Capping off a year where he truly lived up to his name, Drama ended 2007 with Gangsta Grillz: The Album, a winning collection of hard street music with one of the most powerful guest lists imaginable. Drama made all these friends back when he was officially known as DJ Drama, the name he used on his underground Gangsta Grillz mixtape series, which, it turns out, wasn't underground enough. Drama lost his "DJ" prefix due to legal threats from another DJ, but more importantly, he lost 81,000 copies of Gangsta Grillz mixtape CDs when he and his Aphilliates partner Don Cannon had their Atlanta office raided on January 16, 2007. With the two facing charges of racketeering, the "Free Drama and Cannon" T-Shirts hit the streets in big numbers, thanks to the widespread respect the DJ and his associates earned with the Grillz series. Those lucky enough to cop them can tell you, Grillz seemed to fire out one well-done release after another, most hosted by names as big as Lil Wayne or Young Jeezy. All this respect, hard work, and hard times pays off on Drama's first aboveground release, as most everyone who gained some street cred on a Grillz mix returns, and not with the usual B-list stuff they give to official DJ comps, but with prime material. Take OutKast's "The Art of Storytellin, Pt. 4," an amazing track with the duo in top form, rapidly spitting killer lines like "I started out starvin'/Now they got me out here Brett Favre'n/Tryin' to see if I still got it." Just as good but for completely different reasons is the all-star "5000 Ones," which could get any party started thanks to Jazze Pha's rousing production and good-time rhymes from everyone involved. Devin the Dude and Twista are at their smoothest during the soulful "Beneath the Diamonds" while producer Lil Jon stuns with his minimal joint "Grillz Gleamin." "Cheers" with Pharrell and Clipse is up to their usual high standards, and T.I. is welcome on all three of his tracks as he tries hard to pay back his boy Drama for becoming Grand Hustle's official DJ. It's interesting to note too that Gangsta Grillz: The Album really lives up to its title by offering a true collection of tracks instead of mimicking a mixtape. Skip the Diddy interlude (but not the hilarious Katt Williams one) and the intro "The Setup" (it wastes three minutes reenacting the January raid) and you've got Drama showing every other comer how the DJ album is done.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries
feat: Lil Jon