If Virginia were to assemble an all-star roster of its musicians, narrowing down a starting lineup would be nearly impossible. But it would almost certainly have to include names like Pharrell, Pusha T, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, and Trey Songz. Naming the sixth man off the bench, however, would be easy: DRAM. The Big Baby behind highlights like “Cha Cha” and “Broccoli” has consistently shown his strength for making goofy, good-fun music, and his hits have catapulted him from an artist from Virginia to one of the artists from Virginia. And now that he’s made it past tryouts, he’s well on his way to securing one of the roster's starting slots. DRAM’s epic set at Pharrell’s Something in the Water festival this past weekend was him signing the dotted line on his contract.
As we caught up at the festival, he talked about the event, what music he has coming up, and the state of Virginia itself as well as the home city we share, Hampton. Normal words, sentences, and descriptions can’t capture his presence just right. His voice bounces as he talks and his head swims from left to right. When he’s in deep focus, he grips his knuckles until they’re white, and just as it looks like he’ll succumb to pain, he responds quietly, eventually growing into a not-quite-inside, not-quite-outside voice. Afterward, he asked me where in Hampton I came from. When I told him, we laughed knowingly for a brief second and exchanged grins – he went to Hampton High, a rival school of mine – and then it was over. I looked up again and he was taking pictures, wide smile and all, with a fan who had stopped him to support her business. He had 30 minutes to get to the stage.
MTV News: So what exactly does it feel like performing here in Virginia Beach for Something in the Water?
DRAM: It means a lot, man, honestly. Literally being from this area and knowing about the amount of talent that is hidden out here, and the fact that something like this is being brought to this area that has never seen something like this before is truly inspirational. Kudos to Pharrell, for real.
MTV News: Speaking of the rising talent, what up-and-coming artists are you keeping up with from the state?
DRAM: Young Crazy!
MTV News: Pharrell, Missy, Pusha T, Timbaland, Masego, you and many more come from Virginia. What is the something in this water?
DRAM: There’s passion in the water.
MTV News: What did growing up in the 757 area of Virginia teach you?
DRAM: It taught me to be from where you’re really from and absolutely from where you’re from and then you’ll be able to make it anywhere in the world.
MTV News: How did you get involved with Adult Swim’s animated series Lazor Wulf?
DRAM: Carl Jones, a friend of mine and producer on the show, just hit me up and said, “I’m working on a show starring Vince Staples and we want to give you a role up there.” They had me come in and read and they were weak [from laughing] and it went from there.
MTV News: How do you think that things have changed for you since your debut EP, #1Epic, came out in 2015?
DRAM: It just morphed. Honest to god! It just morphed on every facet possible. Now, I’m not saying that everything is a thumb up. [I'm] not saying anything is a thumbs down. But everything is just morphed.
MTV News: I saw you say twice this year that fans can expect a new album before 2019 ends. What’s it been like working on that? What can we expect from it?
DRAM: Big Baby at large! It’s going to be more mature, and sound more grown up. I’ve been out here and I’m going to be showing off my stripes.