Interview: Utilizing His Strong Musical Background, Drumma Boy Plans To Take Music To The Next Level
You’ve heard him on numerous tracks with his signature drop “Listen to this track, bitch” and if you haven’t, you’re familiar with his music as he’s done countless smashes including “Put On” by Young Jeezy and Kanye West. YouKnowIGotSoul got to speak with music extraordinaire Drumma Boy about the necessity of having musicianship when creating records. He also explains his take on artists who ask him to give them a beat similar to some of his biggest hits. Lastly, he shares with us some of his plans in the future which includes a Jazz album and a collaboration with fellow Memphis-native Justin Timberlake.
YouKnowIGotSoul: You started playing the clarinet at an early age and you have a strong musical background. How important do you think it is for a producer to have that kind of background in music?
Drumma Boy: For me and my kind of music, I think it’s very essential. The first music that I was really introduced to was orchestra and it was coming in from Bach, Beethovan, Mozart, Sibelius and all of these different composers that my Dad introduced me to. I was born to orchestras, nutcrackers, operas, performances, ballets and plays since birth on my Father’s side. On my Mother’s side, it’s weird because I still have these dreams that I’m in this black room with my ears kind of muted and I can’t really hear clearly what the music is, but I can tell it’s coming from somewhere. It’s almost like putting your hands over your ears and its muted sound and you can’t see. It reminds me of the birth. She tells me she used to put her womb up to the speaker and would play Patti Labelle, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and all these jams. I was just exposed to a lot of soul and rhythm from just different angles. The city of Memphis itself, you never know what’s in it. There’s so much different ingredients in the pot. You got Rock N Roll, Elvis Presley, W. C. Handy, Blues, Isaac Hayes, Kurt Franklin and then you got Three Six Mafia, 8 Ball & MJG, Playa 4 Life and even Justin Timberlake. He’s from a suburb of Memphis. There’s so much different talent all in one. To sum that up, just musicianship is very essential to music. If you’re going to make music, why not make be a musician and have musicianship and understand the ways of reading, composing, arranging and developing music. Once you take it to that world, it almost becomes like a wine. A lot of people say music is like wine, it gets better over time. I just sold a beat that’s from 2003. I’m still selling music from 2001. A lot of ideas that I did then and that I maybe haven’t finished, now I just bring in a live drummer or live bass and I write the parts for him to play and he comes in and plays it. Just having those essentials under my belt, I think that overall makes me one of the most versatile producers in the world.
YKIGS: A record that’s been making some noise on the radio is the Yo Gotti and Ciara song. Give me some background on that song and how Ciara was added in the equation for that track.
DB: That record “We Can Get It On”, I did that record for Yo Gotti. I had previously done a lot of buzz records and I wanted to bring something to the table different for him. He was working on the album and I wanted to make sure I had a single for the project. We were in Memphis and I was playing some beats for him. He called me and was like “Man came through to the studio”. I came through with some beats and I already had some urban tracks for him, but I wanted to make sure I played him some mainstream material as well. I gave him an idea like “Man you already got the street stuff you should do something for the ladies”. We found a beat and I went through one or two beats, and the third beat I played, he started vibing to a hook. He was kind of mumbling the words to the hook. The next thing you know, he dropped parts of the hooks he wanted the rap part to be, but then he had an idea for the singing. I came up with the simple melody that the ladies could sing. It was perfect. I got a girl to come in and demo it. He was like “We need to make it bigger. Who do you think we should get on it?”. I was just like “I’ll just get my home girl Ciara”. I’m cool with Ciara, so we went out to L.A. and got her on it.
YKIGS: “Put On” is one of your biggest hits so far. Have you ever had encounters where an artist would say “Give me a song similar to ‘Put On’” and how do you respond to that?
DB: I’ve had a lot of people that asked for a song like this or like that. You can take it into perspective of how you want to. A lot of times, I look at it more of a format so to speak than the same notes and same articulations. Producers have gotten offended and I tell them there’s no reason to get offended. You just have to understand what he’s telling you. If a guy says he wants a beat like “Put On”, I don’t take it like he wants the same notes and keys, I take it like he wants the same tempo. If the tempo of “Put On” is 75, I’m going to make him another beat that’s in the same tempo, but my music and theory are going to be completely different. That’s what gets the job done. In this instance, there’s a new song that just leaked that I did for Nelly which features T.I. and 2 Chainz. It’s Nelly’s first single. I produced it and that particular beat was already out on YouTube. I have a YouTube Channel called DrumSquadTV. The track was already out for two or three weeks. The same track I had e-mailed to Wiz Khalifa about a month ago. He wanted the track, but it was the same track Nelly has as his first single. I was just like “No problem, just give me the acapella”. It’s basically one of the instances where I was just speaking on the same tempo. Both beats are the same tempo, but I have to make another beat around Wiz’s vocals because the track he recorded to was already sold. I had to remake complete new music around the Wiz Khalifa song. It’s actually Wiz and Snoop for the new music that they’re doing. The music came out incredible and as soon as they heard it, they approved it instantly. It was the first version that I sent in. This is something that I started doing when I first started making beats, just taking a well known song acapella and try to make my own version that could compete with the original. I did that on “Standing Ovation” with Young Jeezy which got me my first platinum plaque.
YKIGS: You’re known for your hard hitting rap beats, but you also do R&B. I’ve noticed a major difference in the sound of your R&B records. How do you approach an R&B record?
