Back in the summer I was able to catch up with the world renowned Drumma Boy. We originally spoke right after he purchase his Camaro SS2, which he a described as "definitely a good piece of work!" This young man had a very positive outlook followed by some powerful statements formed from wisdom and incredible insight. He has grown up in the music industry in some way or another, and with a father (Dr. James Gholson) that is first chair clarinet in the Memphis Orchestra and an Opera singer as a mother, you could say music is in his blood. It was instilled in him before his birth, and fed to him as he grew up. Growing up in Memphis the home of the Blues and birthplace of Rock N Roll, he was afforded the opportunity to listen to greats such as Elvis, Isaac Hayes, Billie Holiday, and James Hyter to name a few. His friends were generally much older and included notables such as; Jazze Pha, Three Six Mafia, Carlos Broady, and Slice Tee. Often referred to as "the industry's little brother," Drumma Boy is making moves! From Dreamland to Drum Squad he has it under control. An accomplished musician himself, he now composes masterpieces for the industry's heavy hitters. He has more than likely worked with your favorite artist or someone in your top 5 from T.I. to Jeezy, Gucci Mane to Pastor Troy, Plies to Gorilla Zoe, Bow Wow to Monica back to Souljah Boy Tellem onward to Rick Ross, and many, many, more. He is Grammy nominated and platinum plaque awarded. YYYYEEEEAAAHHH Boy....
Drumma boy recently you have catapulted to be one of the top producers in the game. People recognize your sound and not just from your trademark, but the actual sound of your tracks. How long was the process of creating and perfecting that sound? Also what made you run with your trademark at first?
A lot of people think I have a specific sound, trademark, or whatever. I just make music to be honest with you. A lot of people think that the “Yeah Boy” is my signature or the sound effect, but none of that is really my signature. My signature is making quality music; music that can be heard 5 or 10 years from today. As far as developing my sound, that is a process that is still being done. I think I develop my sound year in and year out. You know what I mean? It is just lifelong journey to establish myself from where I am today. I started doing this at the age of 13 and I've been practicing, studying, and a part of music since birth. I would really say since I was in mama’s womb; she used put her stomach up to the speakers, and let me hear Billie Holiday or Curtis Mayfield. All of that helps me to establish that particular sound and make sure my mixes are better than the standard producer's mix.
Your tracks have been described as having "thick and textured sounds that take some producers years to perfect." How were you able to accomplish this at such a young age and what role did your parents play in your music?
That was really my work ethic. I had an older brother, who was making beats with guys like Carlos Broady, Slice Tee, and Jazze Pha. All of these dudes are legendary producers in the city of Memphis. My older is 14 years older than me, so a lot of my homies are 14 years older than me. People like Slice Tee, Jazze, and Three Six Mafia, all of these dudes a little bit older me, but this is who I came up under. I even saw Lil Jon before he was making beats. I am pretty much like the industries little brother. Everybody calls me little brother and I came up watching what they were doing. Also my dad (James Gholson) is in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and my mom was in the Opera. So I’ve been attending rehearsals, concerts, and symphonies since I was one or two years old. Being able to establish what an oboe, trombone, or a clarinet is, or any instrument that I hear off the top of my head I can identify that instrument. I know how to put instruments together, and that is just from the orchestra standpoint. I’ve been in the orchestra, I played the clarinet, and I can read orchestral music. Also I can play by ear and read from paper. It is just a blessing having all of those tools under my belt. It definitely helps to established me as the producer that I am. I just try to mix that classical sound with the urban sound. One thing about my dad he was playing in the orchestra and wanted me to be in the orchestra, but I felt like I could really expand to be as big as I wanted to be. In anything that I do I want to be number one at it, and I feel like in the orchestra you could be the first chair, like my dad is number one at what he does. He is the first chair clarinet and the first Black man to even be first chair clarinet in the Orchestra. He is making history and he is first chair, but I wanted to be first in the world, and that was difference between me and him. I am composing my music, and he reading other people’s music, playing Beethoven, Mozart, and Sebastian. I really consider myself more like the conductor or more like Mozart or Sebastian. The one that writes the music and is remembered for the music that he puts forward.
With you and your family’s great musical background what all instruments do you play?
I play the clarinet and I’ve been playing the clarinet since I was 4 or 5, I play the piano, and I am working on the saxophone. My main thing is putting the music together, as I can write music for any instrument. So even though I can’t play strings; I can still play stings in a sort, because I write the music and just hire an orchestra or three or four string players to play what I wrote.
So you are a fan of using live instruments in the studio when creating tracks. This is now more prevalent and coming back from the past.
