Shelley Massenburg-Smith, a.k.a. D.R.A.M, is an artist like no other. Catapulted up the charts in 2016 with his Lil Yachty hit ‘Broccoli’, the self-described funk artist has carved out a niche of the market that simply didn’t exist before, and that has audiences the world over closely following his every move.
It’s a momentum that’s only grown stronger over the past 18 months, and most recently has seen him release his highly praised debut album Big Baby D.R.A.M, tour with Kendrick Lamar, release one of 2017’s greatest music videos, and perform alongside the likes of Ty Dolla Sign and Chance the Rapper like it ain’t no thing.
So polite he asked me how I was not once, not twice, but three times, you can bet D.R.A.M. was every bit as warm and humble as his technicolour world would have you believe, and you can bet I’ll be front and centre when he makes his NZ debut at the Powerstation on January 10.
Interview by Kate Robertson
Broccoli seems a logical place to start, when you were working on that track did you know you had a hit on your hands?
I was so surprised. I had no idea to be honest! That shit just took off which was crazy. It’s very dope, I liked it a lot.
You’ve had so many hits since then, the latest being ‘ILL NANA’ featuring Trippie Redd. How did that collab come to be?
I was just a fan of Trippie’s music. For a minute now I didn’t know that dude, but I hit him up and said I wanted to work with him, and they made it happen. He’s the coolest, man. A couple of weeks later we were legit just foolin’ and playing around with some stuff when we ran across that beat – shoutout to Slade Da Monsta, and within a couple of hours we had that shit down.
Your dog Idnit features across your album artwork, you brought him out at the BET Awards, any plans to feature him on a track at some point?
It’s funny how hooked people have gotten on this. Let’s just say the possibilities are endless, you never know, you never know.
Your Mum was in the military when you were born which is a big contrast to the music industry, has she always been supportive of your choice to pursue music?
She left the military in 1994 when I was six years old so I wasn’t really a military kid, but she did do 14 years of service. She didn’t know she was gonna have a baby, but then I came along and bada bing bada boom.
She always knew that music was my passion and everyone loved to hear me sing, so I grew up around all of that. When I became a young adult I focused solely on that and she supported me, but at the end of the day she also wanted me to have a stable job. I knew that if I could just give it my all, somewhere along the line it would happen.
She follows all my accounts, knows all the words to my songs, and everytime I get a plaque I send it to her so she can put it up on the wall and shit.
You did grind away for a long time, your first mixtape #1 Epic Summer coming out in 2014 when you were 26, what’s changed that’s allowing these young guns to storm up the charts at such a young age?
It’s the internet! You know, social media. If you have a platform to get your shit out there and anyone from 8 to 88 can watch your shit…it’s dope. There’s no rush on it and there’s no hold up on it.
We put together a weekly playlist with tracks from different people we talk to. What five songs would you turn up a party with?
If we’re talking about right now current state I would start it off with Playboi Carti’s ‘Magnolia’. It’s been out for a minute, but to open a party when you’ve only got five songs, that shit is going on. It’s fucking lit from then on in. Then “Yo Pierre, you wanna come out here!?”, I’m gonna play that Young Nudy ‘Judge Scott Convicted’ because that shit goes real hard. Then I’m gonna throw in ‘Roll In Peace’ by Kodak Black featuring XXXTENTACION, that’s as hard as it gets. I’m gonna add in ‘Glock box’ by Noir Illusions, and then I’m gonna throw some mother fuckers out because everyone’s gotta go after the last song, so I’ll do that with ‘Love Scars’ by Trippie Redd.
That’s a tight five songs.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
You’re coming down under in January for your first New Zealand show, do you have any expectations of the crowd or the country?
I have absolutely no expectations, but I have heard a lot of great things about your way of life. Making the economy that we make, the love of music is there, the love of people is there, and I just want a slice of it.
Your particular brand of posi vibes definitely plays a big part in your music and who you present yourself to be, does your face ever get sore from smiling?
All my life I’ve smiled all the time, but it’s important to know that there are different kinds of smiles. There are uncomfortable smiles, there’s up to no good smiles, but most of the time it’s just me feeling happy to be around. I’m human so I’m not perfect, but whenever you go out that’s the representation of yourself. Impressions are lasting and I just always want to be someone who loves to choose love.
Last question, how would you describe your sound for a first time listener?
It’s a good time and a rare delight, how ‘bout that?
Tickets for D.R.A.M.’s Auckland 10 show at The Powerstation can be purchased here.