DB: Urban music is the easiest form of music for me. I started from the most complex music which is orchestra, so going back to more musical stuff is what I love the most. It’s what I really enjoy. I love making broad music, movies which is what I’m getting more into now. I plan on doing a Jazz album when I’m in my mid-30’s and writing a composition for an orchestra. My approach for R&B is just keys and a little bit more vibe. Sometimes it’s slower, sometimes it’s faster. It’s just more musical. My mind is always musical. It’s almost more difficult for me to dumb myself down and make easy Hip Hop stuff. The musical side has always been what I do best and I have an extreme team of musicians that love to work with me. That’s a relationship factor. That’s one thing Quincy Jones had which is the musicians. If you listen to the “Thriller” album, he wrote all of the music, but it was his musicians and orchestras. He was in tune with the top three orchestras in the world. That’s always a key factor when you’re making music so great.
YKIGS: Give me some background on the song “Waiting Still” by Musiq Soulchild.
DB: That song is one of my favorites. I went up to New York and I was doing some work with Jerry Wonder. He was the one who played the guitar on that track. He’s an amazing producer. We worked together on several tracks. He has a studio in New York which he owns called “Platinum Sound” and just working in this guy’s studio, he has this great wine that we were drinking. He has some of the best original wine. It was just amazing. Just the vibe it had, we had the strobe lights in the studio. This is Wyclef’s cousin. He did a lot of musicianship for the Fugees album, he’s done production for everybody. He’s a Grammy award winner. He’s an older guy, but he’s a remarkable guy to work with and extremely remarkable experience. We did about eight tracks and this is one of the tracks we did together for Musiq. It just turned out amazing. It was fun.
YKIGS: What about Usher’s “Stranger”?
DB: I produced that track in L.A. in another session for another label. I was just making tracks. I think I originally made that track for Trey Songz or somebody like that. We couldn’t find anybody to wrote to it that particular day, so we had somebody else write to it the next day. We had like two or three songs to it, but none of them were just monumental. None of them were really moving or anything that I wanted to keep to that particular music. Great songs, but a lot of times I’ll just put one song off a track and put it on another track. In this instance, this was six months after I had made that track I was in an Usher session and one of his writers named Ryan came up to me and was like “This song is dope, let me write to it”. He wrote to it. He actually wrote two different songs that day and “Stranger” was one of them. Usher heard it and cut it. Actually that particular record, I got the permission to leak and I leaked it on my Memorial Playlist. I do these playlists of all the tracks that I’ve ever produced to aware people of the songs I’ve done. Every time I do these CDs, I always get “I didn’t know you did that!” That’s one thing about producing, if you’re not rapping or verbal on the tracks, you’re not going to be seen or the people won’t even recognize that you’re the one who is behind the work. That was the key ingredient behind Puff and Biggie. If you noticed, they were always visual together. A lot of people have left me out of videos like the Plies and T-Pain “Shawty” video. It’s a lot of videos that I personally felt like I should have been in. A lot of artists don’t even call you to let you know that they’re shooting a video. I was just like “Okay cool, I’ll just work on my own material”. That’s just how it goes.
YKIGS: A video you did appear in is the Teedra Moses’ song “Are You 4 Real”. How did you end up in that video?
DB: Teedra Moses just called me. I actually didn’t even know I was doing that role. She called me and was like “Can you come through my video?”. I thought I was just going to do a cameo. Soon as I pulled up, they were like “You need to take off your shirt. We need you for this role”. I kind of randomly just walked into that situation. Teedra Moses is like a sister to me, she’s like the home girl. She’s a crazy writer. She writes to a lot of my music. Much respect to her. It was really a blessing. It’s always good to hold somebody down when they need you.
YKIGS: Who are you currently working with? I know you did the Goapele record and I know you have a record with Raheem DeVaughn and Angie Stone.
DB: I just did a record with Mary J. Blige. I’m not sure if it’s going to make her album. We did get one record cut by her. That was awesome. Just to hear her on anything that I produced was amazing. I’m hoping it’ll get on the record. It was actually written by Johnta Austin. I’m working with Johnta extremely often now. I’m really just trying to develop my songs, so when I present them to a lot of people they’re pretty much a no brainer. It’s like “Okay when are we going to cut it?”. That’s why I’ve been with Johnta. He’s a Grammy Award winner and an extraordinary writer. I’m also developing my own team of writers. I was sitting right next to Erykah Badu when I won my BET award. Erykah Badu commended me and spoke to me and spoke on doing some work with me in the future. Definitely looking forward to her. Definitely looking forward to Jill Scott. I’ve been reaching out to John Legend to work with him. We’re supposed to be going to Chicago soon. I also look forward to working with Justin Timberlake. He’s in LA and I’m supposed to go out there to do some stuff.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
DB: I’m working more on the soundtrack side. Looking to do some acting soon. I’m going to take music to the next level. Also, I want to let people know about Drumma Boy Live. It is music that I make with live instrumentation. For instance, my first Drumma Boy Live placement was a record I did for Rick Ross featuring Nelly called “Here I Am” which was a big record. A lot of actual Gospel people love that record. People can listen to it because of the words and the structure. That was the first Drumma Boy Live record. The second placement was the T.I. song “You Ain’t Missing Nothing”. If you listen to that, I had a saxophone, live drums, live bass, live guitar. I’m definitely expanding with the Drumma Boy Live. We got the band rehearsing, so definitely stay tuned for music from that catalog as well.
Follow Drumma Boy on Twitter @DrummaBoyFresh