ATLANTA, GA – DJ Drama, Don Cannon and Leighton “Lakeshow” Morrison have more than two decades a piece in the music industry and have seen it all throughout their lucrative Hip Hop journeys.
Entering the 20’s, the trio of college buddies are in cruise control with their Generation Now imprint, which helped turn Lil Uzi Vert from SoundCloud darling to an untraditional mainstream superstar. Signee Jack Harlow used 2020 to make the quantum leap to stardom behind “WHATS POPPIN” and Florida rapper Seddy Hendrix looks to be next in line to board the Generation Now express.
Nowadays, Drama can toast to his success and enjoy the fruits of his labor when laying the foundation for the next generation of stars in Hip Hop. With a keen eye for talent and an ability to predict what’s next, his Generation Now gamble has paid off, and promises to Atlantic Records were kept.
“They represent the cross-section of traditional hip-hop artist development and culture and what the kids want to hear,” said Atlantic chairman Michael Kyser of Generation Now. “They bring decades of experience and knowledge, as well as their unique ability to adapt to the speed and methods that fans want for their music in 2020.”
Drama explained to Billboard in 2020, “We had our hands close to various artists who are now superstars, who we had the opportunity to sign or just had the feeling like, ‘Okay, this person is up next. Let’s be ahead of it.’ We missed on some things, [but] we said, ‘We don’t want to miss anymore.’ ”
But it wasn’t always a smooth ride to the top for Drama, who is best known for hosting his epic Gangsta Grillz mixtape series, and Cannon, who has the build of an NBA forward but produced bangers for 50 Cent, Lil Uzi Vert and Pusha T.
SayCheeseTV reminded Drama of one of the darkest moments in his life when he and Cannon were arrested in 2007, as his Generation Now empire almost never saw the light of day. 14 years later, the 42-year-old is quick to remind social media of his ability to overcome adversity and ultimately garner the last laugh.
“Look at us now. Gen Now,” he commented back with a goat and gold crown emojis.
Back when CDs were a thing, Drama and Cannon’s Atlanta Studio was raided by a SWAT team and Clayton County officers on January 16, 2007 for allegedly bootlegging mixtapes. Drug-sniffing dogs and officers with guns drawn burst into the Aphilliates Music Group home studio. Officers executed a search warrant as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) worked with the Department of Justice looking to combat music piracy running rampant across the country.
Drama — born Tyree Simmons — and Donald Cannon were arrested on the premises for illegally making and distributing mixtape CDs, which would fall under a violation of Georgia’s felony RICO laws. They were held in Fulton County jail overnight, but that would be it.
According to The New York Times, law enforcement confiscated 81,000 CDs, recording equipment, computers and even cars. The company’s business operation was entirely put on hold as their assets and bank accounts were frozen.
“A lot of the impact is still up in the air because people are waiting to see what comes of our situation,” Drama told Billboard after the situation transpired in April 2007. “But, I try to look at everything in a positive manner. The mixtape game needs to change for the better. People need to learn from this.”
He also told XXLthat Atlantic wanted him to get back to work shortly after the raid, “After the raid, I was left with nothing. 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.”
The aftermath of the incident had a chilling effect on the mixtape industry when it came to producing and promoting physical CDs. The Hip Hop industry pivoted by forcing mixtapes to go digital and live online which brought about the rise of LiveMixtapes and DatPiff where mixtapes stayed for the foreseeable future.
At the end of 2007, Drama took aim at law enforcement for attempting to ruin his business by forming the rap avengers on “Feds Takin’ Pictures,” which featured Jeezy, T.I., Rick Ross, Jim Jones, Young Buck and Willie the Kid.
More than a decade later, Drama, Cannon and Lakeshow’s Generation Now remains the blueprint and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to breaking rap stars in the industry.
“[Generation Now] is self-explanatory,” Cannon told Complex of their mission statement in 2020. “It’s the generation of people: the now and the future, not the past. It’s just one of those profound words in general that speaks to ongoing sets of kids, artists, and architects. And it just moves beyond a certain genre. It’s beyond R&B, hip-hop, rock music, country music. It’s everything.”