Drumma Boy: Memphis Music In His Blood


"The Little Drummer Boy" is a widely known Christmas Holiday Season story, so it only makes sense to feature Hip-Hop's own Drumma Boy around this time of the year. The Memphis, Tennessee, native has racked up numerous accolades and awards producing for the likes of T.I., Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Young Jeezy, and a multitude of other stars.

Nowadays, it's not just about making beats anymore for Drumma. In what seems to be a common move for producers these days, Drumma Boy now has a rap alter ego by the name of D-Boy Fresh and released his debut mixtape several months ago. Recently, Drumma Boy invited AllHipHop.com out to the Atlantic Records studios in Los Angeles to hear some new beats and to talk about his life as a musician, producer, and now, as the rapper, D-Boy Fresh:

AllHipHop.com: How were you christened with the Drumma Boy name?

Drumma Boy: I got it at my first job, which was at a shoe store called Just For Feet. One of the managers was joking around when I told him what I did on the side. He was like, “I know you're not going to work at Just For Feet all of your life. What else do you do?” I told him that I made beats and that the basketball team at my high school warms up to them at the games. He didn't believe that I made beats and wanted to hear what they sounded like. I told him that I would bring a tape up to the store the next day. So I brought the tape in to the job, and they pulled out a boom box.

It was a slow day so we didn't have that many customers at that particular time. I pushed play on the tape, and they started to feel the beats. Then more co-workers started walking up and soon, there were about 10 of us standing around listening to the beats – folks were wanting to freestyle. Next thing you know, the actual store manager comes to where we are like, “What are y'all doing? I've got people looking for shoes, and nobody is helping them!” Someone said, “We're gonna call you Drumma Boy because you're patterns are so dope and hypnotizing! We forgot we were supposed to be working.” That's where it came from. Ironically, the Christmas tree ornament that my grandmother gave me as a baby was a Drummer Boy. I decided to run with it.

AllHipHop.com: What name were you running with before that?

Drumma Boy: I didn't have a name. At that point I was only making beats for about six months. It wasn't like anybody knew me from any other name. People just called me Little Gholson, which is my last name.

AllHipHop.com: Six months in, and you were already getting people to groove to your music! You really picked things up quickly.

Drumma Boy: Definitely! I come from music. My father was in a orchestra band and my mother was in opera. My aunt taught violin. The orchestra world was my first world of music. Coming from the city of Memphis, we call it "The Gumbo City" because you've got Rock N Roll, Gospel, Pop, R & B, and Hip-Hop. It's in my blood. My mom put speakers next to her womb to let me hear music even before I was on Earth.

I started rebelling against orchestra music when I was around 10 or 11 and started listening to Eightball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia and Playa Fly. I met Yo Gotti when I first moved to the suburbs. I was getting in trouble in the south part of Memphis, and we moved to the suburbs when I was 14. I met Yo Gotti out there in Raleigh, which is not too far from Cordova in North Memphis. I remember doing a song for Gotti called “That's What's Up.” Then I did three songs for Tela on his Double Dose album when I was like 16 and still in high school. I picked up a little name for myself through Yo Gotti and Tela.

AllHipHop.com: It sounds like have a natural talent for music, but you also studied for it, right?

Drumma Boy: I was home-schooled by my dad for a while. He was a First Chair clarinet for 40 years straight for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. I could've been in one, too. As a matter of fact, I was asked to be in the Youth Symphony Orchestra. I made All-West Tennessee Band playing the clarinet. Playing other people's music wasn't the route that I wanted to take for my life. I wanted to write my own music and for people to remember me like the way they remember Beethoven many years after his life.

AllHipHop.com: You are that good on the clarinet that you can play in an actual orchestra?

Drumma Boy: I read, write, arrange, and compose – there's nothing that I can't do with music.

AllHipHop.com: Creating Hip-Hop music is basically just pushing buttons these days.

