DJ Drama: American gangsta 

The world's most infamous DJ is back in the mix

It's hard to believe the Aphilliates' offices are still located at 147 Walker St. -- the same place where Atlanta police arrested Tyree "DJ Drama" Simmons and Don Cannon last January on bootlegging charges.

"A lot of people were like, 'You're going to stay there? Don't you feel like it's negative energy?'" says DJ Drama, who takes a moment to talk before going on the air to host "Gangsta Grillz Radio," the 8 p.m. Friday show he co-hosts with Cannon for Sirius satellite radio. The duo broadcasts the program from a studio room in the offices. "But it would only be negative energy if I felt as if everything turned out in a negative way. I'm the type of person where my glass is always half full. This is our home."

It's the type of attitude that has sustained Drama throughout the year: When it rains lemons, make lemonade. After DJ Drama, widely known as the uncrowned king of mix CDs, was arrested, he pressed up T-shirts that read, "Free DJ Drama." Hot 107.9 (WHTA-FM), the station that once hosted the Aphilliates' "Gangsta Grillz Radio" program Saturdays at 8 p.m., temporarily took Drama off the air. Now Hot 107.9 features the program five nights a week: Monday through Thursday at 10 and the original Saturday time slot.

When police raided the offices, they seized the master copies for DJ Drama's Atlantic Records debut, Gangsta Grillz: The Album. After DJ Drama re-recorded some tracks and commissioned new material, the album will finally drop Dec. 4. He talked about the album, his friend Tip "T.I." Harris' ongoing legal troubles (Drama is T.I.'s DJ), and why he calls mix CDs "the veins of hip-hop."

What's the status of the case?

The case is still pending. God bless, I haven't spent another day in jail, and that's the thing I'm most thankful about. Hopefully, it will be resolved in a timely fashion. It's been awhile, so I know a lot of people are still wondering what's going on with it. I'm just happy to keep doing my thing. I'm still able to travel. I've got good lawyers on the team. My lawyer Ed Garland, who is also T.I.'s lawyer, he's working productively with the district attorney. I look forward to resolving it in a manner that everyone can come to an agreement on.

But it's still going on ...

It's still going on. I have yet to be indicted or convicted on anything.

Do you think you'll be indicted?

I don't know. I can't say either way. In this situation, I just pray for the best.

Can you speak on T.I. a little bit? What's going on with his situation?

It's been such a long year for us. What a year 2007 is. I was actually reading an article someone had just wrote in Creative Loafing saying that maybe the DJ Drama situation was an omen for the year to come, which bugged me out.

Hip-hop artists, musicians and entertainers have had legal problems for many, many years. But it's clear that this is a year when a lot of people's situations were put on the table. I'm including T.I., Remy Martin, Prodigy, myself, and even Michael Vick.

But as far as Tip goes, it's a very serious matter, and we're dealing with it as that. I talked to Tip today, actually. He was in good spirits. His kids were at the house, and I could hear his son in the background. He was being daddy. I think he was reading me something on the Internet about the "security guard/informant," and some inaccuracies and his developments and what they are.

I can't say where it's at with it as far as on the legal side. That's more of a lawyer conversation. I'm just glad my man is in good spirits. He's not behind bars, and house arrest is better than that. He's been through a lot himself. A lot of people in his position, with his fame and his success, have overcome situations like this or bigger.

You're mostly known for the mixtapes. Do you still make them?

Yeah, we still do mixtapes.

For a while, the mixtape game definitely took a ... I call Jan. 16 the day the game changed, and it was a devastating day in the mixtape world. I feel like a lot of that happened on my shoulders and that I have an obligation to speak out in the support and benefit of mixtapes as it represents for hip-hop. I feel like mixtapes are the veins of hip-hop. So many movements come from mixtapes. So much money the industry generates start from that street level and start from the mixtapes.

The mixtape game, slowly but surely, is coming back to life. I'm doing my part. I dropped Gangsta Grillz 16, Gangsta Grillz 17, I did a tape with Jeezy, and I did a tape with Block Entertainment. It's slowly but surely coming back to life.

What role do you play on Gangsta Grillz: The Album? Do you produce a lot of the beats, or are you an executive producer?

I'm an executive producer. I'm the face in a lot of ways, you know what I'm saying?

A lot of people put in a lot of work for this album, especially DJ Sense and La the Darkman. They executive-produced the album along with me. We basically sat down and mapped it out.

You know, I don't rap. I could call myself a co-producer, but I'm not necessarily sitting there on the drum machine. We have an in-house team, Detroit Red and DJ Cannon, as producers. We also got a lot of outside producers: Jazze Pha, Drumma Boy, Khao, and the Runners. The artists that's on the album – OutKast, Lil Wayne, Lloyd, Young Jeezy, T.I. – you know what I'm saying? It's basically my canvas, and I took all this paint, and I put it together. I feel like it's my Chronic, with all due respect to Dr. Dre, and I would never want to put myself on his level, but that's how I went into it.

There was one point when I didn't even know if I wanted to put my face on the cover of the album, because it's not so much about DJ Drama as it is about Gangsta Grillz and Gangsta Grillz as the brand. I feel like I'm George Lucas and that's my Star Wars. At the end of the day, I'm thankful that I get a lot of credit, but a lot of people deserve credit for this album. A lot of people put a lot of work into it, all the artists, and all the producers, so I'm happy to be able to present it.

To read the full transcript of the DJ Drama interview, visit www.clcribnotes.com.

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