Drumma Boy Talks Beats, Branding and Beethoven

Memphis hit maker says producing is part of a bigger picture.

Posted: 08/02/2014 10:00 AM EDT
Drumma Boy Talks Beats, Branding and Beethoven

Over the past decade Memphis's Drumma Boy has made a name for himself behind the boards, producing hard-hitting tracks for artists like 2 Chainz, Bun B, DJ Paul and more. But after years of mainstream anonymity, the charismatic composer decided that the only way to truly tell his story was by giving the public a face to go along with the music. And with that, rapper "D Boy Fresh" was introduced to the world.

But hip hop was just the beginning for the Welcome To My City 3 rapper/producer, who then inked a deal to be one of the faces of Publik Trust Clothing Company as well as the Brand Ambassador for BHLV sparkling wines. In an exclusive interview with BET.com, the University of Memphis Music Business major breaks down his big picture plan to ensure he's as famous as his beats.

You spent the past few years living in both Atlanta and Los Angeles. How has the West Coast influenced your sound if at all?

As far as influencing my sound, it puts me in a world where I'm more comfortable. I can practice my clarinet, I can arrange orchestra more comfortably. I've been doing more movies and movie scores and just going back to where I come from. 'Cause I was in an orchestra for ten years. I grew up with Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and it's great finally being able to bring those elements back and showcase a different side of me.

How did you wind up getting into the fashion and beverage industries?
All of the greats, they teach you the message about multiple revenue stream. As a producer I've been in the 5-10 Million bracket for quite some time, making 2-3 million a year. Producing is great, I make a great living. I definitely cannot complain but I just launched my label Drum Squad, so we're not just a production company now, and when you elevate to that label status you need a budget. We signed one under the name of Tony Evans. He's a 17-year-old guitar player, a real Babyface type artist that's just incredible, and putting his project out I want to spend at least $150,000-200,000. I got another group, All City, a rap group. That's another group that you wanna put the same amount behind, and I have several other artists that we plan on putting out and doing that you're already talking about half a million going out on promo, so multiple revenue stream is very important. When you're pulling in $100 million on your clothing line, after taxes you're still seeing $50-60 million that's great. And even if your music is only making $2-3 million a year that still serves as your advertisement so to speak. That's how you tune everybody in to all the other things that you're doing. It all revolves around the hits that you make.

Did your experience in music help you with your other ventures or is that something that just came naturally?
One thing I know how to do is market and brand. I went to college for Music Business and Marketing and definitely have some great people on my team. I started off just with a concept, a name that rings bells with the moniker Drumma Boy Fresh. I was a brand ambassador for LRG, for Sean John three-piece suits, for Young & Reckless and more. So many of these kids wanna wear what I wear and I started to realize, "Damn I'm blowing up all of these other companies." I started putting a lot of the messages that I rap about onto shirts. Next thing you know we sold 100 shirts. Even though I slowed up on [my line] Fresh Phamily, Publik Trust saw what I was doing and here we are repping Publik Trust. I did my first trade show, Preview and I have a full design team, I have manufacturers now, I have distribution, now all I have to do is oversee, come in and say "That's clean. I like these. I hate these. Let's keep these, send these back."

So who would you say have been your main influences both musically and in your business ventures?
I got to shout out Demetrius Tatum. He's the owner of Publik Trust as well as the founder of the Preview trade show in Atlanta. He's been a huge mentor in my field and has helped me tremendously with resources and connections and taking Fresh Phamily to the next level. Musically I have to give it to Quincy Jones, and both musically and business-wise Dr. Dre. I haven't met Dre but he’s been a big influence. If I ever get that opportunity that would be a dream come true. I'm definitely a fan of the Beats By Dre, a big fan of the mixing. The one thing I think I picked up the most on from Dr. Dre is his mixing, engineer qualities and just how hard the beat slaps. There's a lot of different tips that you pick up from people. I'd mention Diddy, his branding and his marketing tactics especially with me repping BHLV Sparkling wine out of California now, since I've been on board I've moved over 3,000 cases and in return they offered me my own bottle.

For as long as I've known your work I didn’t know what you looked like until this last year. Was it a conscious decision to show your face more recently?

The main reason I’ve been rapping more and hosting at clubs and parties is to put a face with the name because like you, people know the music and the work and really don't know the face outside of Memphis and Atlanta. If I tell you my story but only do it musically, you could be like, "That was dope. I wonder what the f**k Drumma Boy was thinking," but if I rap my life story to you, you have the comprehensive side and the intellectual side and now you're able to understand, "Oh damn he's from Memphis. I thought he was from Atlanta. His parents were divorced when he was born. He grew up in North Memphis. At the age of 13 he moved to the Cordova suburbs. He grew up in the 'hood but moved around predominantly white crowds." There's so many things about my life that people don't know unless I tell 'em. So that comes from the rap. The biggest producers in the world are rapping and in the videos. Dr. Dre wouldn't be Dr. Dre if he didn't rap. Now you hear his voice, now you know him as an artist. There are people that don't know Drumma Boy the producer but as soon as I start rapping, "Oh, that's Drumma Boy." Before when I was making beats I would make hits for people and they wouldn't even put me in the video. Now as D Boy Fresh, I’m seeing who I wanna put in my videos, so the tables have turned.

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(Photo: Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

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