January 16 might go down as a day of infamy on the mixtape circuit. In
a major development in the Recording Industry Association of America’s
quest to stop what they believe to be the bootlegging of music, the
Atlanta office of mixtape king DJ Drama’s Aphilliate Music Group was
raided Tuesday by police.
Drama (real name Tyree Simmons) and Aphilliate partner Donald
“Don” Cannon were taken into custody along with 17 other individuals
Tuesday. Police seized over 50,000 mixtapes in the raid, according to
reports from Atlanta’s Fox affiliate, WAGA.
In addition to housing the day-to-day operations of the
Aphilliate Music Group – the collective, which also includes DJ Sense,
recently inked a distribution deal through Asylum Records, while Drama
also has a solo record deal through Grand Hustle/ Atlantic – the
downtown Atlanta offices also served as a studio.
Arrests and raids due to the distribution of what authorities
consider bootleg CDs is nothing new. A sprinkling of mom-and-pop stores
throughout the country have been shut down in recent years, but this is
the first time that the crackdown has hit a name as big as Drama,
arguably the current top mixtape DJ. His Gangsta Grillz series has
become a street staple and a promotional tool for emerging artists.
And while authorities have come down on Drama – who is also
T.I.’s main DJ – the Philadelphia-born industry hustler does not
generally put out mixtapes with just a smattering of exclusive songs
from different artists on each disc. Drama actually works closely with
several artists and will put a Gangsta Grillz CD with music
specifically recorded by one artist for the particular disc. His
releases may be best described as street albums, rather than mixtapes.
Some mixtape DJs do get complaints from labels and artists
about their material hitting the streets, but Drama has not previously
encountered that problem. When music from T.I.’s King album leaked
online last year, Tip and Drama collected the tracks to release as a
mixtape, which featured early versions of songs including “Live in the
Sky.” And artists such as Young Jeezy – who launched his career with
the help of Gangsta Grillz: Trap or Die – Styles P, Lil Jon, Busta
Rhymes, Lil Wayne and Nelly have all made music specifically for Drama
to put on Gangsta Grillz.
Although he is best known for his mixtapes, Don Cannon has
been getting props lately for his production. He was the mastermind
behind one of the biggest club bangers of 2005, Young Jeezy’s “Go
Crazy.” Last year, he popped up again on Jeezy’s The Inspiration LP
with the track “Mr. 17.5.”
An officer at Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail confirmed that DJ
Drama and Don Cannon are in custody, with charges still pending.
Representatives for the DJs could not be reached for comment at press