Why Chicago R&B house duo DRAMA are the ultimate festival act

Get the latest from Beat


Why Chicago R&B house duo DRAMA are the ultimate festival act

Words by Staff Writer

We had the privilege of catching Chicago R&B house duo DRAMA at the Metro Theatre on Thursday May 9 and pwoah...it's hard to think of a better live electronic act in the world right now.

Trading the more atmospheric R&B stylings of some of their slower recorded numbers for an all-gyrating, four-to-the-floor explosion of unbridled house ecstasy, DRAMA amazed us at The Metro last week.

It’d only take you a second with Via Rosa’s vocals on virtually any DRAMA track to imagine she would be a captivating live presence, but it was less clear that producer Na’el Shehade would deliver wall-to-wall bangers the entire night, elevating her rich voice to iconic status as the packed crowd went crazy throughout, creating one of the most dynamic crowd-performer relationships we’ve seen since Little Simz.

Keep up with the latest music news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

Rosa’s lyricism is no less impressive, her own hip hop and poetry backgrounds clear as day on track after track about love and empowerment that somehow felt fresh – perhaps because they were delivered with such emotional resonance every time.

It’s that unique blend of R&B and dance with plenty of hip hop influences throughout that has carved a really successful niche for them in the contemporary music scene, amplified by their emotive lyrics and eclectic soundscapes. Shehade is such a restrained live persona that it contrasts really effectively with Rosa’s massive appeal, but the production is absolutely sublime and their setlist was arranged perfectly.

The duo’s chemistry is evident in their music, which seamlessly merges heartache and euphoria, a signature they describe as “happy-sad music.”

DRAMA’s journey began in 2014 when they met through mutual friends in Chicago’s vibrant music scene. Their debut EP, Gallows (2016), introduced their distinct sound, blending melancholy and rhythm in tracks like Hopes Up” and Forever’s Gone. This release garnered attention for its raw emotion and danceable grooves, setting the stage for their future work.

In 2020, DRAMA released their debut album, Dance Without Me, under the record label Ghostly International. The album encapsulates their evolution, featuring tracks like Gimme Gimme and Years that showcase their ability to craft poignant narratives within infectious dance rhythms. Dance Without Me received critical acclaim for its cohesive production and lyrical depth, solidifying their place in the music industry.

They seriously deserve their spots in major music festivals and tours. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if they’re headlining a major Australian festival, playing a riotous closing set in the near future – we’d be lucky to have them.

Check out more happy sad music handmade in Chicago right here.