Nowadays everyone and their cousin have a mixtape, an album, a Twitter page, a Facebook page. But Driicky Graham has something a lot more elusive: a hit single. His undeniably catchy “Snapbacks & Tattoos” is quickly reaching anthemic heights, thrusting the 20-year-old rapper into the spotlight seemingly overnight. But this isn’t the North Carolina native’s first time in the ring: He’d already built a small but growing fan base through his collaborations with Gucci Mane (“We Robbed Gucci”) and Diamond (“Flash the Cash”). “Snapbacks,” however, with its catchy hook and building beat by Yung Berg associate Arch tha God, is pushing Driicky into the big leagues. The kinetic video recently landed in rotation at BET and helped Driicky attract offers from several majors. But Driicky surprised observers when he rebuffed the offers and signed a deal with indie powerhouse E1, where he’ll release his debut album — another sign that he isn’t your average rapper. BET.com sat down with the upstart MC recently to discuss the inspiration behind “Snapbacks,” his new deal and more.
BET.com: How did “Snapbacks and Tattoos” come about?
Driicky Graham: Well, I was sitting up in the tattoo parlor getting my first tattoo, which is on the back of my neck. [It’s] of my babysister—she passed away, so it was in memory of her. Everybody knows, as far as being young, anything that we get that’s first we just make a big hype about it. So, basically, the record came about [because] I got inspired through my first tattoo. And, of course, snapbacks is just fashion that I see everybody wearing. It's not something even new — you can look at a movie like Juice or something like that and just see that snapbacks were in even back then. It's just something that's a part of our culture in general. I'm surprised at the success that [the song has] brung. I'm grateful that everybody's rocking to it and loving it.
Why did you decide to stay independent instead of signing with a major? Most new artists would jump at that opportunity.
Well, I've been signed from the beginning to NWEMG. That's my independent home label, New World Era music group, and that’s, basically, my family, my team. They've always supported me since day one. The buzz I was making with the records I was putting out, I ended up getting attention, and, you know, I got contacted with a couple of record deals — Epic, G Unit, Interscope. E1 approached me also, and I just kind of felt like they were providing the best amount of support when it came to the deal situation and the loyalty they have. I felt like they were going to put their focus on me so we can just hit the ground running.
Speaking of hitting the ground running, how do you plan on keeping your momentum going after the huge success of “Snapbacks and Tattoos”?
I'm dropping my first mixtape; it's coming soon. Those that have been true fans with me from the beginning, they've been waiting on this tape since January, and I apologize for that, but you know, we just trying to craft it. I'm trying to craft it like an album to let them know how important it is to me. We’re planning to release it probably like June, early July, and it's titled You've Got to Start Somewhere. The album, which is titled Success By the Graham, probably won't be released until first quarter of next year.
It seems every young artist nowadays is looking for a big name to co-sign them. Do you have any bold-face features or collaborations planned for your upcoming projects?
We've planned a couple. I'm real cool with my man [Yung] Berg, and also my man Juicy J. But most of it is going to be my sound because I think it's very important that I don't flood my first tape with a whole bunch of different artists. I want them to hear the songs I came up with on my own without the help of a major artist just yet, until I'm ready to start bringing them on my tracks. I want them to really be able understand I got talent. I’m not just some pretty guy that just stepped in front of the camera and rapped. I'm really passionate about this.
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(Photo: Courtesy Nu World Era Music Group)