For more than a decade, Drumma Boy has been one of the most reliable producers in hip-hop, crafting classics for everyone from Jeezy to Rick Ross to Gucci Mane. We spoke to the producer about his legendary career
You’ve heard it countless times over the years. Right as a song is beginning: “Listen to this track, bitch.” It’s one of the most distinctive producer drops ever. And it’s an indicator that you’re about to hear some shit.
It’s the drop for veteran producer Drumma Boy, one of the most seasoned and accomplished producers in hip-hop history.
Ten years ago, Jeezy released “Put On.” It wasn’t the first great Drumma Boy-produced song — he had already worked with legends like Yo Gotti, Scarface, and Tela at that point — but it was the first transcendent Drumma Boy-produced song. “Put on,” which peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, dominated the summer of 2008 and introduced the world to autotune-using Kanye West.
Since then he’s produced a relentless number of hits, from Waka Flocka Flame’s “No Hands” to 2 Chainz‘ “Spend It” to Gucci Mane’s “All My Children.” This year, he was the mind behind YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Birdman’s gold hit “We Poppin’.”
However, he hasn’t forgotten about his own projects. Drumma Boy also raps and later this year he’s dropping an album called Live on, an ode to his older bro Ensayne Wayne who was shot and killed in Atlanta earlier in the year. The heart wrenching title track from the album was just released.
Okayplayer recently sat down with the producer. He talked about hip-hop production in 2018, who his favorite rappers to work with are and what he has planned for the future.
Check out the interview below.
Okayplayer: Are people surprised when you tell them that you rap?
More people are surprised when they hear what the music sounds like. And they’re like: “Damn, OK.” Everybody say they rap. When they hear you sound good or you can deliver a song or messages opposed to just some quick thrown together rap and shit…
I call my stuff mature rap because it’s meaningful. It has a message, but it’s not all just thrown together. Like, I watch everybody who makes music in this generation of rap, so it’s kinda tricky, ’cause people just do line-by-line rhymes and none of the lines make sense. They’re just a whole bunch of bars. If you recite the whole sentence, it doesn’t make sense.
I imagine you to be a coach when you’re in the studio.
Oh yeah. I’m a coach, but to certain things. Kids speak differently. So you can’t tell a kid my ebonics or my slang ’cause that’s what was popular when I was coming up. When I’m 10 and 15 coming up in the mid-90s or late-90s, we were saying shit that was completely different from what kids are saying today. So in a sense, you still have to allow room for the heart and for the artist to be artistic and deliver his message in his way.
Is there a certain type of rapper you prefer rap over your beats?
No, I’m flexible; it’s just about melodies and delivery. That’s what it comes down to for me as opposed to forcing something. Everything that I produce is organic, it happens naturally. And sometimes you have to push or ask certain questions that bring out a certain part of your artist or a different side of your artist, like, “Damn, I never thought about that.” Or provide them with a concept. You say, “Hey, there’s never been a song made like this, let’s do something like this.” And a lot of times, when you challenge the artist, it brings the best out of them.
You have been working very closely with Scott Storch. What are you guys doing together?
Just beats. We did some stuff with Ro James. We did some stuff with Derez De’Shon. We’re just making hot stuff. Whoever kind of gets at it first, first come, first served type shit.
He is more of a piano player. I’m a drum specialist, that’s really what I started from. So making beats was easy. I did the drums, he played the keys and it was a perfect marriage.
Do you remember the first great beat you ever made?
I did a beat for my math class when I was rapping the quadratic formula and got extra credit. My teacher still uses that tape to this day to teach. That was like 10th grade. So, between that and when I did a whole project with this group out of Bartlett, one of the suburb areas of Memphis.
I think I was only like 16. I produced all the beats, mixed the whole project. Put it out and we did a show and packed out about 500 people. We sold out all the tickets and just seeing a mass group of people all reciting your music word-for-word. It was just like: “This is what I’m doing. Making beats.”
It’s interesting to see that you felt that strongly about it so young.
My older brother was a big influence. Fourteen years older than me, so him and the guys he was running with, his crew…a lot of the legendary guys out of the city of Memphis. It was just a crazy inspiration. Imagine being 14 walking into a studio room with all these lights, boards, and what not. And already having musical theory and having the musical background? I played clarinet and piano. And then transferring that musical knowledge into a beat machine.
In a sense the beat machines in hip-hop to me is a conductor. And the conductor is the one who controls all of the instruments, all the parts, and kind of dictates the tempo as well as the articulations of the orchestra. When they get loud, when they get softer. And it’s like the beat machine is that machine for me. To control the base line, the strings, the drums, the snare. And then you deliver that one mass body of work to the people.
Do you think production in 2018 is good?
I think production has gotten better to be honest with you, from a hip-hop standpoint. And just the software that we have access to now. We used to have to chop samples and when you de-tune a sample, it would slow that sample down. So we would have to be much more creative with how we used certain software.
There’s things now that you can do that that used to take me 32 hours to do. And now I’m doing them in like ten seconds.
Do you ever hear things and be like “Damn, I wish I would have produced that?”
Never. I appreciate. It’s like going to a show, you gotta get inspired from somewhere, you can’t do it all. How boring would the world be if I was the only producer in the world? Who motivates you? Who inspires you? Who influences you if everything is just coming from you? I think we all as humans … you get beat a lot, or you run out of ideas, and you have to be inspired from somewhere or something. For me, Quincy Jones, Dr. Dre, RZA. There’s so many producers. Even Scott Storch asked me to meet him, like “Damn, this shit so cool. I’m in the studio with Scott Storch!”