All DJ Drama can do is laugh it off and move on. He's come across another obstacle in his career: The mixtape king has to legally change his well-known moniker because as it happens, a little-known spinner out of Chicago has the rights to the name.
"You can Google for 400 pages and you wouldn't see anything about this guy," the Drama we know said recently. "It's all good, though. I've been through so much already — this is not a big deal. Some of the greats have had to go through things like this. I guess I'll just Notorious B.I.G. the game. I'll probably change my name to Dram or Dramatic and just keep it moving. The people know who the real DJ Drama is, though."
Until his name situation gets resolved, Drama's Gangsta Grillz: The Album does not have a solid release date. It still could come out this spring, according to the man nicknamed "Mr. Thanksgiving." The record is filled with a bunch of playas who have come to respect Dram's Gangsta Grillz mixtapes. That's one of the perks to being at the top of the DJ pecking order.
He called the tentatively titled "Art of Storytelling 4," a record from the album that features Outkast, "a dream come true." "I've been a fan since day one," he said. "Outkast is one of the reasons why I'm in Atlanta, you dig me? I remember driving to Atlanta in '94 with my pop, first listening to Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. I've been a fan ever since. So 13 years later, to be in a position to have who I consider the greatest group of all time on my album, it's a blessing."
"Art of Storytelling 4" deals with themes of perseverance and holds special meaning to Drama in light of his January arrest for what authorities claimed to be bootlegging music (see "DJ Drama Arrested In Atlanta Mixtape Raid").
"It's a great feeling for them to be on a record that means so much to me, with such a message involved," he said (see "DJ Drama Speaks Out About Arrest: 'I Took The Fall For Hip-Hop' "). "Months ago, even before 'Idlewild,' I was in the process of working on a mixtape with them. We had been talking back and forth, and it came to the point where they was like, 'Dram, we want to do it, it's just a lot going on, but you got us on your album.' You can't beat that. My intention from the beginning was to have Outkast sound like people love to hear Outkast. They're so respected and artistic, and they go in so many directions, and I love that. But for me, I was trying to get Outkast back to that ATL type of sound — that core sound that they come up with."
Also on the album, Lil Wayne beats up Just Blaze's production on "Million Dollar Baby." Drama appears on the hook not singing or rapping, but giving Weezy words of inspiration like a corner man would for his pugilist protégé.
"I sent Wayne the song and told him the concept," Drama recalled. "It hit us one day. It's my album and I don't rap, but Mr. Thanksgiving, he's a personality people are used to when they hear me on the tapes — I talk my [trash]. So I felt it was necessary to keep that. What's a Gangsta Grillz album if DJ Drama not on there talking?
"I wanted to play it a little different," he continued. "Wayne did his part, I did my part, and you'll see the outcome of it. The track is a classic Just Blaze track, so it is like boxing, it's sparring. I told Wayne, 'Go ahead, get in the ring. They're saying it's not you. They're saying you're not the best rapper alive. Let's show them. Let's turn it into a sport,' which it is."
Other records on the LP include "Sets Up," which features Jadakiss as well as Drama's own artist Willie the Kid, and "No Rules," a chin-checking duet with the City of Brotherly Love team of Beanie Sigel and Cassidy. "That was an important record for me, obviously, being from Philly," Drama said.
The album as a whole has a larger meaning for the DJ. "What the Gangsta Grillz mixtapes represent in a lot of ways is that quality street music," he said. "I went into the album realizing it was bigger than just DJ Drama. The game has been a little lackluster from a DJ's perspective. It feels good that reppin' the South I can reopen those doors that DJs like Clue and Flex and Kay Slay did early on. As far as songs and artists, it isn't a compilation, it's a mixtape album. I didn't go and collect songs from artists — we did everything ourselves, in-house. We had our vision. I knew it was bigger than just a single, bigger than just trying to get some spins."
Styles P, Bun B, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, Just Blaze, Juvenile, Pharrell, the Clipse, Yung Joc, Lil Jon and Lil Scrappy all make cameos on the project. The first single is the Dame Grease-produced posse cut "Takin' Pictures." Young Jeezy, T.I., Willie the Kid, Jim Jones, Rick Ross and Young Buck all rap on the record.