Big Baby, Big Talent: The Rise of D.R.A.M.


Big Baby, Big Talent: D.R.A.M. On The Come Up

As though we weren’t already jamming to the viral hit “Cha Cha” at every cookout in 2014, D.R.A.M continues to provide both bangers and soulful ballad tracks for pop, Hip-Hop and soul-funk listeners alike. In 2016, DRAM and featured artist, Lil Yachty popped out with their double platinum hit “Broccoli,” which earned them a Grammy Nomination for Best Rap/Sung Performance and a #5 peak spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song recently was certified five times platinum.  His debut studio album, Big Baby D.R.A.M, gave us brilliant singles including “Cute” and “Cash Machine” as well as features from Atlanta’s eclectic Young Thug and neo-soul queen-icon Erykah Badu.

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Better known to fans by his Does Real Ass Music acronym stage name, Germany-born artist Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith was brought up in the 757 on the west end of Hampton, Virginia.


The 28 year-old has been singing for as long as he can remember – he was a choir boy at Zion Baptist Church in neighboring city Newport News and performed as a young soloist for Soul Direction, his middle school chorus teacher’s community youth choir.


As he grew older, the talented youngin’ made attempts to move away from singing and into rapping. D.R.A.M. began practicing his bars at a small recording booth at a local mall. After high school, Massenburg-Smith put a year in at Kentucky State University before giving himself over to the music, performing at local open mics as DRAMA j.


The man has had so many pseudonyms – Mook, as his Mother calls him and Big Baby as he affectionately refers to himself. As a singer, rapper and songwriter, D.R.A.M.’s many nicknames contribute to his infectious charm as a consistently happy guy. Take the cover art for Big Baby D.R.A.M. – an image of that famous toothy smile next to the equally adorable pooch Idnit, who has joined D.R.A.M. on stage and even enjoyed his own fame.


In several interviews, the VA native has expressed deep admiration for influences Al Green, Marvin Gaye and his notable favorite, George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. Fans can hear D.R.A.M.’s R&B and soul-funk roots throughout his premier mixtape, GAHDAMN!, released in October 2015. Tracks like “Signals (Throw It Around)” and “I’ll Be Back Again” are worthy mentions for those interested in real ass storytelling, dreamy harmonies and passionate belting. The most popular single off GAHDAMN! is “Caretaker,” a track which previously appeared on the 2015 Donnie Trumpet and Social Experiment album, Surf. The extended version features vocals from alt-R&B talent SZA.


The D.R.A.M. brand does not stop at solo projects – this happy dude has also made his way into several feature spots including Rob Stone’s “Chill Bill (Remix)” in which he shares a beat with Florida’s fire-spitting Denzel Curry and wavy Boston come-up rapper, Cousin Stizz. He sings “Cuz I am a real rockstar, really did a song with Neil Young.” And he for real, for real did!
The versatile artist also maintains a working relationship with Chance the Rapper, as seen on both Surf and Coloring Book’s “D.R.A.M. Sings Special,” in which he croons “Everyone is special, this I know is true when I look at you.” D.R.A.M. has also spent time in the studio with the likes of E-40, Rich the Kid and the Gorillaz.


From the looks of his career to date, this Cha Cha dancing dreadhead has a lot more love to show his fans.

Watch the latest visual from DRAM, the unique “Cute”:


D.R.A.M. is currently on tour.

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Z Bell [pronouns: they] is a poet and community organizer. They graduated from Barnard College in 2015 with a B.A. in Sociology and will go on to earn their MFA in the study of Poetry. Z currently resides in their hometown, New Haven, CT. Z believes in the power of redefinition and visioning as a means towards self-love, community care and liberation. They have done justice work with the Audre Lorde Project, Black Youth Project 100 and Brooklyn Movement Center. Z is passionate about writing and music and taking care of Grandma. They spend time at local cyphers and open mics performing poetry and spitting verse. You might be surprised that Z loves fishing and rugby. You might not be surprised that Z spends a lot of time on SoundCloud. Unapologetically Black, fat, disabled, (gender)queer and still here, you’ll most likely catch them wearing big headphones and nodding in time to the latest indie hip-hop.