REVOLT TV presents 'The Produce Section,' a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, The Produce Section is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of "The Produce Section," we chopped it up with esteemed boardsman Drumma Boy, who helped break some of the biggest artists in rap over the better part of the past two decades. Having crafted hits for a list of titans who include T.I., Rick Ross, Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Future, Wiz Khalifa, Yo Gotti, Birdman, and countless others; Drumma Boy's stature within the music industry is solidified, as he is regarded as one of the more accomplished rap producers of the new millennium.
The Memphis native continues to expand his brand by showcasing his own rap talents with the release of his latest project, My Brother's Keeper, which was inspired by the tragic death of his older brother, Ensayne Wayne, who passed away February 13, 2018 after being shot multiple times in Atlanta, Georgia. Eleven tracks in length, My Brother's Keeper was created as a form of therapy for Drumma Boy, whose ultimate goal is to properly memorialize his fallen brother and convey the impact he had on his life. "Basically, the project came together just on the unfortunate passing of his life and we celebrated his life," Drumma Boy shares during our conversation on the lower east side of Manhattan.
"My mom was like, 'This is not a death, this is a celebration. He lived his best life. He left us with four kids, three grandbabies.'" The way my mama was taking it and approaching the whole situation, I was just like, 'Yo, I gotta do a project.' So much shit that's hard to me or that's in my head that I can't even exemplify. I gotta get this shit out of me some way, I gotta share some stories some kind of way, and just the motivation of who he was for me that would ensure that his legacy lives on forever. So, I dropped the record 'Live On,' which just hit REVOLT, directed Boomtown Productions. People got to know who he was and that's what the album is about, My Brothers Keeper. Me carrying on his legacy and extending everything I can to his family, his kids and making sure they straight forever."
Drumma Boy's evolution as a creative -- who's inspired in part by past beatsmiths turned artists like Diddy, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, Pharrell, and Timbaland -- and promoting My Brother's Keeper may be at the top of his agenda. But, the hitmaker's true bread and butter continues to be on the production side, where he's primed to have an eventful year. REVOLT sat down with him to get the scoop on his process as a producer, his tools of the trade and the backstory to the biggest records of his career.
The origins of your production tag and how it became your signature: "My nigga Jay, one of the goons, that's my nigga. I was in the studio with probably 200 people in the studio and my boy, he go in the booth and he just talking shit and he's like, 'Listen to this track, bitch!' I was like, 'Whoa, man, listen to this track, bitch. Cut that out, all that other talking. We cool, we'll use that for something.' Shout out to Jay, man. Free my nigga Jay. He still locked up and he always looked out, and was just a good big brother -- in a sense -- to me. So, I always try to hold my niggas down and I was like, 'I'ma use this on everything.'"
Tools of the Trade: "My go-to then was MPC 4000, a lot of analog gear. The Motif, the Roland, the Fantom, stuff like that. Now, it's VSTs. I'm still on MPC, but I'm straight laptop. Omnisphere, Nexus, just different plug-ins that you can download. Some cool shit be free, some cool shit you gotta pay for. So, I just download it all. Anything that generates a sound, I can make beats with it. I was making beats on cafeteria tables, so now it's a blessing to have so much equipment and different sounds, as well as Serato sample. I love that we using a lot of things with Tracklib. My boys T-Minus and J. Cole teamed up, and used our platform Tracklib on the "Middle Child" sample, and that's playing everywhere. And that sample originated from my website Tracklib, so definitely check out Tracklib.com. It's a sampling platform for producers to be able to not only sample records, but clear those records right there, as well. $60-$100, depending on how much time of the sample you use."
Your Process As A Producer: "My process really is to trust your process. So, in that sense, I might hit Troy Ave. Troy Ave like, 'Yo, you in town, pull up to the studio, man. Push play for me.' I might hit the Migos. The Migos is like, 'Yo, email something, I'ma send you my email right now.' Jeezy might hit me like, 'Yo, I need you to come cook up something special, man. I don't want no beats you already made.' So, it just really depend on your deadline, how you feeling at the time, how fast you trying to record. When Gucci Mane got out, I had a beat folder ready for Gucci 'cause he don't really have the patience to wait for people to make beats on [the] spot."
