Gangsta Grillz, Lil Uzi Vert, Label and More #LilUziVert

xxlmag May 29, 2023 Lil Uzi Vert 13
Gangsta Grillz, Lil Uzi Vert, Label and More #LilUziVert

DJ Drama discusses his legacy, Gangsta Grillz, Generation Now, Lil Uzi Vert's sobriety and more in this exclusive XXL interview.

DJ Drama s carved a legacy as raps ultimate hype man, teaming up with some of hip-hops biggest names to elevate street albums to an art form. Raised in Philadelphia, Drama, born Tyree Simmons, was inspired to become a DJ after watching Omar Epps play a teen DJ in Ernest Dickersons 1992 film, the cult classic Juice. After learning how to work turntables as a youth, Drama left Philly to attend Clark Atlanta University, where he met eventual longtime business partner Don Cannon. In 1998, Drama released Jim Crow Laws, a debut mixtape that began the trek that took him to stardom. By the mid-2000s, Drama had become a proverbial household name for street rap, with artists like T.I., Jeezy and Lil Wayne teaming up with him for various projects. Dramas hoarse, guttural shouts, knack for inventive one-liners and penchant for collaborating with artists on the brink of superstardom helped crystallize his status as a hip-hop icon. In 2013, he took his talents in a new direction, founding the record label Generation Now alongside Don Cannon and Leighton Lake Morrison. Since then, the labels signed multiplatinum-selling artists Lil Uzi Vert and Jack Harlow, certifying itself as an industry powerhouse. Drama has been in exec mode, but that hasnt stopped his DJ grind. Dating back to 2021, hes hosted projects by Jim Jones, Symba, Dreamville and, most prominently, Tyler, The Creator. During his career, Drama has had his ups and downsin 2007, he and Cannon were arrested in Atlanta and hit with RICO charges for selling copyrighted materialsbut the DJ has managed to make his career a continual acclivity, one culminating with the moment Tyler, The Creators Call Me If You Get Lost LP won the Gramophone for Best Rap Album in 2022. During the April release week for his new album, Im Really Like That, Drama, 45, speaks inside his room at New York Citys Times Square Edition hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The Grammy-winning artist discusses his legacy, dead rapper dream collaborations, Generation Now and more. XXL: Im Really Like That is out now. Why release a new album at this point in your career? DJ Drama: I actually started working on that album sometime after Covid, you know, loosely. Generation Now, the company, as a staff, we were just laying out our projects and my album was one of them. And we started to slowly work on songs. And just in the last like, I dont know, maybe six, seven, eight months, as a lot of things were revving up. I was at a point in my career where I felt energized. I started to really put my all into it, and began to really dive in, and completing the project and really feeling like now is a great time to put a project down. Youve released a lot of great projects over the years. What is it to you that makes a classic mixtape? Thats a great question. Obviously, an artist that makes great music, sequencing is very important, what people hear at the very top is very key. Just the sequencing and the flow of the mixtape. When it comes to, to me, like what I lend to it with my personality and my talk game and how I approach the record. The creative things that I say, the bells and the whistles. The Gangsta Grill drops, the sound effects, as well as just little tricks of the trades of maybe running a record back and giving it some energy and creating that excitement. I always compare it to like being a chef. People bring me their turkey at Thanksgiving, and its their turkey, but I use my oven and my seasonings. I know exactly the degree to cook it on, 425. And when I present it, its the most delicious turkey youve ever tasted in your life. Youve been on the pure DJ side and the industry executive side. Whats been more difficult: building up a mixtape series or a record label? Its hard to compare because there is no Generation Now if theres no Gangsta Grillz. So, just even when you asked that question, it made me reminisce about the days literally of me sitting in my one-room duplex, putting CDs in the cases and putting the covers in there, closing it, doing another one, closing it. Its insane. To that degree, to like where I am now, where its now I have a full facility compound in Atlanta, a staff of 30. A fully functional label. So, they both were complex in their own ways, but one led to another and, obviously dealing with artists and other personalities is a complex thing because I cant just go off my own schedule or my own feelings or when Im ready to get to work. Im dealing with other people, and Im invested in their lives, and their lives are invested within me. So, their success is my success in a sense. None of it is easy. Putting together an album, creating a successful artist. I like to think that we may make it look easy because of the successes, but its a lot of hard work and its a lot of dedication. Its a lot of just like 25/8 days, 25 hours, eight days of work and grinding it out. Thankfully, the payoff has been quite well in my situation or in our situation. Another thing that comes along with running

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