Drumma Boy: Yeah, but that has nothing to do with the chords, arrangement and creativity. The things that I hear in my mind, I captivate it and then execute it through my equipment. People think that I do just Southern beats because I'm from Memphis, and the majority of my clients have been from the South. As soon as I met Goaple out in Los Angeles, we did a song together. I just did a song with Eminem, Young Jeezy and Freddie Gibbs called “Talk To Me.” That song was a complete different style of music – I got Travis Barker on the drums for it. I did a record for Rick Ross called “Here I Am” with my live band. I had live drums, piano, and bass – with me hitting the buttons. That's the difference with me. I can write music. I can write a whole orchestra piece and hire the orchestra to replay what I wrote.

AllHipHop.com: The beat that you were playing inside of the studio had a Pop/Dance feel to it.

Drumma Boy: I make whatever you ask me for. I'm a chef. If you come to me and say that this is your favorite dish, that's what I'm going to cook. People think I can cook one particular type of food, but I can cook for any culture in the world. Drum Squad is “Deeper Roots United Music.” I'm uniting different cultures of music together. I can take African drums and mix it with orchestra music. I can take Jamaican percussions and mix it with Pop chords.

AllHipHop.com: Do you like to use a lot of samples? Or do you try to avoid using them?

Drumma Boy: There's no limit to making music. I've used samples. I did a record for Plies featuring T-Pain called “Shawty.” I sampled Earth, Wind and Fire – and that was one of my first big songs on the radio. That song actually won an ASCAP Award, and I was on stage with Maurice White. Had I not sampled that song, I wouldn't have been on stage with those guys. You've got to make music, be creative and do what you want. So many people criticize about how to make music and what formula to use. I just have fun. Sometimes I start with a snare, or a kick, or a sample. There is no formula to creativity at its best.

AllHipHop.com: Who are you producing for right now?

Drumma Boy: My schedule is quite hectic. I'm working with Atlantic Records right now making some songs with Flo-Rida. We're also working on Trey Songz, T.I, and Plies. I just did a song recently for Young Jeezy's TM103 called “Just Like That.” I also just wrapped a new single for Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg called “Smokin' On,” which is off of their Mac and Devin Go To High School album. I'm an artist myself, and one of the songs that I just recorded is called “I'm On Worldstar” featuring Gucci Mane and 2 Chainz.

I feel like I'm starting from scratch as an artist, like I don't know anything about Drumma Boy or who he is [laughter]. I'm doing free shows and going from city to city meeting the different Program Directors. I'm doing DJ meet and greets. I'm having fun doing what I want to do. I'm signed to myself and I own myself. I've never sold my soul. Through selling beats, I have my own budget.

AllHipHop.com: Are you going to produce for yourself, or are you reaching out to other producers for beats?

Drumma Boy: I've already reached out to other producers. I have tracks from Justice League, Sonny Digital, Shawty Redd, Jazzy Pha, and others. There's a lot of cats in the game that I'm a fan of and they are fans of what I'm doing, too. I love any producer that has great music. I'm writing for other artists too. I just did the hook for Nelly's new single with 2 Chainz and T.I.

AllHipHop.com: How do you like being an artist as opposed to just producing for people?

Drumma Boy: I love it, especially if that's what it's going to take to get my due respect from people. D-Boy Fresh is the verbal side of me. Drumma Boy is the music side. I was rapping before I was making beats. I needed some money, so I started hustling. Making beats to me is like a form of hustle. I started out to get some quick cash and ended up becoming famous.

Now I have to take it back to the basics because a lot of cats are leaving me out of their videos, and VH1 Hip-Hop Honors left out Memphis when they honored the South. How are you going to honor the South and not say a thing about Memphis? Three 6 Mafia from Memphis won an Oscar Award! Eightball and MJG have Platinum and Gold albums. We started Crunk. You can see plenty of videos where Lil Jon talks about where Crunk came from. There's a lot of stuff that originated from Memphis that we are not getting credit for. I feel it's up to me to represent now. I represent my city and I felt disrespected when they left us out.

AllHipHop.com: Was it really that big of a deal?

Drumma Boy: Even our local media was furious. It was in the newspapers about Memphis artists being left out. It just kind of showed that there are people that don't know the real history of the South. Outkast, Luke, and J. Prince reached out to us to told us not to sweat it. They felt bad for us and understood that the people behind it didn't fully understand our role in Southern music.