Favorite Artists You've Worked With: "I would definitely have to say Gucci Mane, Jeezy, and Rick Ross. I like artists that know what they want. Jeezy, Gucci, Ross; they all have fun and they know what they want. They know exactly what they're looking for, they already have a sound in their head and it's easy to deliver."
Three Beats That Have Defined Your Career: "Three records that stamped me, for sure, I would say 'Standing Ovation' by Young Jeezy, 'No Hands' by Waka Flocka, and 'Look At My Dab' by Migos."
One of your first placements was 'Tennessee Titans' by Tel featuring Yo Gotti, Gangsta Boo, Haystak and Project Playaz. What was it like to be tapped to produce a Tennessee anthem at such a young age?
"That was one of my favorites. I've always been about unifying my people and unifying my state. Keeping the state together, keeping the city together. A lot of people use the term that we're the city that loves to hate. North Memphis don't like South Memphis, East Memphis got a problem with West Memphis and all of this. So, I wanted to bring all of the artists together. And at that particular time, Yo Gotti was the new emerging artist. Three 6 Mafia was already doing their thing, so I was like let me put Gangsta Boo with Tela, with Haystak, with Yo Gotti, with Criminal Mane. And I put all these artists on one particular project. I'm on the hook. I was singing the hook and for me to make the radio and this [be] first song I ever did in high school, and I'm on the radio with the top [artists] of Tennessee, it's just blessings and I just went from there."
Rocko's 2007 hit 'Umma Do Me' was one of your first big hits. What do you remember about the creation and success of that song?
"We created that song at 11th Street Studios. My boy Steve had just bought out 11th Street, he was partners with a guy named Josh Butler. And I remember Steve had just bought the studio and we had a session with Rocko. Future came through and this is like Future before Future, and everybody in the studio [was] just vibing and the first beat that I played, he was just like, 'I need that right there, I need that right there.' He went in the booth and the next thing you know, [he says,] 'You just do you and I'ma do me,' and it's classic. The album came out and he did the deal at Island/Def Jam with Jermaine Dupri, and the rest is history."
Over the years, one rapper you've been synonymous with is Gucci Mane, whom you've worked with closely during the ups and downs of his career. How does it feel to see his evolution, both as an artist and as a person?
"I've worked with Gucci through all of his periods. Some great moments, some crazy moments and the, some weird moments. But, through it all, we've delivered hits. And when Gucci got out the most recent time, I produced a record for him, "All My Children," and Gucci, he's always laughing. He's always having fun, he's always joking and just wanting to live life, and take advantage of the moment. Capture the moment. I wanna represent how I feel and however I feel, that's the song I wanna make. If I feel wasted, I'm making a song called 'Wasted.' If I feel like a weirdo, I'm making a song called 'I'm a Weirdo.' If I feel abnormal, I'ma make a song called 'Abnormal.' If I think I love her, I'm a make a song called 'I Think I Love Her.' That's one of my fun, best records that I've done with Gucci. The first record I ever did with Gucci was 'Photoshoot.' People call me 'First Swing King' just 'cause the first one out the gate, I'm knocking out the park. If you got the bases loaded, it's a grand slam, ya' dig! So, it's definitely a blessing to be able to deliver for my friends."
'What's Up, What's Happening' is one of your key collaborations with T.I. But, it was also a diss song, which can put the producer in a tricky situation. Do you recall how he approached you to record the track and were you aware of what the song was gonna be?
"Nah, I ain't know nothing about a diss track. T.I. had just got out of jail, and T.I. had reached out to me because of the blessings and longevity I had extended with Rocko. Rocko and Tip are best friends. So, while Tip was locked up, the birth of Rocko came. When I first went to Tip, I had to sign paperwork with his attorneys to get visitation rights to go to his house 'cause he was on house arrest. So, I got approved and all that. He greeted me, he opened the door and I'm like, 'Oh shit, what's good, king.' And he's like, 'Man, you the king.' And I'm like, 'What, this the king of the south telling me that I'm the king. What the fuck?' So I'm like, 'Why you say that?' and he's like 'Shit, you blessed my boy Rocko. You put him on. That's a king, that's what kings do, put people in position, bless people, cut a check. You changed a life from getting money this way to now we getting money legally.' For him to say that, I was like, 'Damn.' He introduced me to his mom, his wife Tiny, the family. We mobbed through the house and everything and then, we went straight to the studio. I played thirty beats. He picked twenty seven, and out of that twenty seven, I ended up with four tracks on that album: 'My Life, Your Entertainment,' 'You Ain't Missing Nothing,' 'What Up, What's Happening,' and 'Ready For Whatever.'
