DJ Drama started off 2014 with a bang and added another line to his illustrious resumé: A&R at Atlantic Records. It’s a fitting new position for the Gangsta Grillz pioneer, who has been an integral part of the rise and careers of some of hip-hop’s biggest artists today. The Atlanta native’s cosign brings a wealth of legitimacy that few people have. XXL hopped on the phone with DJ Drama to discuss how his name got thrown into consideration for the job, what he brings to Atlantic and the artists he’s most excited to work with. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
XXL: How did the Atlantic deal happen?
DJ Drama: None of these things happen overnight; it’s something that had been in the works for a minute. Initially it came about based on conversations. Someone I had on my team for years even before I was even signed to Atlantic, Sam Crespo—he helped me a lot with my records—[during] our daily conversations, the topic came up about coming into the building and playing a role outside of being an artist but as an A&R. Sam would mention it to Craig [Kallman, co-Chairman of Atlantic Records] in passing and just show him the success I was having with my records.
From that, the conversation turned into me, Craig, Mike Kyser [President of Black Music, Atlantic] and Julie [Greenwald, co-Chairman of Atlantic] sitting down. And again, they’re family to me because my first two albums were over there as well. Which was part of the whole Grand Husstle regime. So coming back in, as Kyser put it, it was a no-brainer. I’m pretty excited, it’s a great opportunity. A&R-ing is something I’ve been doing [for] some time, whether it’s my own record or other mixtapes or just moving art. Moving artists and records from the beginnings to superstardom.
What is the importance of A&R?
I feel like in 2014 there are a lot more roles that A&R can play. I just know, for me, it’s about putting together great records and watching artists go from new artists to stars, and beating up the streets. Putting together and saying, “This is a great record for you to do.” Just in general, I think it’s a key role if done correctly.
What do you bring to the role?
I bring DJ Drama, I bring years of my expertise, my brand, my thoughts, my excitement and my powerhouse. One of the things I’m highly excited about is Mean Street Studios being a new ground for Atlantic artists to record and make hit records out of Atlanta. Whether it’s artists that are centralized here or in town. It’s a facility that we’ve been building and are currently in a great space. It’s going to be a great addition to Atlantic Records.
What artists are you looking at?
Spenzo, who has a huge record in Chicago in the streets called “Wife ‘Er” that’s going crazy out there. Que in Atlanta, who just recently got signed. The “OG Bobby Johnson” record, we all know what that is doing, but beyond that he’s got some great records. He’s got one of those voices that I’m real excited to see what the year going to be for him. And KAP-G is dope. He’s got a new record called “Jose Got Dem Tacos.” Mexican kid, crazy, he’s coming out of Atlanta, too. Those three guys are probably, for me, the most exciting. I really have built my career on coming up with new artists. Between Spenzo, Que and KAP-G, and as far as the label concerns, I’ve already got my hands full. I’m deep in work and looking for fresh and upcoming talent.
What’s next for you?
Quality Street Music 2 is coming out this year, [I'm] getting release dates together now. I’m in a great space, and I’m real excited about that as well.
Previously: DJ Drama Lands New Gig As Atlantic Records A&R