Release Date: Oct 21, 2016
Record label: Atlantic
To say D.R.A.M. deserves this just doesn't say it. Drake’s camp may have denied that he ‘took inspiration’ (stole) from the bubbling Virginia rapper's single ‘Cha Cha’ for his smash hit ‘Hotline Bling’, but nevertheless it meant that D.R.A.M. had become yet another local artist absorbed into the world's biggest rapper's machine.
Exuding cheer and purity befitting of a sunny summer day, Virginia rapper D.R.A.M. injects some fun and levity into hip-hop with his studio debut, Big Baby D.R.A.M. The multifaceted artist born Shelley Massenburg-Smith excels with his protean ability to assume multiple sonic roles, drawing inspiration from off-key contemporaries like Danny Brown and Young Thug, cheerful spirits like Chance the Rapper and André 3000, and equally carefree predecessors like Ol' Dirty Bastard and Biz Markie.
As you might expect from a man posing with a golden doodle on his debut album sleeve, D.R.A.M. doesn’t always demand you take him seriously. He’s perhaps best known for Cha Cha, a Latin-infused, Super Mario-sampling viral track that inspired Drake’s Hotline Bling. There’s plenty more fooling around to be found on Big Baby D.R.A.M.
Roughly forty percent of the Hampton, Va., singer and rapper D.R.A.M.’s appeal is that he seems like just a really happy guy. His happiness is palpable, indestructible, communicable. His breakout hit was about the cha-cha, for god’s sake, a dance so winningly goofy in name and act that even 6-year-olds know to giggle at it. The chorus was about how he liked to cha-cha, and it was clear from the way he sang it that he meant it, goddamn it.
D.R.A.M. does real ass music for the youth culture. This applies to anyone in his age bracket who has cha-chaed to his addictive hit in the clubs or screamed they’re beyond all that “fuck shit” while rolling up some broccoli. In D.R.A.M.’s short career so far, Q-Tip recognized early on of his potential, Beyoncé gave him a huge co-sign, the legend Rick Rubin linked up with him, and Chance the Rapper has featured him on melodic numbers on Surf and Coloring Book.
The debut album from Hampton, Va.’s D.R.A.M. is arriving right as his contagiously joyful “Broccoli” is one of the biggest songs in the country. But while that Lil Yachty collab and D.R.A.M.’s similarly goofy viral smash “Cha Cha” (which heavily influenced Drake’s “Hotline Bling”) can serve as introductions to his optimism and fun-loving style, both have led plenty of listeners to question whether D.R.A.M.
Right now, Virginia-raised 28-year-old D.R.A.M. is hip-hop's drunken master. His lovestruck, singing-in-the-shower style – imagine a cross between Ol' Dirty Bastard, Chance the Rapper and a private-press R&B record from the Seventies – is bent, delirious and totally intoxicating. His pop-star coup is taking that moment in "La Di Da Di" where Slick Rick brokenly croons a few bars from "Sukiyaki," and turning that into his main flow.
Virginia rapper/singer D.R.A.M.’s moniker is an acronym for Does. Real. Ass. Music. It’s a statement both dead serious in its confidence and playful in its audacity, a perfect summing up of who D.R.A.M. is. Here’s a guy whose breakout single, 2015’s Cha Cha, is literally an ode to Cuba’s ….
D.R.A.M., the Virginia rapper-singer who crash-landed into pop last year with the earnest goof “Cha Cha,” is one of the first breakout stars of hip-hop’s whimsy era, a rapper and singer who switches without trepidation among vocal approaches, moods and stylistic lanes, but never loses his grin. His excellent full-length debut album, “Big Baby D.R.A.M.,” is joyous, clever and moves in surprising directions. It’s festive but also deeply felt, historically minded but also utterly of the now, when hip-hop has largely sloughed off its dourness, its rugged reserve and its reliance on tension.
A weekly roundup of required listening from the Times music team. D.R.A.M. “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” (Atlantic / Empire). As if those two big smiling faces on the cover of “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” — one human, one floppy golden poodle mix — weren’t enough to draw you in. D.R.A.M. — first known ….
D.R.A.M. is a 28-year-old singer-rapper with undeniable star power, potentially as much as Fetty Wap, and for the same reasons. He’s a big bundle of positivity, all hugs and cuddles and smiles and awkward romanticism. He belts, though his style is more fluid and soul-informed than Fetty’s bellowing.
If there was an award for best album cover, D.R.A.M. would win hands down this year for his newly released studio debut, Big Baby D.R.A.M. The closeup image of the smiling artist holding what could be the cutest dog on the planet is enough to draw anyone in to the project but it’s D.R.A.M.’s mellifluous voice and memorable melodies that keep listeners tuned in all the way through — maybe even a few times over.