Yeah that’s me that is something that I’ve been doing. We’ve worked with a lot of bands, and where I come from I grew up with Elvis Presley. My mom was friends with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, James Hyter, Isaac Hayes, and Curtis Mayfield, so seeing where music was then I never forgot where music came from. It’s a lot of songs on the radio today that’s not really considered music, and I just try to hold on the quality sound and that old stacked sound. We come from stacks, Sunrise Records, and Gladys Knight & The Pips. That’s where I come from so I try to keep that quality and genuine sound. Even with Here I Am that I did with Rick Ross and Nelly I used live drummers, live bass, and a live pianist. It is just a feel you get for that music. That’s a song that will be played forever, because of the feel or the emotion. A lot of music I think that people forget to put emotion into it. You know it’s a club record or it’s this or it’s that, but it doesn’t have that emotion. I try to keep the emotion involved.
Growth is one of the most important attributes to display in music. How difficult is to push the boundaries of music and be abstract, while still captivating the artists and fans?
That’s easy within being yourself. That’s one thing, I never let anybody run me, I don’t let money nor opportunity run me. You just really have to do pretty much do what you want to do when you want to do it. Even when you’re put in a situation to do something and you don’t want to do it. That’s what separates the men from the boys. Like just yesterday I had been up three days straight last night was the first night I was able to sleep. As soon as I was back in town, after being in Dallas the whole weekend, I went straight to the studio. Gucci Mane called me first thing Monday morning and I hadn’t been able to sleep yet. We arrived in Atlanta around 10:00AM Monday morning, and then he called me about 11:00AM. We went to the studio and made four hits! Had I went to sleep I might not have made those hits. Though I was really tired and wanted to go to sleep, but Gucci’s my boy, anytime anybody calls and that’s my boy I have to go in with them, whether I’ve been asleep or not. Just being able to perform under those conditions separates the boys from the men. That’s more for me than anything else. That’s work ethic; I make music every day. I might make 7 or 8 tracks a day for two weeks straight. So when somebody does and call or that week I may have 50 different artists coming at me, I have established a catalog that’s long enough or deep enough to handle all of these artists. That’s the growth that you were asking about. You just have to pretty much grow into a beast! I consider myself a beast. Any top notch producer or any producer that’s number one in this game is a beast! Dre is a beast, Neptunes they are beasts, and Quincy Jones was a beats! That’s only way you’re going to be number one in this! If you don’t have that beast mentality you’re not going to make it. If you can’t handle 100 different artists in your face at the same time and you’re still making sure all 100 of those people are satisfied, then you aren’t a beast. You need to sit down and try to do something else because this isn’t built for you. This is what I do, I’m a producer, I’m a songwriter, I’m a composer, I’m an author, I’m an artists, this is what I do and I’m a business mogul. I study cats like Diddy, Quincy Jones, Michael Jordan, and Magic Johnson. You have to be a businessman, that’s the biggest growth in this industry. Because 90% of this industry in business. Everybody says “I got hot beats, I got hot beats, etc.” that’s just a tenth of what you have to bring to the table. If you don’t have brain, if you don’t have any sense, if you don’t have any networking skills, no politicking skills, no mouthpiece, no salesmanship, or understand how to sell yourself, understand how to brand yourself, if you don’t have of those things under your belt, then you’re not going to grow much. If you don’t have those things under your belt those are things you could them learn in order to grow.
If memory serves me correct you are coming from behind the track and starting to rap and perform also. What propelled you from making the tracks to becoming the artist on your tracks.
We are finally situated now! I do everything by priority. My first priority was to lockdown the game on my production. I was rapping before I was making beats, but I wanted to lockdown one thing. I felt like the beats and the production side of it is what gets everybody moving. You can have the whole world rocking off of your head, off your beats, off your music you can have every head in the world rocking off of music. Music is eternal. That’s one thing that goes forever, that’s around the board. So once I locked that, it was easy to put a couple of words on top of some music and still have they head knocking, or bring to the table the second element or what you were missing. The same thing with Kanye; Kanye got on his beats first. He focused on getting himself situated. When I was in Memphis I had my own studio and pretty much the people we had rented the studio from got kind of salty with me since they didn’t own the masters. I fell out with the people I was working with as far as that studio in Memphis. Since then I’ve been on the grind selling beats. I got car notes, I got bills, I got insurance, I have to eat every day, I have to be fresh with my clothes, I want to buy jewelry, and my main source of bread and income was selling music. So I went and made beats for Pastor Troy, Jeezy, Yo Gotti, and got on! Now you know Drumma Boy, now you know who he is, now Drumma Boy is financially straight, Drumma Boy has a lot of things going on and you’re hearing about me around the world. Now I speak and everything I speak about is going to be factual, it’s going to be true, and I am filling in the gaps. Any gaps you feel like are open in the music industry that’s where I come in, I fill in the gap. If you think Hip Hop is dead from the South’s standpoint I am going to fill that in. That’s what Outkast did, they played their lane, and I am playing my lane I’m real laid back, cool, on the pimp tip, but I’m educated. I’m all about motivating, stimulating, encouraging, and enhancing. So anything I speak about is the truth, its best to speak when spoken to. It’s time to speak and give some knowledge back because I’ve been successful. Music is a topic that I can speak on, rap on; I don’t really call it rap, to me its poetry. It’s just spitting words to a tempo, and that’s all I am doing just spitting words.