"And with the 'What's Up, What's Happening Record,' I never knew he was gonna beef with Shawty Lo. And I'm cool with Shawty Lo, I'm cool with Tip, and I went through a similar situation with this producing for Jeezy and Gucci during their beef. I'm on all Jeezy albums, I'm on all Gucci albums in the primetime of their beef, as well as I'm on Yo Gotti albums, and I'm on Young Dolph albums in the primetime [of theirs]. And I'm the one trying to merge and diffuse the beef, and to promote the unity. Who wouldn't want to hear a track with Young Dolph and Yo Gotti? Luckily, Jeezy and Gucci was able to, at least, get one song out to the people with "So Icy," which was a smash. And I'm sure if they ever linked up and did more records, it would be a smash. I'm all for the unity and that's what I'm all about. I don't ever like seeing artists beef, especially two cats that I'm cool with. But, it won't stop me from working with both sides of the party. It's like I'm the dope boy. I got the crack, I'm just delivering the work."
You're known for street anthems and club bangers, but one of the smoother records in your catalog is 'Here I Am' with Rick Ross. What was it like to help display Ross' more suave side?
"It was a blessing, bro. I remember getting a call from Julia Beverly. She's always been a positive person in my corner, and she was like, 'Hey, I'm in the studio with Rick Ross, he said needs some beats. So, I wanted to call some of my producer friends.' So I pulled up, Nard & B pulled up, Fatboi, a couple of other producers; and we was just all in there playing beats. And it was finally my turn to play beats and Rick Ross was like, 'It's on you, Drum, play a couple of joints.' I played like five beats and one of the joints I played because I heard Ross kinda evolving into the Maybach Music thing and I was like, 'This nigga really became a lyricist, he might be ready for this other shit I got.' I was doing a lot of things with my band called Drumma Boy Live. Drumma Boy Live is anything to do with live instrumentation, anything on my musician side, my Quincy Jones shit. And I was like, 'Let me play him some of this Drumma Boy Live shit.' And this last particular record comes on, the instrumental for 'Here I Am,' and he just goes crazy. And the first thing he says, he was like, 'Man, I got the perfect person for this. I'ma send this shit to Avery Storm, this nigga gonna write the genius hook for this shit.' So, he sends it to Avery Storm. Avery Storm sends the fucking hook back in like 30 minutes and we just went crazy."
Of all the rap stars to emerge during the blog era, Wiz Khalifa's buzz was at its peak when the two of you worked on the song 'Phone Numbers.' How did the two of you link?
"I forget my boy out of Pittsburgh, but it was a particular nigga I was fucking with. This was like eight or nine years ago. And the nigga was like, 'Yo, we working with Wiz, we got this new artist,' and I was like, 'Aight, shit, I work at 11th Street [Studio].' So, I got the B Room in 11th Street and I cooked up a couple joints. A lot of people remember 'G Shit,' which leaked right before that. We did that and a couple of other records and then, we did 'Phone Numbers.' That was like the last record we did. He threw Trae the Truth and Big Sean on it. It was a record I sampled from Queen and the record just went viral. It's crazy 'cause last year -- in 2018 -- we finally got back to re-releasing Cabin Fever 'cause we put it out for free. Never put it on iTunes or Apple Music and eight years later, we can't get the sample cleared. So, I had to redo the beat. If you listen to Cabin Fever, the 'Phone Numbers' version on the Cabin Fever that's on Apple Music is a completely new beat. All original, no sample. I slowed it down, half-timed it, just made it more of a vibe. Some 'get high to' shit and the rest is history.
Out of all of your records, 'No Hands' with Waka Flocka gets the biggest reaction in parties and clubs. Do you remember the creation of this beat and the studio session?
