DJ Drama, RICO Law And The RIAA Mixtape Raid That Changed Rap : Louder Than A Riot In the early 2000s, mixtapes transformed Tyree Simmons into DJ Drama and molded T.I., Lil Wayne and Jeezy into rap superstars. But in 2007, those same mixtapes landed Drama in jail with a bank account balance of $0.00. In this episode, we break down the raid that turned the mixtape from cultural innovation into criminal conspiracy, from the perspective of the man who took the fall when the cops came knocking. "If they can lock up Drama, nobody's safe. It's over."
NPR logo

The Day The Mixtape Died: DJ Drama

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/928307301/928961515" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
The Day The Mixtape Died: DJ Drama

The Day The Mixtape Died: DJ Drama

The Day The Mixtape Died: DJ Drama

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/928307301/928961515" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DJ Drama. Dale Edwin Murray for NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Dale Edwin Murray for NPR

DJ Drama.

Dale Edwin Murray for NPR

"If they can lock up Drama, nobody's safe. It's over. It's a wrap."

In the early 2000s, mixtapes transformed Tyree Simmons into DJ Drama. Mixtapes defined the careers of T.I., Lil Wayne and Jeezy. But just as Drama and his partner, Don Cannon, were building their Gangsta Grillz mixtape empire, it was those same mixtapes that landed them in Fulton County Jail.

In January 2007, officers confiscated tens of thousands of mixtape CDs, carted DJ Drama and Don Cannon off to a holding cell and charged them with bootlegging and racketeering. The arrests were made in collaboration with an entity that Drama and Cannon thought had their backs: the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). But their Gangsta Grillz project wasn't a bootleg series — it was a legit mixtape outfit that worked directly with major-label artists to promote and distribute new music.

In this episode, we break down the raid that turned the mixtape from cultural innovation into criminal conspiracy, from the perspective of the man who took the fall when the cops came knocking.

To follow along with the music in this episode, check out the Louder Than A Riot playlists on Apple Music & Spotify. We'll update them every week.

To connect with us, follow the show on Twitter @LouderThanARiot, or send us an email at louder@npr.org.