No matter the era, hip-hop fans tend to look back fondly on mixtapes. In the late nineties and early millennium, names like DJ Clue, DJ Kay Slay, Funkmaster Flex, DJ Envy, DJ Whoo Kid, and DJ Green Lantern were among those delivering classic and era-defining tapes. In the years that followed, DJ Drama played a massive role in keeping the mixtape spirit alive, to the point where he remains one of the most iconic hosts in hip-hop history.
Given his incredible discography, which boasts tapes like Lil Wayne’s Dedication series, his own Gangsta Grillz series, and several beloved Jeezy tapes, it’s hard to imagine a time where Drama wasn’t actively securing the bag for his contributions. Yet like all artists, Drama had to start somewhere, and he broke down those early stages of his career in a recent interview with Atlanta radio station Hot 107.9.
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Drama begins by recalling an early encounter with Coach K, who told the DJ about a “new artist he was working with named Young Jeezy.” He explains that Jeezy used to come by his house for “show CDs,” which Drama made for the rising rapper. “He came to me with a vision,” explains Drama. “That was the first time I ever got paid for a mixtape. The Jeezy Streets Iz Watching Gangsta Grillz. We dropped that Birthday Bash of 2004. In no time, that’s all people were talking about in Atlanta.”
“This is pre-Trap Or Die,” he continues. “Initially this is how Gangsta Grillz as a brand really started to make waves. It was almost a platform for all of us in a lot of ways. I was putting all of our drops on there, Trendsetters, Don Cannon. Even a record like ‘Go Crazy’ with Jeezy and Jay-Z, that has mixtape history too. That beat I used on the T.I. Gangsta Grillz Down With The King, I had a T.I. acapella and some Cannon beats. I took the Tip acapella and put it on the Cannon ‘Go Crazy’ beat. We were playing it in the club at Atlanta, and Jeezy heard it and asked Cannon about the beat. That was Cannon’s first placement.”
Check out DJ Drama’s walk down memory lane below, and sound off if you think Jeezy’s Streets Iz Watching is a classic.