next thing you know, I wake up and I'm driving to the car dealership and I hear Mz Shyneka get on the radio and she's like, "This that new Jeezy!" And I hear Kanye's voice. I was like, "What's going on?" "Shoutout to Drumma Boy. He went crazy for this one," she said. It was just a movie, bro.
The remix came out maybe four, five months later, but I was in Miami at a club called Story. I had seven baddies with me. I'm the only dude. They played the remix to that song. Bro, everybody was sending me bottles, coming up to my section, and was partying with us. It was just an amazing time to see the people gravitate to a record that you actually produced and just remembering every moment. It took me back to [when I was] 15, the first time I saw a crowd move to my music. It was monumental, but at the same time, a blessing.
What has been your most memorable studio session of 2017 so far?
To be honest with you, having my boy Young Buck back. We're currently working on Young Buck's Back on my Buck Sh-t Vol. 3. He actually allowed me to produce for him and give him big hooks and some big records. I really strongly believe that the music that we have done is going to take the world by storm. I got some special sessions going on, but free Rico Recklezz. Man, I'm talking about I got a record that's going to change his life. We hope we can work out with everything he's going through. Dude is a good kid and he's listens to me. If anybody can speak to him and talk to him, it's me. He's allowed me to be an executive producer and add sounds to his movement. We have some massive records. I'm excited for the world to hear what we have in store with him.
If you can give us your Mount Rushmore for the artists in Atlanta, which four would you choose and why?
My Mount Rushmore in Atlanta? I have to say f---ing number one is Outkast! The sound that they delivered, the ground that they broke, the struggles that we overcame from a South standpoint when New York and hip hop was in its prime, this was one of the first respected groups from the South.
Number two, I'm gonna say Young Jeezy. You have to. It's a must. The movement this man had on a mixtape level with Trap or Die [was amazing]. Salute to DJ Drama. Shout out to my brother. Shout-out to Don Cannon for some massive hits, as well. DJ Toomp. Me and Shawty Redd are the originators of trap. I'm going to say that on the record. There's a lot of new up and coming producers that I love. I love y'all. Mike WiLL my homie, Sonny Digital my homie, Zaytoven my homie, 40 the homie, [but] listen, we've been doing this sh-t. I know I've been doing this sh-t for quite some time. It's just a blessing to see how trap has evolved. It's like a basketball game, we just keep inputting and keep inputting. So those are my two artists.
Number three, T.I. I have to throw T.I. because of the way he diversified the trap and took it to a whole different level.
This is a tough one. We're talking about hip hop. I gotta say Ludacris. Luda was comical, battle-rapped, and everybody told him he wasn't able to make songs and he made his after hits, after hits. Then, he took it to film and elevated. That's the homie. That's the fam. So you gotta obviously respect the guys who had the best careers and not just the best hits. We're talking about the empires of Atlanta.
A couple of months ago, T.I. took credit as the originator of trap music. Do you agree with him?
I mean, he took trap universally. Like, you have to understand: When things hit the scene, it comes from somewhere, just like crunk. Did Lil' Jon create crunk?
I think he made it popular.
Right. So where did crunk come from? Crunk is a Memphis word. People say "Get crunk. Get buck." If you listen to any song and you listen to where that word originated from, it comes from Memphis. You had to do your research on Nick Scarfo. You had to do your research on the original Three 6 Mafia and all of the tapes that they dropped. Buck and crunk are like similar synonyms and they all originated from Memphis. Lil' Jon says that on camera on several things and that's the homie.
The word trap wasn't a sound at first, it was a location. "Where you at, bro? We at the trap. What you doing? We at the trap. We're hustling. We're getting money." So, at 13, this is when n----s is telling me to pull up. So that's 20 years ago. I'm 33. That was '97. We're talking about trap. So I don't see no projects out with Tip talking about trap at that time. As far as the sound, the producers created the sound. He made the trap popular before trapping in the bando. "What's a bando? Okay, that's an open home." That's what the trap was. Tip did the rap notification of trap, but as far as producers? If you listen to Yo Gotti's Back to the Basics, if you go back to the Life album -- that was the first Yo Gotti album I was ever on. His first album ever in history.
Even with Boyz in Da Hood, me, Jody Breeze and Jeezy did a song called "Trap N----s." That sound was all trap. Everything was just a sound, and then, people started rapping 'bout it. Jeezy and Jody Breeze was one of the first people to start rapping about it. Yo Gotti was one of the first people to start rapping about it, but as far as the sound, the sound was created through the producers, which was Shawty Redd, DJ Toomp, and Drumma Boy.
If you could sit down in the studio with any hip-hop artist dead or alive for 24 hours, who would you choose and why?
Sh--, the n----a just dropped a movie, so of course I'm gonna say Tupac. 'Pac was an intellectual gangsta nerd and I consider myself similar. It's about the decisions that you make and who you choose to deal with in your life. That would definitely be one person I would want to catch up, spit with, rap with, and joke on a homie to homie level like, 'What was it like smashing such and such? [Laughs]
'Pac smashed everyone you wanted to smash. That was the homie you just surrounded yourself around, at least me. That's on a homie-to-homie level. On a musical level, we can attack and execute any topic we need to. I just felt like he was open, he listened and he knew what he wanted. I like working with artists that know exactly what they want and have a vision for their sound.
source: Billboard Magazine