We all love a good redemption story: We're front and center to watch our heroes get knocked down, and then we cheer for them to triumphantly rebound. What we're witnessing with Shelly Massenburg-Smith — a.k.a. D.R.A.M. — is the culmination of a story marked by resilience and stubborn strength.
Making a hit record in the music industry is extremely difficult, and in 2015, D.R.A.M.'s debut single "Cha Cha" was on the brink of exploding. It was getting played in clubs across the country and bubbling on the charts; the Beyhive even got a hold of it. Then Drake's "Hotline Bling" happened. The reports are conflicting as to the inspiration for the record, but there are glaring similarities in the sound of each. "Hotline Bling" was even originally billed as the "Cha Cha" remix by Beats 1, where the song made its debut. Needless to say, "Hotline Bling" practically swallowed "Cha Cha," but D.R.A.M. didn't whine about it. He addressed it and went back to the drawing board, crafting another smash. "Broccoli" became one of 2016's biggest hits while setting up the release of his debut album, Big Baby D.R.A.M.
We recently invited D.R.A.M. to NPR to lend us his jovial spirit and brighten our workday; after all, his primary aim is to spread love through music. He was jarred by the Tiny Desk setting for a moment before the cameras started rolling. He's accustomed to touching every corner of the stage, but like a pro, he walked to the desk, activated his signature smile and bounced through various highlights from his catalog. D.R.A.M., whose name stands for Does Real Ass Music, wrote his first selection, "Cash Machine," right after he'd received his first big music check.
Don't you know that I got that bag
And best believe my mama straight
I sent some bands to Tatiana
And if I brought you out I'll pay your way
What twentysomething doesn't feel this way once they step into some money? The crowd beamed more with each performance, leading up to a climactic rendition of "Broccoli." The energy is all fun and games, but his talent is no joke: "Broccoli" is nominated for a Grammy this year, right alongside "Hotline Bling." A victory would provide a fitting end to this chapter of D.R.A.M.'s career, but regardless of the outcome, he's already victorious: Far removed from the "Hotline Bling" shadow, he's already creating bigger songs and more memorable moments, like this one at the Tiny Desk.
- "Cash Machine"
- "Sweet VA Breeze"
D.R.A.M. (vocals); Rogét Chahayed (keys); Taylor Dexter (drums); Wesley Singerman (guitar).
Producers: Bobby Carter, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Colin Marshall; Production Assistant: Jenny Gathright; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR.
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