“I turned off all the lights and got the feeling I did when I was a kid walking into the studio for the first time…”
Drumma Boy fondly remembers locking himself in the studio to craft what would go on to be Jeezy’s boisterous “Put On.” The anthem is celebrating its tenth anniversary on Sunday (June 3), as the timeless banger still sounds as captivatingly fresh as the first time we pressed play back in 2008.
“Put On” would and go on to power the trap pioneer’s third studio album, The Recession, which was released just three months later (Sept. 2). The project’s fiery lead single cleared the way for Kanye West‘s pivotal return to hip-hop following the death of his mother, Donda West, in late 2007 due to cosmetic surgery complications, as well as breaking off his engagement with his fiancée of 18 months, Alexis Phifer.
Yeezy turned inward to deliver arguably the greatest feature in his decorated catalog. He somberly recognizes the loss of his mother and putting Chicago on the map throughout his harrowing guest verse. This also kicked off the Auto-Tune era for Ye which was heavily utilized throughout his bristling 808s & Heartbreak album later that year.
The celebratory “Put On” notched a nomination at the 2009 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, but ended up losing out to the superstar-laden “Swagger Like Us.” The street anthem from the Snowman and Mr. West enjoyed mainstream commercial success while heating up the summer. “Put On” peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 during its 20-week run and ended up topping the U.S. Top Rap Songs chart in September. The Drumma Boy-produced record became 2x certified platinum six years after its initial release in Sept. 2014.
Check out the rest of our recent conversation with Drumma Boy, where he touches on the inspiration behind the hard-hitting “Put On” beat, finding out JAY-Z hopped on the remix, making an appearance in the powerful hit song’s visual, the legacy of “Put On” a decade later and much more below.
What do you remember most about “Put On” a decade later?
I think about the process of making the beat. I remember being at my crib and I was arguing with somebody and pissed off about something. Jeezy just reached out about needing some beats: “I need them yams.” I was in the perfect mood. I remember being home alone and it was probably around 3 a.m. and I started making the beat.
I turned off all the lights and got the feeling I did when I was a kid walking into the studio for the first time and seeing all the different lights, meters flashing, computer on desktop mode and everything was just a vibe. I rolled up a couple blunts and lit up the first one to get in the zone. The first sounds I played made me feel like I was in The Twilight Zone.
When I first made the “Put On” beat, I wanted it to feel like a new anthem for the Chicago Bulls when they came out on the floor. I was thinking about the Bulls anthem with Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan in primetime. I made that beat in 30 minutes and put it into Pro Tools and sent it over to Jeezy fresh off the press.
To get Kanye West on there after all he’d been through was truly something special.
People don’t understand this is the beginning of Kanye West using Auto-Tune. T-Pain was dabbling around with it, but this was the first time we heard Kanye with Auto-Tune and the first time you heard him on a southern track that he wasn’t producing. It was a blessing to get [West] on that song. Then to get JAY-Z to come and put his two cents on the remix, it was just like, “What the fuck is going on?” That was the year I knew I made it. I came home and we say “Putting on for my city” every day in Memphis. It’s Memphis hood slang to say, “I put on.” Just to be able to deliver is priceless.
Did you know West was going to be on the record?
That’s something Jeezy did. He surprised me with “You’re not going to believe who I got on this record.” He didn’t even tell me. I woke up one morning and I’m driving up Route 400 in Atlanta on the way to the mall and I hear Mz Shyneka like, “Oh my god, Drumma Boy got another one. I’m about to play this record.” When [“Put On”] came on I was in my Bentley and it gave me goosebumps. That shit was crazy. I couldn’t believe I was living my dream. I knew that was the summer anthem.
You made an appearance in the powerful video for the record that played off of the Great Recession.
That was one of my first major cameos in a video. I got to be in there and that’s one thing about Jeezy, because there’s a lot of dudes who forget to put me in the video, but Jeezy would always reach out. A lot of times the artists forget to put the producers in the video. To me, that’s the reason why nobody really knows the producer and they’re forced to rap to become well-known. The world didn’t know Kanye West until he started rapping. Swizz Beats, Dr. Dre, Pharrell, Mannie Fresh, and all of the top producers rapped. You know them because they rapped.
