Drumma Boy can do it all. The 36-year-old rapper and producer has caught hits (“No Hands”) and won awards (Best Indie Producer of the Year). Since 2002, Drumma has been shaping the sound of hip-hop with his thumping productions. His work with OutKast, Waka Flocka Flame, Bun B, and Jeezy, among others, has cemented him in hip-hop history. History will remember Drumma Boy for his hits, sure, but history should also not forget Drumma for his dedication to independence and ownership.
“I don’t have any bosses,” Drumma Boy tells me over the phone. “I am my own boss. I can cut checks. Things I believe in, artists, producers, projects, investments, I can move on my own. Even if a movie calls and says, ‘Hey, we wanna clear this [song],’ they gotta call me. [Independence] put me in contact with a completely different relationship [with the industry].”
On the topic of ownership and independence, we discuss TuneCore—the distribution service empowering independence and artists every day. “TuneCore has been huge to allow me a platform to be on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, any online music platform,” Drumma says. “You name it, we’re there, and it’s been through TuneCore. It’s been amazing for me to be able to load up my music right there on the spot. If I got a project and it’s ready to go right now, I can load that project up and be everywhere tomorrow, be all across the world. Or, I could do a three-week process, and come out with a date. It’s direct. Again, everything I do, I do it direct. TuneCore gives me that opportunity.”
Own your masters, take control of your career, and make sure you reap the benefits of TuneCore while you’re at it. As far as Drumma’s advice for the upcoming producer? “Copyright your music. That’s the number one piece of game. You should be copyrighting your music to protect yourself in case somebody tries to steal something.” If you want to move in this industry, according to Drumma Boy, you have to look out for yourself. No one else will.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Between rapping and producing, you’ve had a long career. What’s been the most rewarding aspect of being an artist?
Drumma Boy: Being able to get your message out to so many people, and being able to vent. Especially when I went through what I went through, losing my brother, being able to share that in an album form with My Brother’s Keeper, it was just… I got that off my chest. You can move on, so to speak, and relieve yourself.
When you look back on your career, how does it feel to be a part of hip-hop history?
When I was coming up, [trap] was a location. “Bro, where you at?” “I’m in the trap!” And I would know where that’s at. Everybody got a different area of trap, regardless of what city you from. Once I pull up and start making beats—everywhere I go, I’m making beats—I would see what I saw, and that’s what created the sound for trap [music]. It’s just dope to see the influence of how powerful we are as a people. Just how powerful music is, how it talks to people. How it soothes people. Makes people dance! It was a dream I always wanted to make happen. I knew what I wanted to do at 12, 13. I’m just honored to be a part of hip-hop.
You won Southern Entertainment Awards’ Best Indie Producer of the Year from 2009-2011. Why does independence matter to you?
It’s always been cool to me because I can move on my own schedule. I don’t have any bosses. I am my own boss. I can cut checks. Things I believe in, artists, producers, projects, investments, I can move on my own. Even if a movie calls and says, “Hey, we wanna clear this [song],” they gotta call me. [Independence] put me in contact with a completely different relationship [with the industry]. You got the direct connection. I’m on Jeezy’s album because I know Jeezy directly. Plies. 2 Chainz. The list goes on and on. That’s always been my thing: I’mma have these people’s information directly, because of how I set up my business.
I’ve always been down to do a joint partnership or a venture with a label, explore other options. But first and foremost, I had to build my name and show people what I was capable of without having to compromise my soul, my respect, or dignity for fame and fortune. I’ve been very careful.
Talk to me about the importance of ownership in music, especially as a producer.
Ownership is just key, especially for residual growth and generational wealth. Having something to stand on. All my publishing checks, percentages, royalties, residuals, those are things that are constantly in rotation while you sleep. It’s been fun to be able to clear things. It’s fun, getting a phone call—them having to come to me to get my records. Somebody just sampled Plies, and they had to call us. It’s fun to [own] your own things, and see the world demanding your music. That’s what makes it priceless. To see “No Hands” do another 500,000 copies last year alone, it’s like “Wow!” When you get those bonuses or when something major like that happens, it’s you who reaps the benefits of it.
How has TuneCore been instrumental in your career?
TuneCore has been huge to allow me a platform to be on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, any online music platform. You name it, we’re there, and it’s been through TuneCore. It’s been amazing for me to be able to load up my music right there on the spot. If I got a project and it’s ready to go right now, I can load that project up and be everywhere tomorrow, be all across the world. Or, I could do a three-week process, and come out with a date. It’s direct. Again, everything I do, I do it direct. TuneCore gives me that opportunity.
What advice do you have for upcoming independent producers?
First and foremost: Copyright your music. That’s the number one piece of game. You should be copyrighting your music to protect yourself in case somebody tries to steal something. You’re still trying to get in the game; you’re letting a lot of people hear your music… They might hear your music, get an idea, and run off with it. They might record it on their phone and then recreate it. I always tell artists to copyright their music as well as work on music theory. Work on music appreciation.
If you gon’ be a music producer, and don’t know music theory, you’re defeating the purpose of where you can go. You might be a top trap producer, but when Beyoncé calls you, or when that movie score opportunity [comes], you wanna be able to go in and deliver. Music theory, that’s gonna take your game to the next level. Put in the work, stay dedicated, make the sacrifices, and eventually, you’ll see success. Just stay grounded.
Finally, you’re also a known philanthropist. Why is giving back to your community of Memphis important to you?
It’s home! Memphis, Tennessee, is where I was born and raised. The support system I’ve gotten from Memphis… It’s so many people who are instrumental in encouraging me, giving me long talks, and motivation. Making sure you remember those who came before you… You realize: Wow! All of this music came out of Memphis. That’s what gives us the energy to go and take it to the next level following the Three 6 Mafias and the Project Pats. Now seeing Young Dolph, Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo… It feels good! When you plant seeds in your environment, and when you water your environment, you’ll see growth. That’s what we see now, generation after generation.