DameDrummer Talks About Being a Soul Singer and Working on His New Film About Black Fatherhood
By JR Valrey, The People’s Minister of Information
R&B and Soul has been on life support in the Black community ever since Hiphop exploded in the 90’s into a billion dollar international industry. While this process was taking place Black youth, and youth all over the world from all walks of life gravitated to rapping, over singing – the favorite past time of past generations, and it has become the mascot of youth culture.
Now as the world turns the young Black community have to be reminded of the great voices and stories that Soul singers sang from the likes of Billie Holiday, to Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, Curtis Mayfield, Minnie Ripperton, Marvin Gaye, Patrice Rushen, Sade, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Luther, Jodeci, Anita Baker, Ledisi, and multitudes more. The Black community is not producing the Raphael Saadiqs and D’Angelos like we used to, but the elements are still in the atmosphere, and every now and then one of the anointed appears.
DameDrummer is a soul singer, not just R&B, but a singer who sings from his soul with passion. Some do art for the money, some do it for the beauty, DameDrummer is definitely somebody who you can tell took painstaking decades to perfect his craft, and he is very much nearing perfection. I first saw him perform at D’Wayne Wiggins’ Compound on the lineup with a dozen other artists, but he stood head and shoulders above the rest, not because of his 6’8 frame, but because of his unique tone and vocal range. He will be performing at a benefit for BlackNewWorldMedia.com and the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, on Saturday December 4th at 5pm at the Compound, 926 85th Ave, East Oakland. Check him out in his own words.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about where you learned to play the drums? Where did you get the confidence to sing, although you’re from a generation flooded by rappers?
DameDrummer: I learned how to play the drums in my grandmother’s kitchen. I would pull out all of her pots and pans at a very young age, probably 2 or 3 years old. She would put them away and I would pull them right back out and play. When I was 5, my grandmother along with my mom and my aunt decided to buy me a real drum kit, and get me lessons. When I was six years old, my drum teacher was stabbed to death by his girlfriend. My father gave me Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Prince’s Purple Rain, and said here play these. From then, I was self taught. I learned to play various styles of music. Growing up during the golden era of HipHop, I fell in love with the art form, but singing always made me feel good inside. I loved to rap, but I loved creating melodies and hitting high notes more than spitting bars.
JR Valrey: You use a lot of falsetto in your music, where did you get your vocal style from?
DameDrummer: I was heavily influenced by Prince. I would say his music was the first that I could remember hearing falsetto. I grew up with his music. Hearing songs like “Do Me Baby”, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely”, “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow” and “The Beautiful Ones”, I knew I really wanted to sing. There were others like El and Bobby DeBarge, and Skip Martin from The Dazz Band , a group from my hometown. I was also drawn to Philip Bailey’s voice from Earth, Wind, and Fire. Believe it or not I loved the tones of Sade’s voice when I was a child, and patterned a lot of my style after her because she’s not a vocal sprinter or gymnast, she’s a marathoner. Very smooth.
JR Valrey: How have people responded to you being a 6’8 R&B soul singer?
DameDrummer: Ha! I’ve been 6’ 8” for so long I don’t even pay attention to it anymore, but people are a bit surprised when they do hear the different timbres of my voice. I think Montell Jordan was the first 6’ 8” singer to hit. I could be wrong but I feel like he had a good career.
JR Valrey: Are you working on anything musically?
DameDrummer: Just finished working on Kevin Allen’s new project “Nothing Lasts Forever”. I’m working on two new albums and doing a lot of work with my Grand Nationxl fam. I’m also working with Alphabet Rockers on their new album.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about the part you play in the Bay Area supergroup Grand Nationxl? Why are you motivated to be a part of a musical collective of over a dozen members, when you can risk being drowned out?
DameDrummer: In Grand Nationxl, I’m a contributor and that is the focus of the group; to show up for one another, to bring something to the table, bring something to the pot, show up with the right ingredients, the right recipe stir it all up, bake it, put it out, and enjoy it together. We are all independent artists who are very capable of making it on their own, but we make it there faster together, and it just feels good. We are about wellness, we’re about community, we’re about taking care of each other. It’s not a closed ecosystem either. Grand’s doors are open. As far as being drowned out, I don’t think like that. I’m a star among stars. If you stay positive and keep your head up, just look up, and you can see ’em all. Each one is in their place, but shining bright, and displaying the beauty that they bring.
JR Valrey: Can you talk a little bit about your documentary that you are working on, that deals with Black fatherhood? What is it about? When is it due to drop?
DameDrummer: Yes I’m working on a feature film. It’s my debut as a film director, scorer and executive film producer. It’s a docu-musical entitled “Black Daddy: The Movie”. It’s a non-fictional film about Black fatherhood in America, and debunking the myth that Black fathers are not involved in their children’s lives, or other young people for that matter. The film features Kev Choice, Karega Bailey, Kevin Allen, Mike Blankenship, Mike Austin, Tommy “Solati Shepherd and many other Black men and their stories. The movie also has a soundtrack entitled “Black Daddy: The Sound”, and they both will be released in 2022.
JR Valrey: What do you know to be false about the popular narrative about Black fathers? What motivated you to do this documentary?
DameDrummer: Every time I would hear something negative about Black fathers, I would say “ok I get it but who are y’all talking about?” You’re not talking about us over here! Me and all the men that I surround myself with, take great care of their children, no matter what the circumstance is between them and the child’s mother. I feel like those stories are not getting told or celebrated, so I wanted to do my part and tell the stories of the men who inspire me to continue in the path of excellence, in being a great father.
JR Valrey: What effect do you hope that this documentary has on the Black community? Who do you visualize using it?
DameDrummer: I hope that it would inspire and encourage men to keep up the maximum effort. I hope that it would encourage men who are not up to par, to get on board. I hope that it would inspire men to step up to the plate, and take care of children who do not belong to them biologically. I hope that it would inspire men to fight for their children, even if it be in these wishy washy court systems. I hope that it will inspire women to give men safe places to be vulnerable. I hope that it would inspire men to be more vulnerable with each other. I hope that it would aid in the reconciliation of many estranged relationships
JR Valrey: The Compound closes down after the first weekend in December, what did that spot mean to you? And why?
DameDrummer: The Compound meant a great deal to me. Every city needs a place where the artist can come and work on their craft. I was often inspired by the artists I saw come through there. I’m so grateful for Dwayne Wiggins, staying in his hometown, and opening his doors for as long as he did. It was the kind of place where you can witness and discover acts, before the world did.
JR Valrey: How can people get at you online?
DameDrummer: The people can get at me at www.damedrummer.com
By texting “DameDrummer” to 510-528-7403 or @DameDrummer on any social media platform or music streaming service.