Do you believe that’s starting to change these days with the introduction of social media?
Yeah, and it’s branding. When you’re doing label deals and situations like that any producer like a Mike WiLL Made-It or No I.D. that’s a part of a label or signed a production deal is going to have money behind them. They made sure Mike WiLL was in the commercials and as soon as Polow da Don signed to Interscope he was everywhere. Labels make sure you’re aligning with the biggest artists as opposed to someone who’s independent. I’m more so running in the lane of a Russell Simmons and starting my own label with Def Jam. We’re building this shit from the ground up.
How did you find out that JAY-Z hopped on the “Put On (remix)”?
I first heard the remix when I was in Miami. I was at Story nightclub and it was amazing to be embraced by so many different cultures at once. The Haitians, Dominicans, Latin and Caucasian communities — every ethnicity in the building was embracing me. That’s when I knew music was the universal language. Now, hip-hop has surpassed rock and roll as the most popular genre and I remember when “trap” was just a location. We all have made contributions. There’s no one particular person who started trap music because the streets did. The hood and streets started trap and the slang of it. I was 13 and remember my brother saying, “Pull up to the trap.”
Producers like me, Shawty Redd, DJ Toomp and DJ Squeaky in Memphis came up from that Three-6-Mafia era. It went from that crunk to a trap sound. I remember making beats in the trap. Good rappers always feed into the emotion of the music. A good rapper will tell you, “The beat told me what to say.” The spirit and energy of the beat gives you that trap feel where you feel at home when we paint that picture for you.
This particular feeling that I gave Jeezy made him say, “I put on for my city.” It gave him that much triumph and courage to say that. “Standing Ovation” gave him that much to say, “I am the trap.”
How was being at the Grammy Awards in 2009? “Put On” was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
Of course, I was there because we lost to “Swagger Like Us.” It was so crazy because “Swagger Like Us” was drowning and on the way out at that point but you got JAY-Z, T.I, Kanye, and [Lil Wayne] on there. I knew Kanye was going to win something. At least I got one of the records with Kanye on there.
#TBT @MIAuniverse, @kanyewest, @Tip, #JayZ, & #LilWayne perform “Swagga Like Us” at the 51st #GRAMMYs in 2009 pic.twitter.com/pW9fi5Ydmv
— Recording Academy (@RecordingAcad) July 2, 2015
“Put On” essentially set the stage for Jeezy’s Recession album later in 2008. Can you talk about how this track led to crafting the project, of which you were a huge part?
Jeezy was like, “We gotta go back in.” It’s like a Soul food restaurant. I remember in one of his verses [Jeezy] goes, “I’ll eat you up like it’s Chanterelle’s.” I wish Chanterelle’s was still around in Atlanta now. It reminds you of that plate. It’s something with that particular plate of food. Some places you can go eat and it’s not satisfying. This is that fulfilling sound that I give these rappers to deliver their message.
A lot of artists remixed “Put On.” Did you have a favorite out of the bunch? I remember Lil Wayne, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Wale all gave renditions.
I definitely loved Wale and Lil Wayne’s. Wale is a very poetic wordsmith. The way he delivers his words — I’ll always stop and listen to a Wale verse. The same for Lil Wayne, he gives you punchline after punchline. Every line is always a bar. I just have a respect for the music. I love Rozay. Every one of those rappers gave you a different perspective on how to look at what they’re putting on in a sense. It was definitely dope.
What do you think the legacy for “Put On” is going to be in hip-hop’s history?
I’m blessed to be able to say we’re here ten summers later and I heard that record in every club I went into last night in Austin, Texas, and that’s a predominantly white and Asian community. It’s amazing just to have the embrace of all cultures and that shows a guy of class as well as a sound of class. Not only am I as a person, Christopher Gholson, a classy, young, distinguished gentleman, my music is also classy and of character. A lot of people don’t understand the music you make represents the person who you are.