Words are able to describe feelings, but they themselves are not feelings. Language can be evocative, but it can never invoke on it’s own; the interpreter gives words their power. What makes D.R.A.M. such an essential interpreter in contemporary music is that he doesn’t just explain to you how he feels — he stresses each syllable with enough force to squeeze out every ounce of emotion. He wears his confidence firmly on his tongue, which hangs so far out of his grin that it never once meets his cheek.

Hailing from Hampton, Virginia, D.R.A.M. tiptoes a fluid state between rapper and singer — holding a naturally soulful roughness in his voice that wraps around a beat and bends it in his likeness. Rising on the prominence of two EPs released in the past year— #1Epic and GAHDAHM, respectively — D.R.A.M. had a career-shifting 2015. His song Cha Cha, with its Super Mario backbone and carefree declarations of attraction, made a fan out of Beyonce and influenced Drake’s absolutely massive “Hotline Bling.” Not bad for a single track, but D.R.A.M. has continued to earn steady acclaim with a diverse palette of songs, ranging from the momentous “$” to the reserved “Caretaker” (which was originally featured in a less fleshed out fashion last year on the Social Experiment’s collaborative album Surf).

Two weeks ago D.R.A.M. chose to celebrate his accomplishments with “1 Year,” a track uploaded to his Soundcloud and produced by Gabe Niles. Emphasizing his fast-achieved success, the Hampton musician goes after anyone who is upset about his newfound prominence, followed by a declaration that although he is “often imitated,” his music is never “never duplicated.”

“D.R.A.M.” stands for “Dope. Real. Ass. Music.” — and after spending just a few minutes diving into his growing catalogue, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is something special about his approach that justifies the claim of his name.


All the infectious enthusiasm of his records comes across in spades on stage, where D.R.A.M. shows off his gratuitous footwork and gyrating joyousness. Expect his show at The Independent this upcoming Thursday to have the energy of a bounce house with the intensity of a Shakespearean play. You may have trouble visualizing this juxtaposition, most likely because there are few performers out there who grip a stage like D.R.A.M., but believe me when I say you’ll walk away a few hundred calories lighter and a few heart sizes bigger.

The Independent
January 21st, 2016
9:00 PM, $20