Drama Relax : Interview

Drama Relax is a 25-year-old rapper/singer from Bay Shore, New York, located on Long Island. Drama's fusion of traditional rap, pop, and R&B has led to major success, garnering millions of streams across platforms as well as millions of views on music videos.

Despite having to undergo a name-change a few years into his career, Drama has persevered, signing a major record deal and developing relationships with artists like Tory Lanez and Big Sean.

Now independent, Drama is fully prepared for the next part of his career: the big stage. Focused and working on tons of new music, Drama is ready to take his sound to the next-level and build on the success he's experienced across his six years of releasing music.

We sat down to talk about his name-change, how he's developed his sound, artists who've inspired him, and what's next for Drama Relax.

Jack: Who is Drama Relax?

Drama: I am a well-rounded artist, I’d like to consider, and I am currently in the stage of learning how to really put a brand behind my music. I feel like that’s something very difficult for a lot of artists to match the brand with the music. I’m a R&B, pop, rap guy that’s been doing music for 10 years now, probably, and I feel like I am in a position to really make this a long-term career, so I’m happy where I’m at. I’m happy with the music that I’m making.

Jack: Where does the name come from?

Drama: I originally was Johnny Drama. That was the name, really heavy in Long Island I was known as Johnny Drama. When I went to the label there was a legal issue and HBO basically said because of the Entourage character, I can’t be Johnny Drama or there’s gonna be legal troubles, so I had to switch it to Drama Relax. I used to be signed to this thing called Relaxed Records, that’s where I got the Relax, so I combined Drama Relax. That was my Instagram tag at the time, and my boss, Joe, was like, ‘Yo, let’s just go with Drama Relax’ and I was like, 'Alright.' Looking back at it, I don’t know if it’s the number one choice that I would have went with my name, I was really happy with Johnny Drama. I probably could’ve figured something else out, but it is what it is, I like being known as just Drama, so I’m happy I got to keep that.

Jack: What was your strategy after the name change to keep the momentum going?

Drama: I’m still trying to figure that out. It was tough, and still is, because a lot of people were Johnny Drama fans and a lot of people didn’t really know me or follow me on Instagram, but they were aware of the music and they were aware of Johnny Drama. And then once I had to switch names, it’s basically a restart and it’s a tough situation and it sucks having to go through that and it's still a process and something I’m trying to figure out. Slowly but surely, I’m also gaining new fans that I didn’t have prior because the music’s different, so I’m just trying to tie everything together and I think it’ll work out in the end.

Jack: What inspired you to start putting out music?

Drama: I started about 10 years ago recording music. I started putting out music probably six years ago when I really learned how to release music. What inspired me was the artists that I listen to, I was a big Lil Wayne fan at the time and I felt that he really made rap music cool, and also he made it kind of demographically very popular as far as reaching females and males and all different age brackets with the autotune and the pop-y side of the rap, and I was like, ok, this could be something you could make a lot of money in making rap music; I wasn’t aware. Because the boom bap rappers, that’s what I started with, I think a lot of rappers my age have had that history, I’m 25, so what inspired me really was loving rap music at the time and wanting to be apart of that whole vibe.

Jack: When was it evident that you could make this your job?

Drama: I started getting big numbers, I got signed, this guy Jay Stash, he was an indie label, who was Relaxed Records. He had a whole movement going on in Florida, and once he picked me up and started reposting me on SoundCloud, which was the platform at the time that was popping, I started getting hundreds of thousands of plays fast. It was in a couple of months and I was like, damn, I’m seeing a lot of attention and people, other rappers are hitting me up to make a song with them and this and that, so once I started getting attention from people outside of my town, outside of people I knew, I started thinking, wow, maybe I go somewhere with this if I play my cards right.

Jack: How did you develop your sound?

Drama: I started off lyrically rapping and I was just rapping over J Dilla beats and DJ Premier beats, these are like classic rap producers, and just talking about punch line rapping, stuff like that, and then once Drake started coming out in like 2009, I started trying to fuck around with singing because that was cool, that was what he was doing, and then I just made music for five years straight, everyday. I just started to learn how to use my voice. And now where I’m at, ultimately, I’m trying to combine having good lyrics, good melodies, just trying to be as well-rounded as possible at this point.

Jack: How did growing up in New York shape you artistically?

