Drumma Boy Interview Talks Classics
Drumma Boy Interview Talks Classics
Source: Artist

Drumma Boy Speaks on Producing Classics for Everyone From Scarface to Gucci Mane [INTERVIEW]

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 Waynewho 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!” 

Drumma Boy Interview Talks Classics Source: Artist

Who are some of your favorite people to work with?

I would say Gucci Mane, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, and Jeezy.

What stands out about those three people?

Jeezy always knows what he wants. Every time we've worked he always has a vision, he sees it, and he just needs music that motivates him. So it's always dope working with someone who knows what they want.

Gucci is just a fun ... doesn't matter if it's raining, if it's sunny, if I make it to the studio early, make it to the studio late. We're always going to have fun. Never getting mad, there's always a way to laugh it off, joke about it and then make some hits. And I love that about Gucci. He's always joking.

YoungBoy was dope just to see his direction, and able to coach him at such a young age. For him to write a verse for Birdman, and then deliver that verse...I haven't heard Birdman sound like that in years. And for him to deliver that, just how they put it together coincided with each other and just were so ... just the communication that they had between each other. And again, his vision, it just really shocked me to see him produce. To be able to deliver those type of records is what I do it for. "We Poppin" is at 35 million plus views on YouTube.

I want to ask you about some specific deep cuts over your career. Scarface's "Never." When you think of that song, what do you remember? 

Crate digging. Going through a thousand samples. He was like: “Give me something dope, something different. Get some samples and go crazy. I want something that you don't normally do.”

People still get surprised when they hear I produced that. No tag, no nothing. Just straight hip-hop, you do the research. If you read the credits, cool. If you don't, cool. It was just really about digging in crates and getting that respect from a city that I've always loved and had a passion for: New York City. 

When I did that record, I got a lot of New York support, and a lot of DJ's like “Yo, I didn't know you sampled. I didn't know you did beats like that, man. Fuck. We want some of this.” When I met RZA for the first time, that was the first thing he said. 

We know the story of "Put on." So how about Jeezy’s "Hustlaz Ambition?"

"Hustlaz Ambition" immediately reminds me of Tupac, of course. "Put On," "Hustlaz Ambition," and "Amazing" were all done back to back. And those were three out of five of the beats that I sent Jeezy for that project.

You said earlier that Jeezy is very specific. Did he tell you what he wanted before you sent those beats?

Nah, he was just like “I need some yams. I need the hot plate.” That's the lingo. “I got some greens and some cornbread for you, bro. I got the yams, I got that hot plate. Where you at?”

T.I.'s "What Up, What's Haapnin'?"

When I made that beat, I thought that beat was gonna be for Twista. I was making some stuff for Twista, and TIP heard that beat, he was like “Ah-ah-ah. I need that. I need that.” It's one of the beats that I actually was going to skip and not play for TIP. And soon as he heard it come on: “Ah-ah, what is that?" "Ready for Whatever" was the first song he did when he got out of prison. And then "What Up, What's Haapnin'" was the second song. 

This might be random: but Gucci Mane's "Drummaguwopuhhh" off of World War 3, where you sampled Master P's "Ice Cream Man?"

Me and P have done so many things together, that's the homie. He's given me a lot of knowledge and different bags to pick up. 

Gucci loves P and looks at Master P as motivation. It's like damn, I can do that. I can put out artists. I want to start signing artists and putting artists out like Master P. Gucci would always say that, and anything that we've sampled, especially myself, I make sure I have a relationship to clear it. So it's like, "Yo, if I sample this record, can I clear it?" You know what I'm saying, because if I can't clear it, I'm not going to use it. I'd rather ask for permission ahead of time. 

That's the thing about longevity and respect. People respect you more when you reach out beforehand. It's business 101. It's simply insurance so you don't have more problems and it doesn't cost you or bite you in the ass in the long run. You know what I mean?

Amd finally Waka Floca's "No Hands?"

I made "No Hands" on the spot. That was when Gucci Mane got out of jail. It was a celebration. He had the A Room; Waka had the B Room. There were 200, 300 people in the studio. It was complete madness. 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, all these different artists, girls, homeboys, and everybody. 

There's so many people in the fucking studio, I can't even touch the keyboard with two hands. So I just started making a beat in front of everybody. There's talking; there's noise. All kinds of shit. I didn't have a pair of headphones, but I turned the speakers up just a little bit with everybody running their mouth.

I made the beat in literally fifteen minutes. The whole video was on YouTube and Worldstar for a minute, the whole beat-making process. But nobody was really paying attention to the beat. The only people I saw who was really paying attention was Wale and Roscoe Dash. I noticed them out of 200 people. I see Roscoe Dash in the corner just shaking his head. 

Roscoe Dash was like, "Man, I think I got something." Roscoe Dash goes into the booth, and literally the first word: "Girl..." It was just like every girl in the room just started looking back at their ass and all that shit, and it was literally a movie. Now, all of a sudden, Waka coming up with a verse in his head. Wale over there, and everybody else is like, "Let me get on this." Now you want to get on it? Wale already got a verse. Waka got a verse. Roscoe Dash got a verse. I'm done. It's too late. 

I got Waka's permission to put the record out on my 2010 NBA All-Star playlist, the first playlist I ever did.  I put all the records, big songs I produced at that time on that playlist. The label called me a week after and cut the check.

Drumma Boy Interview Talks Classics Source: Artist

I wanted to touch on your older brother who was killed earlier in the year. You put out a song, "Live on." Was it a difficult song to write?

No, it was easy to write just because of the pain. I was going through so much pain, and this killer is still on the run. He's still on the loose. They ain't caught him yet, so like, as opposed to me going to try and find this motherfucker, let me just stay focused, lock myself in the studio, and give it to you verbally, which I figured would be much more powerful.

Did you take time off when he passed?

I really couldn't, you know what I mean? It was a financial burden for my family, and nobody could handle that burden but me. So no.

"Live On" is going to be part of a bigger project?

Live On is an album.

What can you tell me about it?

What would you want to do if you just lost your biggest influence? You know what I'm saying? It's not really a depressed album. I think "Live On" is the deepest, darkest song of the album, which I had to get done first. Then it gets happier because at the end of the day, it's a celebration of life. You know what I mean? The people he touched, the legacy that he left, and the things that have come together because of this situation is very weird, but meant to be.

Do you know what his favorite Drumma Boy song was?

Plies and T-Pain's "Shawty." We made it together.

What was his role?

He did part of the beat, and then I come in and kind of polished it up, added some stuff to it, put it in the right hands, shopped it, got it to T-Pain, and released it.

Is there something you feel like we need to touch on, that you need to add?

I did a big song for cryptocurrency called "XYO," which is a new coin kind of like Bitcoin. They're the first cryptocurrency to sponsor NASCAR. They've got Star Wars owners behind them, and the Bitcoin foundation founder. He just joined us, Dan Bilzerian is over there doing a lot of stuff. It's cool to be on that advisor board. I'm also on the advisor board of Tracklib, just a sample-based company where you can clear records and sample stuff. They have libraries. Their library game is huge.

Drumma Boy Interview Talks Classics Source: Artist