When Virginia rapper/singer/producer/psychedelic funkateer D.R.A.M. visited our offices back in March, “Cha Cha” was steadily gaining attention amongst shrewd listeners. Beyonce hadn’t danced to it, Snoop hadn’t brought him out to perform it, and Drake was yet to release “Hotline Bling.” Months later, the dreadlocked, starry-eyed crooner has become the center of controversy, all because his sound is unlike anything else in the world right now.
But his style didn’t come overnight. His breakout tape #1EpicSummer might be chock full of jams, but it was hardly his first foray in music. In 2005, his senior year in high school, he started taking music seriously, but a shaky management situation led to D.R.A.M. stepping away from the whole thing for awhile. From 2005 to 2009 he worked at call centers and for a year he tried his hand at Kentucky State University, but he soon dropped out and returned to making music. He began going by DRAMA j, spouting punchlines and shooting for more “rappity rap” songs, as he told Noisey last year. Eventually he dropped that moniker, and the man once known as Shelley-Massenburg Smith was reborn as D.R.A.M.
Now Big Baby has released his Gahdamn! EP and it’s the perfect time to introduce the world to his lesser known cuts. Those quick to call him a one hit wonder are missing the point entirely: D.R.A.M. is in a league of his own, and with the help of producer Gabe Niles, he’s crafting some truly timeless music, regardless of how many people hear it. Now’s your chance to get on the bandwagon.
“No Hook” (2010)
This is one of the earliest D.R.A.M. songs on the internet, though there are probably others scattered about I haven’t found. The video is shot in a gas station, in case you couldn’t tell he was still an amateur at the time, but five years later his music still has a consistent D.I.Y. feel to it. Visit his old Youtube page to peep a lot of his material back when he went as DRAMA j.
Early on D.R.A.M. showed flashes of brilliance, like this casually serene hook. Hope label execs don’t hear what he’s saying about Jews on this, though. (He saves it with the heavy Jaheim-type look.)
“Cost of Breathing” (Feat. Jeffrey Lee) 
It’s crazy that he made this while he was still trying to do the traditional rapping thing because it’s easily one of his best hooks. Wouldn’t even mind getting this revamped for a future release.
“Uza Dime” (2010)
This rare cut foreshadows his direction into pure singing as he sings a slow ballad for a fine ass woman. Really, he’s singing on most of his early songs, but this is a good indicator of his current sound.
“Can’t Think” (2010)
One of D.R.A.M.’s first projects was April Foolish, a mixtape peppered with freestyles which he made as a member of the Get Money Band under the name Drama Jones. The group included Tim Kaine, DoeBoi, and Daun P, but D.R.A.M. was clearly the standout talent from the jump.
“Paid My Dues” (2010)
At one point, D.R.A.M. was supposed to drop a mixtape called Kingly Shit (Turds of a King) circa 2011, and though it doesn’t seem like we ever got the whole thing, at least he gifted us with this crazy song over a slowed-down version of Drake’s “Miss Me.”
“Doctor Me Up” (2010)
This is like the calm precursor to “Mind Gone.” The description for the song just says, “Smoke To it for Pete’s Sake.”
“Came Up” (2010)
D.R.A.M. was recording these songs on a $100 mic, and it’s fun to hear his hunger back when he was just experimenting.
His pure rapping has a very homegrown, down-to-earth quality that makes it immediately endearing, but you can see why he decided to pivot into more of a hybrid style. How many more staring-at-the-camera ass rappers do we really need anyway?
The first solo D.R.A.M. project available on the internet is #pREfill 2 on his old Bandcamp page. It’s got a bunch of freestyles, but “Relapse” is by far the best song on there. Thank God he embraced singing, because it’s incredible he was making stuff this good, this early.
The other rare D.R.A.M. project that you have to dig to find is a full-length collaboration with V.A. producer iLL Cosby called #GotSoul? It’s a gem of a tape, as Cosby’s soul samples complement D.R.A.M. nicely.
“Swimming In Outer Space” (Feat. EUROPUREGOLD) 
The guy has always sounded most comfortable when he’s singing, and here a female guest is a welcome counterpoint to his laconic hook.
“Under The Sun” (2013)
It’s wild to hear his progression in the span of a couple years. On “Under The Sun,” he sounds like a fucking male Erykah Badu. Can we get a Mass tape with D.R.A.M. on the hooks, though?
Bonus: Mass – “Transitions” (Feat. DRAMA j & Fam-Lay) 
See why we want a Mass x D.R.A.M. tape?