Drama: I wouldn’t say it’s New York that necessarily did it. My town was a very diverse town and I think just being in a diverse situation and having a lot of friends from all different types of backgrounds and stuff like that from Bay Shore, didn’t necessarily give me the idea to make music or inspire me, but it gave me the comfortability to say, okay, I could do this and I’m not gonna be crazy judged. I felt comfortable making the choice to make music, I didn’t feel like I was some white kid appropriating that culture or anything like that, and I never felt that way, and I don’t think people perceive it that way. Just growing up around the group of people that liked rap music, people that encourage that, all of us were just rapping, and I had so many friends from all over the place and different backgrounds and everything. It was just this thing to do at that time with my friend group.

I’m not a big New York City person, I don’t go there a lot. I don’t wanna give off the vibe that I’m from NYC ‘cause I’m from Long Island. I think the NYC area is a whole different ballgame as we know with the music, but yeah, just growing up around a lot of different people, I think it definitely shaped me to be well-rounded and understand different cross of life, and it’s definitely helped me in every aspect, more than just the music.

Jack: What other cities do you like to go to and perform or make music?

Drama: The only other place is LA, I’ve been there like 20 times. I lived there for a couple months. It’s a magical place. Going there is one thing, but going there for music is similar to going to Nashville for some people, I’ve been to Nashville, it’s a super music spot. It really makes you feel like, hey, this is where I belong. This is where I need to be if I want to make it. So, LA was definitely that feeling for me. I love the middle of the country, I love Montana, I love Oregon. I spent some time in Oregon that gave me a good vibe, anything that’s just kind of isolated and has pretty scenery, that’s where I like to set up the mic and start making some music.

Jack: Do you see yourself moving to LA?

Drama: If I’m super successful. It’s expensive to be there, it’s expensive to be here too, but at least I got my friends, my family. I would love to have a place in LA, but ultimately where I’m at now, mentally, I would like to just release music and stream well and move at my pace. I wanna live at my pace, I wanna live the way I wanna live, I don’t really wanna have to operate under some sort of schedule, but I wanna be busy. I wanna be a lot more in control than I have been in the past.

Jack: How has quarantine and the pandemic affected you with making music?

Drama: It didn’t even change positively or negatively for me because I do all my recording in my bedroom, so obviously I was able to still make music. It definitely hurt my creativity because I wasn’t able to travel, I wasn’t able to make moments with people during that time during that four or five months time frame, but I’m a homebody, so I enjoyed being home, I enjoyed being with my family. I didn’t mind it, but I think that it brought a lot of things to the table for people that I think needed to happen, but I’m happy that it’s over. Not over, but moving in the right direction in New York at least, and I’m able to get out a little more and get inspired by things.

Jack: What do you plan for the rest of 2020 in terms of music?

Drama: I got a song coming out Friday and a music video. I’m gonna try to stay at a two-week pace, two weeks. Every other Friday I would like to drop a song and get to work on a great album. And that’s really my ultimate goal. It’s a personal goal on top of my music goal because I want to put together a project that sums up what I’ve been up to these two years, this journey I've been on. I’m gonna attack whatever comes my way, and I’m looking for opportunities obviously, and I feel like I’m gonna start really releasing some of the best music I’ve ever made and I’m excited about that.

Jack: I’ve seen that you’ve put out a lot of music videos, when did that process start? Do you think that’s a vital part of who you are as an artist?

Drama: The thing about music videos is that it doesn’t need to be some crazy, expensive production. At the end of the day, the song is really what’s speaking for itself. I started putting out music videos because WorldStar was super popping and I was like, man, I gotta get on WorldStar with a video and shit like that, so that’s why I really got into it. It’s just part of the job. I’ve done it from a personal level, and I’ve done it from an industry level, and an industry level is 50 people crews. It’s a 15 hour day. You drive a nice car, you’re with the models and all this shit, and it’s great, and it’s like, wow, I can’t believe this. This is a dream. On the personal level, when I’m just hanging out with my friends and we’re in our hometown, just chilling, that’s a vibe too and that’s not something I wanna get too far from. It’s super important, if you’re an artist, just because people wanna see you, people wanna see your surroundings, but I think that if you have a hit song, then the fans are gonna let you know and then when you shoot a video it doesn’t have to be such a "let me put out a huge music video and spend $1000s of dollars." Do something fun and let people know what you’re up to.

Jack: What's your favorite video that you've shot?

