D.R.A.M. on "Broccoli", Lil Yachty, And Coachella
The aluminum door swings outward, filled first by a curly-haired golden doodle in what well might’ve been a custom Off-White denim dog vest. At the other end of Idnit’s leash, D.R.A.M. saunters into the plush-yet-compact backstage setup, his shirt lapping breezily around the 24-karat that hangs from his neck with his own likeness.
“Yo, does anyone have any kush?”
He slumps in slow motion into the sunken couch that fills half of the space, two of his mates checking their phones noiselessly at either end of the trailer.
Three years ago, a then-25-year-old Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith was “broke as fuck.” But today he’s wearing fresh Fendi slippers and a distinctive grin following an impressive headlining performance at Coachella’s Mojave stage.
“Yo, that shit was crazy bro. Like to go from three years ago on the edge of my momma’s goddamn bed, recording on a $100 mic into this rinky-dinky computer,” D.R.A.M. recounts, adjusting his posture so as not to sink further into the couch cushions, his hair falling in thick and loose coils as he tries to sweep it away from his line of sight. “And three years later, y’know, I’m actually out here doing my first Coachella and it’s like, it’s amazing.”So, you’re hanging out still. Are you here to see more acts? Are you hanging out with friends? What’s the deal?
Oh yeah. Uh, partying…
[Laughs] Of course.
It’s good, folks wanna link up. It’s a good hub for everybody to wanna link up and catch up. And, yeah, I’m ready for church; Kendrick’s taking us to church on a Sunday. That’s really the only fucking performance I wanna see.
So “Broccoli” just went 5 times Platinum. Congratulations. Can you walk me through what that’s meant? Take me through the milestones—where you’ve been, how things have changed—personally, professionally, musically.
It’s like being at one level, like, you already know. “Cha Cha”, “God Damn”, and all the things that led up to that point, it was dope and it had me into the game at a certain point. But what this Broccoli record did, as well as the continuation of the Big Baby D.R.A.M. record that was coming out, it just kinda solidified that this shit ain’t no sham—it’s a real thing.
So is that where D.R.A.M. comes from? And if there really is a “Real Ass Music” is there a “Fake Ass Music” as well?
The only thing I can say is it’s whatever is real to you. If you’re working a 9-to-5, then that’s real, you feel me? It doesn’t have to be about any type of negative connotation. But it’s positive. Real is real. It’s just being 100 percent.
And is that where you would prescribe the success coming from? Like just being yourself 100 percent?
Yeah, y’know? We’re just out here! Legit like not forcing anything, just moving. And watching it all coming to fruition.
So you’ve built a very strong brand thus far—with “Does Real Ass Music”, you’ve got some Charles Schulz-esque illustration styles, and frequent references to Pokémon—can you outline how you’ve defined the brand?
Tropico lucky. It’s happy, it’s good vibes, make ya smile, but that shit hard as a bitch. Don’t ever get it fucked up. That heart can always come through. And many different angles.
And how would you say social media plays into that? Cause you’re very interactive with your fans, so walk me through your approach to those platforms, and how it permeates your daily life. Do you spend a lot of time interacting on that level? Do you have people who do it for you?
I see every single thing, so a lot of the times when I respond, it’s little things, it’s dope shit. It’s like sentimental, y’know? It’s like damn. Especially when the ones that stick out, and it’s just like damn, I fuck with it.
You’ve worked with artists across the board. You’ve worked with legends like Gorillaz and Erykah Badu, and hot newcomers like Young Thug and Lil Yachty. Can you tell me a little bit about your team, and how that’s all come to fruition?
I think it all happens for its reason. Y’know what I mean? Shout out to the people that I’m with—love Renaissance, fuckin Empire, Atlantic… We literally just all work together and it’s for the greater good of each other. We all look out for one another. And once you’re all working together towards one goal, you can pull from different avenues.
Let’s talk a little bit about genre, cause you’re not really fitting into one thing, and there are so many artists doing that right now. Do you see that as a way to set yourself apart?
That’s just me. Ever since I was making it that was always just my approach, just to never really be conformed.
Genre-bending is the norm. It’s kind of a beautiful thing to see people breaking beyond these barriers that have defined it for so long.
Most certainly. It’s cool that it’s becoming a thing to be.
Alright, can we take it all the way back to your earliest memories with music? Did you have a strong connection to music as a kid, or was it something you developed slowly and intentionally?
Bro, imma tell you like, our family reunions, we had these Apollo nights. Every other year, we had family reunions and we had Apollo nights. You’d either say a poem, you do a dance, you do a joke—or you sing a song. And I would always sing a song. And I remember the first one I did was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” when I was three. And just hearing like the crowd was clapping back and it just made me feel like, damn, this is what I need to do. And then when I was five, I sang “The Barney Song”, [singing] “I love you, you love me, we’re a great big family.” Me and my lil cousin, Tay Tay, and my lil cousin Jocelyn. And then when I was seven, I sang “You’re The Reason Why I Sing” by Kirk Franklin. My cousin Monica was doing the Kirk Franklin narration part over that, too. So yeah, the family reunions, and then singing in church choir…and school chorus! Music’s just always been in me, forever. I can’t think a thought without it being a part of my life.
Fashion and hip-hop have become totally entwined. Can you talk a little bit about your how fashion has become so central to your image?
I love clothes. My number one brand I’m really fucking with is Gucci. The fact that they even like fucking with like Trouble Andrew, the whole art direction is lit. I don’t know what the fuck happened, but that shit is lit. I’m all for it. I love Gucci. I’m fuckin with Balenciaga; I like their coats. Fendi; I like their slippers. I like Fendi and stuff like that. But then Reeboks—Reebok classics!
It’s gotta be a mix!
It’s gotta be a mix. All that extra—nah! It’s gotta flow. It’s gotta be a nice palette. And I think fashion and music go hand-in-hand because it’s a way to express yourself. It’s almost like you can look at me for my music, you’ll wanna look at my image and my clothes and it’ll reflect what you’re hearing when you’re listening to the music.
So what’s next for you? Any interest in taking on something outside of music? Like maybe fashion, or even film?
It’s to be continued. It’s a lotta shit. You’ve gotta leave some room.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Coachella coverage.