"Ain't it crazy," Drama says of the success he's found since moving from Philly in 1996 to become a student at Clark Atlanta. "I started out going to Kinko's and making little covers and selling little [mix tapes] on campus." That led to him becoming involved with Atlanta's underground scene as part of the Binkis Records collective. Around the same time, he began spinning the latest underground records on the noncommercial radio circuit at 88.5 and WRFG-FM (89.3).
Though known as a Southern rap tastemaker, he then played a wide variety of hip-hop. An early series of mix tapes even focused on hip-hop love songs. No one would have described him as a Southern DJ back then. "I had something for anyone who stopped by my table, no matter what genre they wanted," he said.
But one phone call changed the direction of Drama's career. In 2000, a guy named Jason Geter rang him up to try to get an up-and-coming rapper on one of Drama's mix tapes. That artist was T.I. "Who would have knew that this nigga would [become] the hottest nigga in the game," Drama says.
T.I. started out doing freestyles on some early Drama tapes, and now their relationship has grown to the point where Drama is the official DJ for T.I.'s label, Grand Hustle. "It wasn't a complicated formula," Drama says. "I was looking at people like Green Lantern and Eminem or Whoo Kid and 50 Cent, and I was like, 'Y'all need to let me be this to Grand Hustle.'"
Because of Drama's success with T.I., he has gone on to do mix tapes with the likes of Lil Jon, Big Boi, Bun B, Lil' Wayne and Puffy. Things have gotten bigger and better for Drama over the past decade, but his approach to spinning music hasn't changed. "As a DJ, I have to remember that I'm the medium between the industry and the people," Drama says. "It is my job to break records. It is my job to bring people new shit."
All in all, Drama is still pretty much the same cat who used to set up a card table and sell his mix tapes outside of Yin Yang Café. "It feels good to me that I came up through the underground," he says, "People can check my resume and see that I've paid dues. ... It's about stepping stones and everybody has to take them."
But for all that's the same, at least one thing has changed. Drama recently bought a house. So if you're trying to catch him, don't bother knocking on the door of that little gray house on Glen Iris. The new tenants can thank me later.
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