Ah, yes. It is finally spring, when flowers begin to rise from the frozen earth and the temperature reaches a mildly comfortable 55 degrees at least once a week. But even more exciting than the return of life to the region is the arrival of Ivies weekend, when solo cups litter the quad and the music world’s best grace the stage of Farley Field House. With Ivies just one week away, it is time to break down this year’s headliner: D.R.A.M. You may be wondering: Who is D.R.A.M.? How do you pronounce his name? Is “Broccoli” about weed? While I won’t get into all the specifics, here is everything you need to know about the smiley Virginia rapper/singer whose name rhymes with “mom.”
D.R.A.M. is a 29-year-old artist from Hampton, Virginia. He is an outspoken lover of his mom and owns a goldendoodle named Idnit, who appears on the cover of his 2016 debut album, “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” Wikipedia lists D.R.A.M. as a rapper, but the music that brought him to stardom has shown a more varied palette of sound than that title suggests. D.R.A.M. grew up singing in church, but his music doesn’t borrow from gospel as much as from the jazz-inflected pop-rap that made a star out of Chance the Rapper pre-“Coloring Book.” He dances over beats with the nimbleness of a trap rapper and the melodic sensibilities of a choir boy. While D.R.A.M. has made use of many styles during his rise to fame, his voice has always been his distinguishing feature. D.R.A.M.’s tender rasp fits an impressively broad spectrum of genres, as unspecific as suggested by his name, which stands for “Does Real Ass Music.”
Many first heard his voice in 2014 on “CHA CHA,” a bouncy Latin tune that had Beyoncé dancing on Instagram. An Insta shoutout from the queen herself can go a long way, and if “CHA CHA” wasn’t already a hit, it went viral soon after—D.R.A.M. found himself in the national spotlight, earning himself a place on Chance the Rapper’s Family Matters Tour in late 2015.
Still, if you don’t know “CHA CHA,” you probably know “Broccoli,” D.R.A.M.’s 2016 summer hit with a candy store piano riff that twinkled its way up the charts and into the hearts of potheads everywhere. The song was a well-timed collab between two of the happiest faces in progressive hip-hop: Lil Yachty added some syrup-flowing star power to the track, but it was D.R.A.M. who stole the show on his own song, adding sure-footed bars of his own and belting out a confident, “I’m beyond … all that fuck shit.”
“Broccoli” and “CHA CHA” aren’t the only songs capable of lighting up Farley Field House. “Cash Machine” flips a Ray Charles piano sample and turns it into a groovy banger for the newly rich, complete with cash-stacking ad-libs and philanthropic lyrics. Also from “Big Baby D.R.A.M.” is the sleeper hit “Outta Sight,” a falsetto-laced disco track that recalls the dancey tendencies of “CHA CHA.” But D.R.A.M. seems to be just as comfortable kicking back over a beat as dancing over one, showing his crooning abilities on tracks like “Sweet VA Breeze,” a slow-burning ode to his hometown that shined as bright on a festival stage as on NPR’s Tiny Desk.
D.R.A.M.’s varied sound is a testament to his versatility as a rapper, soul singer and songwriter. But in his few years of fame, D.R.A.M. has already set himself apart from one-hit pop stars as well as from the progressive rap game. Indeed, D.R.A.M. is a rare artist who combines the infectious nature of his hits with personality and ability that are equally charming. Whether hitting a silky falsetto riff on “Sweet VA Breeze” or giving an assured “gahdam!” on “Broccoli,” D.R.A.M. shows his full range of talents while flashing a contagious smile through it all. It’s the kind of effortless showmanship that translates well into a live set—out of everyone around him, D.R.A.M. always seems to be having the most fun. After a winter in Maine, that’s the kind of energy we need at Ivies.