It all started on Instagram.
Before Beyoncé gravitated toward it, I would not have given “Cha Cha” the time of day. But if the Queen B tells me to do something, it’s done. At first "Cha Cha" represented everything I hate, which is another way of saying it represented everything I don’t understand. I had been hearing whispers of this “Cha Cha” guy, but I didn't need to listen to his song. From the title alone I had D.R.A.M. all figured out. He was just another viral rapper with another dance that would be gone in another minute, as soon as a more Vineable dance popped up. Drill? Trap? A weird dance-able combination of both? No matter what he was I knew he didn’t fit into my backpack. I try to remain open minded when it comes to music, but the truth is that like every person on earth, sometimes I dance to conclusions before really knowing anything.
But then a weird thing happened….I actually listened to the song.
And then an even weired thing happened, I kept listening. And kept listening. And kept listening.
Beyonce said it best, “This song makes me happy.” She’s right. It does, but like a chocolate bar or a piece of fruit stripe gum, I expected the happiness to wear off rather quickly. Instead, listen after listen D.R.A.M. began to resemble a real, actual artist. I used “Cha Cha” to get me through a rough day or a brutal traffic jam. I listened at the grocery store. The bank. In line for Chipotle. I listened to it while getting ready to go out and once I was out I hoped I would hear it again. I still remember how jubilant I was the first time I heard it at a bar. I may or may not have bought a few random people Fireball shots just because “Cha Cha” was playing. There is something genuine about “Cha Cha.” I still haven’t quite been able to explain it or quantify it, but the song has that “something,” and clearly I wasn't the only person who recognized that something.
Last month, fellow DJBooth hired pen Brendan got the chance to speak to D.R.A.M and at the time the DMV emcee seemed only too happy to have Drake riding his wave. “He [Drake] was the first to get influenced...it’s something that I would say is welcomed. I wouldn’t call it a remix. I would call it an influence of the Virginia wave," he said. But as "Hotline Bling" has exploded into a number one hit, yet another notch in Drake's Billboard belt, D.R.A.M.'s obviously struggled to stay so purely magnanimous, recently tweeting "Yeah, I feel I got jacked for my record, but I'm good" and he has every reason to feel that way. Because he did get jacked for his record.
Seeing Drake dance to “Cha Cha” like it was a deleted scene from the “Hotline Bling” video seems like a retroactive slap in the face.
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How can he deny or just completely ignore D.R.A.M. in the face of direct evidence otherwise? Drake seems to be claiming that he just kind of "freestyled" the same vibe as "Cha Cha," which makes some sense but rings hollow considering his complete refusal to give D.R.A.M. his props. He couldn't have given D.R.A.M. a guest spot in the "Hotline Bling" video? He couldn't have shouted him out as an influence in that FADER interview, or given him some props as Beyonce did?
To D.R.A.M.'s credit though he’s beaten the odds. He’s taken on Drake and won. Sure he’s not outselling our outdissing Drake, but he’s won in the court of public opinion. Right now it feels like Drake is Wal-Mart and D.R.A.M. is the mom and pop store. Drizzy rolled into town expecting to squash the little guy and move right along, but “Cha Cha” has held strong and the people have rallied around it's creator. Couple my love for "Cha Cha" with D.R.A.M.'s sudden identity as an underdog you can root for and I’m Team D.R.A.M. all the way.
Although if I'm going to claim Team D.R.A.M. I have a confession to make. Beyond his guest appearances next to the likes of Chance, Donnie Trumpet and SZA, I haven't actually listened to much of his music. “Cha Cha” is a first date that went a little too well and now I’m fearing what comes next. Is it too good to be true? Imagine if on the second date you find out she is voting for Trump or hates pizza. I've promised myself I'd listen to his “#1EpicEP” for weeks now, but just can't seem to pull the trigger. What if the rest of the music isn't that good and retroactively ruins “Cha Cha”?
Part of the appeal of “Cha Cha” is the mystery. Who is this guy? What does he stand for? And once the mystery is gone what is there? As irrational as I know I'm being, I can't bring myself to listen to his older work.
I didn't know him before "Cha Cha" blew up, but I still feel like D.R.A.M. has taken a big step forward recently. He’s come out from under Drake's robbery with the world watching for his next move, rooting for him, and he's been working with some people who really know “different.”
D.R.A.M.’s present, and his future, is too vastly different from his past to look back. So instead of going back to his past released material, I'm going to be first in line to listen to the upcoming Gahdamn! EP. Hopefully it'll be the true start of a great artist-fan relationship, and if I don't love it, at least I'll know I gave D.R.A.M. a real chance and can close this strange chapter in my musical life.
Not entirely though.
If you think I’m done with “Cha Cha” you are out of your mind.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. You can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.