ACL Review: DRAM

Virginia MC charms, amuses, seduces

DRAM’s happiness is palpable. Adorned in just-out-of-bed attire of flops and socks, a red plaid bathrobe, and bejeweled Gucci sunglasses, the rapper’s love-struck, giddy persona proved infectious at the Honda stage Sunday afternoon.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

In a gruff, almost drunken, shaky tone, the Virginia MC (Shelley Marshaun Massenburg-Smith) began with “Get It Myself,” which led into the chest-rattling “Misunderstood.” Backed by a DJ, drummer, and bassist/keyboardist, DRAM gave his falsetto a workout on the sentimental “Cute” and sun-kissed synth fare “Outta Sight.” The latter earned a few laughs with the line, “I choose you like a Pokémon.”

“Ain’t nothin’ but a twentysomethin’ dolla’ ride for my baby,” he slurred with excitement as cymbals emulated a drum machine on “The Uber Song,” while champagne-dripped keys assisted the sleazy ménage à trois of “Group Thang (Demo).” The modern reincarnation of ODB or Biz Markie, DRAM’s a coy Casanova wearing a huge grin and matching wink.

Throwing it back to Gahdamn! (2015), he became an intimate R&B incantation for silk-sheet burner “Caretaker.” SZA’s absence from the album’s neo-soul ballad didn’t matter in the face of feather-light keys cradling his warm timbre.

DRAM’s lightheartedness and heartfelt enthusiasm manifests in the viral hit “Cha Cha” as he flailed his arms while professing, “I like the cha cha” with a sort of charm you sense only he possesses. As expected, he closed with “Broccoli,” a fitting sendoff for hip-hop’s quirky dude.

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