DJ Drama Arrested in Atlanta Mixtape Raid – Today in Hip-Hop
XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Jan. 16, 2007: Mixtapes have always been instrumental in the growth of hip-hop. Part of that growth is in large part due to DJs. Philadelphia native DJ Drama, buoyed by his ongoing Gangsta Grillz mixtape series, is a leader in the game. But 16 years ago, he faced a serious setback. On this day, the popular DJ's headquarters in Atlanta, where his Aphilliates Music Group was located, was raided by the police due to accusations he was bootlegging music.
The entire ordeal came at the hands of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in an attempt to fight against music piracy. Drama and his business partner and friend Don Cannon were both arrested and taken into custody for illegally distributing mixtapes and violating Georgia’s racketeering laws. The company's assets were frozen and their recording equipment, computers and CDs were confiscated.
The authorities also confiscated over 50,000 mixtapes from the premises. This threw a monkey wrench into the company's future plans, including Drama's solo album, Gangsta Grillz: The Album. The raid changed the mixtape game forever.
After the harrowing experience, DJ Drama sat down with XXL on April 25, 2007 and shared his thoughts on following the aftermath.
"After the raid, I was left with nothing," he explained. "I got a phone call from Atlantic [Records] and they were like, 'Drama, anything is good publicity, can you finish the album in three weeks?' At the time, they knew my hard drive was gone, but you have to stay on your business. So I sat down with the Aphilliates and said, 'Let’s go back in and get [this] done.' We pretty much started over. I got in touch with some of the artists that I worked with [prior] and did some new songs. I got some people producing some new songs for me and [now] the album is better than before."
Drama and Cannon were charged with bootlegging and racketeering under the RICO Act. Nothing transpired from this legally, but the impact it had on how mixtapes were viewed cannot be overstated. This led to a change in approach for a lot of mixtape DJs, as a result of the Aphilliates Music Group raid becoming a cautionary tale. This also triggered the popularity of mixtapes solely living online, on sites like DatPiff.com and LiveMixtapes.com.
DJ Drama and Don Cannon righted the ship, and continued to hammer out their space in hip-hop history. The duo later signed Lil Uzi Vert to their label, Generation NOW, proving they were involved in another avenue to market and promote artists.