Drumma Boy is the X-factor of trap music
And in our interview with the super-producer, we reveal the four major traits that got him there.
Sub-genres are the surprise inside of every over-arching genre of music. They are niche sounds that reflect the experiences of smaller communities, and those experiences are extensions of a population that a more broad genre was created to be a voice for. Trap music is undeniably one of the most popular sub-genres in the world. What started in the South has blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon that has been inserted into the very DNA of mainstream pop culture.
To be an x-factor in any industry, you need to bring forth a package of traits that cement your importance in the game. You’ve got to be able to say that without you, a certain product wouldn’t have had the same iconic moments or impact. By taking a closer look at his track record, it’s easy to see that Drumma Boy has the knowledge, ground work, versatility, and competitive instinct required to be deemed the x-factor of trap music.
While T.I. adamantly lays claim to birthing trap music, it is argued that the genre began in 1992 with UGK, and grew legs in Memphis, Tennessee in 1994 through groups like Three 6 Mafia and 8ball & MJG. Back then, an 11-year-old boy was growing up in a music-filled home. It was no strange occurrence for him to walk into his kitchen and see legends like Isaac Hayes sitting at the table with his parents. His mother was a professional opera singer and his father was the First Chair clarinet in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra for 40 years—the first African-American to hold that position. Drumma Boy’s musical lineage didn’t stop or even begin there: his grandmother was a piano teacher while his aunt played the violin and taught music classes at NYU. Naturally, instruments were put in his hands well before he was old enough to understand the gravity of the skill set being passed down to him.
Eventually, Drumma Boy grew to be one of hip-hop’s most talented producers. Since 2002, he’s produced for legendary acts like Master P, Scarface, Jeezy, T.I., Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Migos, Drake, Lil Wayne and the list goes on. His technique was inspired by a versatile range of work from classical composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach, to jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, to Three 6 Mafia and Dr. Dre. A mix like that fuels an approach to production that merges music’s past with its present, properly packaged for listeners to appreciate no matter the age.
Drumma Boy’s presence in trap music dates as far back as his early work with local Memphis acts like Gangsta Boo and Tela. However, by the time the genre hit mainstream, Drumma Boy was right there to introduce it to the world. While Tip gave the genre a name, and popularized it, Jeezy took trap music to the next level as a cultural phenomenon through his breakout solo album Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. A song called “Standing Ovation” set the tone for an era of music dedicated to the hearts of those who grind with O’s, and Drumma Boy provided the musical backdrop. The song wasn’t even a single, and it still went platinum.
The connection would prove to be fruitful as Drumma Boy laced Jeezy with more hits like “Amazin,’” “Hustlaz Ambition,” and the iconic “Put On” featuring Kanye West. Even JAY-Z blessed the track on the remix. In the years since then, Drumma Boy has strategically threaded himself into the very fabric of trap music’s progression. When T.I. needed to drop an album that would keep fans waiting on his return from prison, it was Drumma Boy who produced four out of 16 tracks on Paper Trail, including hits “My Life Your Entertainment” featuring Usher, and “What Up, What’s Happenin.’” As Guwop built his own legend in Atlanta and beyond, it was Drumma Boy who produced well over 40 records for the Trap God. The three main staples in Atlanta’s trap scene all have Drumma Boy to thank for delivering quality production during pivotal moments in their careers.
“People forget I was in the game as a kid,” Drumma said. “I was in Atlanta at 16 getting bags, I got 8k from Pastor Troy. We had the hottest song in the strip club, and I wasn’t even old enough to get in. Most men don’t become adults until 28-to-29 [years old], mentally. By the time we’re 30, we’re ready. This is a whole different phase for me, so when we talk about legacy I think about cats like Quincy Jones who did some of their biggest work at 50 [years old]. I’m 18 years away from 50. I’m still warming up.”
What separates the greats from anyone else is an overwhelming sense of confidence, and Drumma Boy’s is through the roof. Music is in his DNA and in a single conversation one can tell that he lives and breathes to give the world his best sonic art.
“I’ve worked with guys that were great MC’s and I’ve worked with guys who everyone said couldn’t rap,” he said. “And I still killed it. Give me whoever and I’m still going to kill it. Give me Mariah Carey and I can go in that lane. That’s my biggest threat, and I’m still proving myself. I’m still Grammy-nominated. I feel like I’m in my prime right now.”
As trap music continues to introduce new stars to the world, Drumma Boy has been a part of the journey. He helped Migos completely take over pop culture by producing “Look At My Dab” (hear below). When 2 Chainz burst onto the scene as a solo artist, Drumma Boy produced his early hits. Those include “Spend It” featuring T.I., “Boo” featuring Yo Gotti, and “Turn Up” featuring Cap 1. Now, as the genre continues to become more melodic, Drumma Boy’s classical training and composition skills make him a staple in the game.
Beyond producing for hip-hop’s elite, you can find him scoring the movies and television shows governing your conversations around the workplace water cooler. His ability to compose and arrange has landed him opportunities with Lee Daniels’ series, Star on FOX, as well as Empire. He’s also scored the music for Dez Bryant’s Beats By Dre commercials (hear below), SMS Audio headphones with Carmelo Anthony, and Shoe Carnival commercials.
“You’re not going to get the jobs I get without having that musical skill and theory,” Drumma Boy said. “You might get a whole bunch of C-list or D-list jobs. You might even luck up and get a B-list job, but the bar for the A-list jobs is set high for a reason. It’s just like the All-Star game. You’ve got some guys who are in the league for 10 years, and every year they make the All-Star game because they put up the numbers. It’s about consistency. This is my tenth summer with at least two or year hits every year—that’s consistency.”
There’s a certain energy that comes from someone still looking to earn the respect they feel they deserve. Spending about 100 hours a week in the studio will turn any musician into a creative cloud ready to rain greatness down on those who didn’t see a storm coming. A trance comes over Drumma Boy while he’s working. He’s not done making history, and we’re not done learning just how influential he is to hip-hop.
“I like to compare myself to Russell Westbrook and his animal instinct,” said Drumma Boy. “He feels underrated. He’s got that competitive energy where he’s ready to make a statement. Who’s got the record? I’m taking that, then I’m going to sit back until the playoffs and set some more records.”
Drumma Boy is proof that true staying power is in the hands of hard workers capable of placing themselves in the right situations, to help the right people win. On top of that, he’s a reminder that proper education in your field allows you to expand beyond one income stream while impacting culture. Trap music is the soundtrack to all of our lives these days, and Drumma Boy is as much to thank for that as other legends who tend to get all of the praise. It’s time to give the x-factor of trap music his just due.