"I remember when Waka was like, 'Yo, I'ma start rapping. Guwop keep getting locked up, I gotta do something and bring some more money to the table, so when big bro get home, I got something for him.' I was like, 'Shit, what you wanna do?' and he was like, 'Man, I ain't ready for no beats yet.' And he finally came out with a record called 'Hard In The Paint.' I heard Waka on that thing and I was like, 'Ooh, sound like you ready.' And Guwop had just got out of jail. So, he booked the whole studio and we just went in, man. I couldn't even touch the keyboard for real, man. It was just so many people celebrating Guwop coming home and that's why on 'No Hands,' the chords are so simple 'cause I'm reaching over booty. I'm literally reaching over booty and ass to touch my keyboard. But, it's a party and the girls, and everybody went crazy. People was looking at me crazy at first, like, 'You finna put Waka with Roscoe Dash and Wale? Waka a street dude, and this and that.' And I was like, 'Yo, I'm telling you, bro. It's the best of both worlds and the girls gonna love it.' We almost ten years later and we can still play that record, and the girls go crazy. I did that in like twenty minutes."
One of the biggest anthems in rap in the new millennium is 'Put On.' Do you remember what kind of zone you were in while making that beat?
"I've always been a fan of the Chicago Bulls and Micheal Jordan is my favorite basketball player of all-time. My favorite moment when the Bulls would play would be when the lights turned the fuck off and I kinda tapped into that. It's like that same vibe of the Chicago Bulls. But, I changed chords up, changed notes and just wanted to give you something that felt like the introduction to the fucking '93, '96 Chicago Bulls. And that's my inspiration, the Chicago Bulls anthem."
Plies already had a big buzz in the south. But, 'Shawty' was the record most instrumental in helping break Plies nationally. How did that collaboration come to life?
"Me and my brother had made the beat. R.I.P. Ensayne Wayne. He brought me this sample, he was like, 'Yo I just sampled some shit from Earth, Wind & Fire. I just chopped this shit up, this shit crazy.' He had a little beat to it and whatnot and I was like, 'Ooh, that sound like some Drumma Boy shit right there.' Changed the drums out, put a little worm on that muthafucka, and me and my brother just did [it]. We wasn't even really thinking about sample clearance and all that shit. Did that beat and there was a couple of artists that had songs to it. But, I was like, 'Eh, them joints is cool, but let me go work some magic.' So, I get a call from Fiend, I was like, 'What's good, nigga?' I'm thinking he rapping or need some beats. He was like, 'Come through to the studio.' It's 2:00 in the morning, nigga. I just got out some pussy, I'm tired. I'm like, 'What you want, what's good?' And I'm like, 'Man, let me go see what this nigga talking 'bout 'cause every time you do something you don't wanna do, it end up being your biggest shit. Come to find out they looking for beats for an artist named Plies.
"Aaron Bay-Schuck was the A&R at the time and now he's at Interscope doing amazing things. He was in the studio going through all these beats and whatnot. I played five beats, the fifth beat [was] 'Shawty.' The next day, I heard T-Pain on the hook and Plies did his thing. The label sent the hook and the beat to every artist on Atlantic to see if they could do a better version than Plies. And I was like, 'What? Man, fuck all that. Plies, leak the song, go ahead to radio.' So, we leaked that shit, put it everywhere in Miami and the label had to cut the check, period. I don't leave my destiny or a hit record in the arms of a label. They don't know our music. The A&R, the CEO, whoever the fuck, they don't know the music like we do. It's time for shit to come back to the Berry Gordy days and us as African-American, black culture; we're running our own music. Don't nobody know our music like us. The only thing they got is the money and the opportunity to push the button. But, as far as controlling what music we put out, how we put it out, we make this shit hot. We make these artists hot, these producers, us."
Having big time rappers namedrop you in their verses solidifies you as a producer, which Drake famously did on 'Money To Blow.' What was your reaction the first time you heard that line?
