[Interview] D.R.A.M. – Reflects on success + Announces new album

Best known for his signature smile and upbeat personality, Shelley Massenburg Smith, known to his fans as D.R.A.M., is a fresh new face in hip-hop. His melodies and playful lyrics are perfectly crafted into a style that makes the Hampton rapper and singer stand out.

D.R.A.M.’s melodies transition into soulful moments that can be seen in his music, interviews, and featured performances. After some time spent listening to D.R.A.M. it’s hard to debate his playful, uplifting personality and it’s effect on his music.

His first studio release D.R.A.M.’s Big Baby D.R.A.M., debuted at number nineteen on the Billboard charts. It’s single “Broccoli” which features Lil Yachty received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap/Song Performance.

Along with the critical praise for his debut album, much speculation surrounded D.R.A.M. and his first released debut “Cha Cha” which came from his EP #1Epic. Playing defense, D.R.A.M. found his efforts in making his case that Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was a definite imitation.

With all focus on the potential beef, D.R.A.M never really got his fair praise for Big Baby D.R.A.M. In the days of modern hip-hop taking a different turn, it had many guessing D.R.A.M.’s legitimacy in providing continuous hit records.

D.R.A.M., which stands for Does Real Ass Music, has started his career with hit records like “Broccoli”, “Cash Machine”, and “WiFi”. With support from Young Thug, Lil Yachty, and Erykah Badu. D.R.A.M.’s debut album legitimized his status as one of the best new artists.

We spoke to D.R.A.M. about his view on life and music and his personal take on criticism on his work.

RH: You seem to keep business and yourself life well balanced. Keeping level headed, how does your personality affect your music?

It reflects me. The music has a lot to do with me in general I mean I just overall would be the likable good vibe spreading guy than the off putting I’m too cool for you guy. You can be cool without being so anti-everything.

I like the fact that it strikes a good tune in people because that’s what I aim to do. If I feel good about something when I make and put it out in hoping that the people that are listening to it feel the jam good vibe. It’s just me wanting to pass a good vibe and to be a likable person rather than a dick.

Big Baby D.R.A.M

Big Baby D.R.A.M. Photo: Jesus J. Montero

In your short career, you’ve exploded with success. Can you think back to one moment that was momentous in the very earlier blessings in your career?

Back in 2014, we had drop #1Epic mixtape we had the “Cha Cha” record attached to it. We literally just put it out there not knowing how it was going to go but we knew it was going to go.

That was our first blessing. My guy Jacob from Pigeon and Planes, he found my shit through somebody randomly reposted on Soundcloud and saw that called me and raved about my shit.

Six days into the project we didn’t know what the fuck was happening. (laughs) I got my lawyer and management and many other things steamed from Pigeons and Planes push. That was my first blessing. Never will forget that. That was the spark.

A spark that grew into D.R.A.M. today? While also sparking with others?

Yeah, even me and Lil Yachty linking up to do the “Broccoli” record was a blessing because it was all out of timing. I saw he was in L.A. and I hit him up, he came through. I was at a point where the up grind was about to start again and we were just preparing for it working on our shit. Getting back on the grid, and then Yachty being where he is with his fan base at that point. It was the perfect combination moment, everything just fit.

We legit thought it was going to be something on Soundcloud and get the internet and Twitter lit. Which then became one of the biggest songs in the country.

D.R.A.M at Freaky Deaky – 2016

With the release of “Big Baby D.R.A.M. “you were able to put out a body of work that silenced those who questioned your legitimacy after speculation from your earlier work. How did it feel putting those talks to rest? What were you able to do more of. What were you able to focus on?

I’ve always been making music like this. From many different angles and different influences but we do know what is the forefront sound what’s going to carry the torch. What’s popular when it comes to D.R.A.M. and that’s trappy go lucky. We never sit in and try to make that moment it just comes about.

Everything else is just all we’ve been doing if you listen to “#1Epic” in it’s entirely, “Live at the Milk Jam Room”, and “Big Baby D.R.A.M” in it’s entirely it’s continuing that source. I got to a point where I’m comfortable with the scale of my music. I wanted to make sure that these people knew that I’m for real. That’s why the three most popular songs are right there in the middle.

If you all you want to fuck with is that happy go lucky sound of D.R.A.M., I’d got to accept that because you still come out to see me. I put that project out there for the people that I already knew what I was about but I also did it for me.

After releasing “Big Baby D.R.A.M.”, what’s going on in your way of thinking? What’s the feeling of putting away all the naysayers of D.R.A.M.? After making such a bold entrance into the hip-hop world.

There’s not any pressure. I’ll tell you this right now. We’re almost halfway done with the next album. This is (D.R.A.M.) not a flop, you feel me. So when we put out the project (Big Baby D.R.A.M.) I feel really good about it as a whole but it’s not even half my journey. Like the great Gucci Mane once said, “This isn’t even half my journey.”

I feel relieved now that the first album is out of the way. There’s so much crazy shit going on and I’m quite the opinionated person but what I want to do is keep that shit out of it.

I’m never going to try to push my rhetoric down your throat. In the mindset of all this I’m like “Hey let’s go through all of this.” let’s put on 4 minutes of blessing right quick because, at the end of it, it might speak out ideas that needed that good energy to spark it.

D.R.A.M will be in Chicago on Fri. Jan 27 at The Metro.

Jesus J. Montero