Drama: I really like the one coming out on Friday to promote for my new song, the music video coming out Friday is fire. I had a great time shooting the “All That” video with Jeremih, not that I don’t think it’s my best music video, but I just think it was a great experience hanging out with Jeremih, who’s seriously respected and a legend to me, honestly. He’s got so many hits and somebody I grew up listening to and he was such a great guy and brought great energy and contributed a lot creatively, and just giving me advice and telling me about the business a little bit. He was fun and that was probably my best overall time shooting a music video. But I like my videos when I’m just hanging out and it’s just natural and organic, and music videos always lead to good experiences and memorable nights with me and my friends and we get to share, so all videos are always great.

Jack: How have you developed relationships with other artists?

Drama: Tory Lanez, I have a friendship with. I met him a couple times in person and he was a really good guy to me and showed me a lot of love and support, obviously he’s going through a bunch of crazy shit right now, I don’t know what’s going on there, but I always thought he was a nice guy to me. I also love his music, but features are something that you learn to realize that you’d rather be something where you meet the person, you get a rapport with the person rather than, hey, here’s $30,000 for a feature. You’re most likely going to get a better song when you guys have a vibe. You’re most likely to get a feature from a personal connection rather than showing up at the label requesting a big feature, and this is just advice for people who are in our industry, your budget and the money you spend on features with guys like Tory Lanez, guys like Jeremih, these are top dogs and these are expensive guys to work with, you’re gonna have to recoup tens of thousands of dollars whereas you go make a friendship, you’re out at the club, you’re at the store, you run into these guys, or you connect on a music level or just a personal level, you might not have to worry about paying that big check because they’re gonna do it out of love, which is ultimately I think what you need to strive for is to just have great connections and relationships with these guys rather than trying to take a business route.

Jack: Anything you can tell us about your upcoming song?

Drama: It’s my first song in a while, it’s called “90s”. I got a great video coming with it, I shot with this kid John Fitzpatrick, whose a local videographer, me and him just connected and we’re gonna do a lot of work, we just shot another video last night. The songs coming all platforms, music video, and I think it’s a nice vibe for riding around to, feeling positive. I want my fans to anticipate a lot of music and an album, like I said, so I’m in a good spot, and I’m excited.

Jack: How did you get involved with Interscope?

Drama: The way I got connected with Interscope was my lawyer, Adam Zia, who is my number one guy since my career really started, he’s been with me, just out of a friendship because he has much bigger clients. He brought me to Joie Manda, who is the executive VP of Interscope Urban. Joie took a liking to me and gave me a record deal and a publishing deal at Universal Publishing. It was definitely a dream come true for me.

Jack: Are you planning on going on tour and having shows once everything clears up?

Drama: I’m definitely going to perform. I think opportunities will come my way. I’ve had private situations that I know got delayed because of Coronavirus but hopefully will pick back up. I love performing at parties or graduations, things of that nature. I think I’ll get those opportunities. And then as far as tour goes and opening for major artists, that’s a hustle and I gotta get back to work once those things really start happening. I put myself in a position to make that happen. So yeah, I’m excited to perform, I miss it. And I think everybody’s excited for that stuff to come back.

Jack: What’s your favorite part about performing?

Drama: Traveling is great, you gotta travel a lot performing, so I enjoyed not the process of traveling, but I enjoyed being able to see the country and go places that I never would have went if I didn’t make music. I like leaving the stage with a bunch of new fans and people that never knew me and now all of a sudden love my music and wanna come see me again. That’s the ultimate goal for me performing, making people want to come back.

Jack: Do you think performing has been a good way to get your name out, especially after the name change?

Drama: Yeah, because the people I’m performing in front of don’t know if I’m Johnny Drama or whoever. So I’ll come out there and say “I’m Drama Relax”, that’s all people know me as at that moment, so it definitely gives me an opportunity to be face-to-face with fans and gain fans, it’s the best way to genuinely gain fans.

Jack: Who have you gone on tour with and opened for?

Drama: I opened up for Mike Stud, who’s a pretty well-known guy. My next tour was with SoMo, who’s a YouTube singer and more on the R&B side. I did eighh shows with Mike Stud and did 30 shows with SoMo, all in the span of four months, so it was right away, traveled the country like three times back-to-back-to-back. It was great, I hope to get that opportunity again.

Jack: What are some projects or artists that you’ve derived inspiration from?

Drama: I was a big Chief Keef fan. That was my second guy after becoming a Drake and Lil Wayne fan. I was really into Chief Keef when he was first popping off ‘cause it was a different thing but it was so cool. The Weeknd I was a big fan of when he started coming out. Luckily I was at a good age when these guys started coming out, Drake, The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Logic. All these guys were in the beginning of their career when I really started getting into music, so it was such a great time.

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