"First time I heard that shit with Drake, Birdman and Wayne; I was like, 'Yo, this a classic. My boy from Canada hit me up. He was like, 'I got this kid out of Canada, he gonna pop, he gonna blow. He got a little TV show, 'Degrassi.' The bitches fucking with him, he a lil nerd nigga. But, I'm telling you, he gonna do something.' And I was like, 'Shit, I like working with anybody, I don't give a fuck. If they dope, if they can spit, let's work.' It was just a classic moment. He was a new artist. I had a couple of hits at the time. So, of course he was 'gon shout me out. Birdman was family. I had already worked with Lil Wayne before, it was my first time working with Drake. Birdman actually took the record and put it out on his album Priceless. So, that was technically Birdman's first Top 10 and No. 1 Urban record as a [lead] artist. So, for me to deliver that for Birdman, that's why me and Birdman was cool, and did a lot of things. We had a lot of things pending with Young Greatness, man. R.I.P. Young Greatness."
Jeezy's Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 was considered an instant classic when it dropped and 'Standing Ovation,' which you produced, pretty much set the tone for the album. What was it like working with and being around Jeezy at that period in his career?
"I had just sold the original [version of] 'Standing Ovation' to Young Snead. A lot of people don't know that. So, I had to redo Jeezy's version of 'Standing Ovation' three different times to make that go through. Jeezy hits me six months later like, 'Yo, I need this beat.' I was like, 'Play the song that you want.' I got to my phone. I got like 15 missed calls from Jeezy and Coach K. So, I'm going through my phone. I call Jeezy back and he like, 'I need this beat, man, I need this beat.' I'm like, 'I sold that to Young Snead, and he's like, 'Tell them niggas I'll give 'em $50,000, $75,000. I'll give em 100K.' And I always told the nigga, I said, 'Look bruh, this is like trap business. This is like some pounds of work. If I sold some work, that shit dust. I can't get that shit back, them niggas sold that shit, they smoked it. Nigga, it's gone.' I'm like, 'I do good business, I can't get that back. But, what I can do is make you another version that's better than that. He's like, 'Nah, man, I don't know. I need the original beat, you ain't gonna be able to outdo that.'
"He kept going back and forth. I'm like, 'Man, give me the acapellas. So, he finally gave me the acapellas, I do a first version. I probably only got $200 to my name. I was staying in Stone Mountain, he was working out of Patchwerk Studio, which is probably 45 minutes to an hour from Stone Mountain. I had to drive up to Stone Mountain, pick up the acapellas 'cause he didn't wanna email 'em and nothing like that. I got $200 dollars. So, I'm about to put $50 in the gas tank, it's like 45 minutes one way and I gotta come back. He's like, 'I turn in the album tomorrow, so do what you do, I'll see you later.' So, I go to the house, do a version, I come back. It's probably 10:00 at night at this time. I play this first version he's like, 'Ah, it's cool. But, it's not like the first one.' So, I drive all the way back to the crib, do a whole 'nother version, come back. It's probably like 1:30 a.m. now. Play the second version and when I walk in with the second version, he's mixing 'Soul Survivor.' I hear him and Akon going in, and I'm like, 'No nigga, I got to make this album, what the fuck?' So, I play my shit and he's like, 'Eh, closer. But, it's not quite what I wanted it to be.' So, I was like, 'Aight, fuck this shit.'
"On the way home, I listened to the whole Trap or Die mixtape. This shit buzzing. Everybody in the city talking about Jeezy and BMF. Everywhere you go, everywhere you see Jeezy, one hundred niggas. Wasn't nobody buzz bigger coming out of Atlanta on the rap side. Outkast ain't have no buzz as big as Jeezy. And Jeezy, goddammit, he said, 'You come through for me on this shit and I got you. We gonna make a lot of hit records together, my nigga.' The first sound I that found very distinct and in every beat was some damn horns. I said, 'This nigga Jeezy love some horns, man.' I went home, that was the first sound I came up with. Put them horns in that muthafucka and bro, I took that third version back. It was like 4:15 in the morning, this nigga turning in his album at 9:00 a.m. Pull up in that muthafucka. Coack K, Jeezy and Kinky B; all these niggas in the studio. I pulled up on 'em and played the fucking 'Standing Ovation' [beat]. The whole room went crazy. Soon as them 'ayes' came in, you knew you had one. It was like, 'Shit, we outta here.' And that was my first platinum plaque, Jeezy first album. I'm a part of the career from the beginning. It's a blessing that put me in the game. And to have one of the intros on the album, this was the No. 2 track on the album, and guess what? We went platinum just off that one song. The album went 3x platinum. But, I got a million downloads on 'Standing Ovation.' I was like, 'Word, this shit ain't even a single and this shit went platinum.'"
When 2 Chainz made the transition from Tity Boi, his single 'Spend It' really marked the full evolution of his rebirth as an artist. What's the backstory behind that track?
"The backstory on that is 2 Chainz used to always come to the crib under the name Tity Boi. I been going to Tity Boi grandma house and pulling up on him, and was just always a fan. Me and Tity Boi was working on Playaz Circle and we was always just cool, and I'm a fan of him. I was like, 'This nigga can rap. I don't give a fuck who got anything to do with this.' He signed to Luda, he on DTP and whatnot and I was like, 'Why the fuck this nigga ain't blowing up?' So, when he came out with 'Duffel Bag Boy,' I was like, 'Damn, he got one.' But, a lot of people thought it was Lil Wayne record. So, I'm like, 'Damn, what's it gonna take for this nigga to pop? He used to come to the crib and 2 Chainz, he was on the lean a lot, smoking a lot and he stayed on the south side. But, he would always be in downtown and midtown Atlanta. And my condo, I had a studio in midtown Atlanta where everyone would pull up at, it was right next door to Body Tap. So, all of the rappers who would come out of Body Tap or go to the strip club, them niggas knew I had the studio right there. They'd call me.
"So 2 Chainz would pull up to the crib and just be wasted, full of the lean or on the smoke and be like, 'I need to go to sleep, I need to take a nap for a minute.' [I'm like] 'Man, crash on the couch, nigga. Do what you need to do.' He would get up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and make it to the house 'cause I would be worried about that nigga, like 'Yo, you gotta make it home safely, G.' So, one particular time, he was like, 'Yo, I need to record some shit.' I was like, 'Man, record what you wanna record, you ain't gotta record on my beats.' So, he would always come through, record, smoke one with a nigga, chop it up with a nigga. We was just cool. We friends outside of the business side or the music side. 2 Chainz is an actual homie. I was like, 'Shit man, whenever you need me, just let me know.' So, one time he comes through. He's like, 'I need some of them Drumma Boy beats.'
"The actual first song we did was 'We Workin' on Playaz Circle album with him and Dolla, and once he started working on the T.R.U. REALigion mixtape, I was like, 'Yo, you gotta do a record with Gotti.' I was like, 'Yo Gotti's popping, he finally getting his just due, he outta Memphis.' The thing about Memphis that people forget is we are a tri-state region. So, when your music plays in Memphis; you're getting Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. We call it the A.T.M. You come through the A.T.M., you gonna come through and get this money. I was like, 'This next beat you do, we gotta put Yo Gotti on it.' He was like, 'Shit, send me his number, we gonna make it happen.' That record turns into 'Boo.' That was the first record that me and 2 Chainz did, and from that particular record, we followed up with 'I'm Riding Round and I'm Getting It.' 'Boo' hit like No. 86 on the Hot 100 and 'Riding Round And I'm Getting It' went to like No. 36 on the Hot 100. And then, those two songs set up 2 Chainz to officially drop his first single, 'No Lie,' featuring Drake."
What's next for Drumma Boy?
"Next for me is Drum Squad compilation, which is my label. We got quite a few artists. Definitely follow us on Instagram, @DrumSquadRecords. Also, I'm working heavily on a project with my boy BLA5ER. We just did a record featuring Lil Baby called 'Beat Up.' Check that out and follow his Instagram, which is @_BLA5ER. I'm executive producing the whole album. He got a video that he just shot with Lil Baby, and he buzzing like crazy in Atlanta. I just signed an artist named K-Dog out of Memphis that we're excited about. He got a record called 'No Turning Back.' I just did records with Desiigner, YBN Almighty [Jay], I'm working with some of everybody. I can't even keep up with all of the records we doing. But I'm excited about BLA5ER, man. I think he one of the next ones out of Atlanta."
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