Playdough Interview

playdough interview copy

So, I’m a blessed guy. When I was growing up and first getting into hip-hop, two of my favorite artists where Playdough and Pigeon John.   I interviewed  Pigeon a few years back, but I was really excited to pick Playdough’s brain finally.  Playdough has been around for a long time, first performing in the folk/hip-hop duo Ill Harmonics (of which I saw twice, be jealous).   At the same time, and also currently, he performed as one of the 10 emcees in Deepspace5.  After a few years, Playdough finally went solo, and dropped two massive LPs before seemingly disappearing from the scene. Then suddenly in 2010, it seemed like you couldn’t listen to anything good, hip-hop wise, without hearing Playdough‘s name.  2011 is the coming of his finest work yet, Hotdoggin, and it appears that Playdough hasn’t missed a beat. Enjoy learning more about this amazing emcee and artist.

ONE21Music:How did you get started in hip-hop?
Playdough:I fell in love with Hip-Hop when I was in grade school. I had to do a sock puppet skit for my class and I made mine a rap. My teachers were bugging out and I got such a good grade that I felt like I was on to something. From then on I was rapping.

ONE21:You started out in Ill Harmonics, and are currently on the roster of Deepspace5, how does your work in these groups differ from your work as a solo artist? Do you think you work in both groups influence what you do today as an artist?

Playdough:My work in both groups definitely influences what I do as a solo artist, or maybe it’s the other way around. With ill harmonics I really got to explore doing music and song structure and the value of live instrumentation. With Deepspace5 there’s always an unspoken feeling of trying to shine on a track with dudes that are 10 times better than me in 10 different ways and do things that I can’t do. It’s healthy and fun. As a solo artist I can combine what I’ve learned from both crews and add some things that don’t necessarily fit into those projects. The live instrumentation and musicality of ill harmonics combined with the hard bars of Deepspace5.

ONE21:You are a Texas boy right? Does your location influence your writing style?
Playdough: I live in Dallas. I was definitely influenced by some more southern style drums and felt I could rhyme a little different on those beats then what people were used to hearing me do. There’s a handful of tracks like that on this album.

ONE21:We love Lonely Superstar (it was featured on our Essential 100 list), what was it like putting that album together? Were you happy with the end result?
Playdough:I was very happy with how that album turned out. It was really a lot of ideas, verses and songs that I had been writing or at least working on since I was a teenager. Some were just me experimenting in the studio and really getting to enjoy the fact that I was working on the solo project that I’d wanted to do for so long. Other songs like “Mr. Mike R. Fone” were poems that I had written when I was learning about rhyming and writing. Looking back there are certain lines that seem a little silly but I think any artist looking back at their earlier work has things that they would have done a little differently. You just grow and learn. Overall I’m blessed that the album was so well received. It literally took me all over the world and helped lay the foundation for what I’m doing today.

ONE21:It has been several years since we have heard from you as far as new music goes, what have you been up to?
Playdough:I’m a family man. I love my family and being a dad. When Don’t Drink the Water came out my son was a baby. I stopped going on the road as much because I really wanted to be there for him and my family in a time that I thought was crucial for me to make sure my son had his Dad around. During that time I was writing, producing and recording new material. In the past year I’ve released 3 solo projects and a Deepspace5 album. The whole time people didn’t have new Playdough material but I was busy making it, I just wanted to be strategic about releasing it so it’s all come out within this past year.

ONE21:Last year you released two albums for free (The Bible Bus Mixtape and Writer Dye, both of which made our end of the year “Best Of” lists), how did those projects come together? Why release them for free?
Playdough:For the Bible Bus Mixtape I used other artists beats that I’d always wanted to rhyme over. The other beats were either B sides or songs that I’d collected from different compilations or situations that the general public hadn’t gotten to hear. Some were originally for Hotdoggin but got cut earlier in the process so I used them for the mixtape.
Writer Dye came about because I had the idea to use other bands lyrics and turn them into hooks for a hip-hop album. For Beats Sake did all the production on that one. I wanted to do another free release to follow Bible Bus and I figured since I was using other people’s lyrics that it made sense for me to use that project as the next freebie.
I put them both out for free because it had been so long since I’d released any solo material that I wanted to let the world know I’m still here and still growing as an artist. My fans have followed me and supported me for a while but I wanted to introduce myself to people that may not be familiar with my work. If I made it free then they had nothing to lose in giving it a listen. The hope was that the two freebies would get everyone excited about my next official studio album Hotdoggin.

ONE21:That brings us to Hotdoggin, how did this album together?
Playdough:I’ve been working on this album for a long time. I wanted to show people that I’m more versatile than some of my past solo projects have shown me to be. I made beats, bought beats, wrote hooks, bridges, choruses and then rewrote some, added live instrumentation and really tried to stretch myself.

ONE21:Is there an overall theme in Hotdoggin? What were some of then ideas you were trying to express in the songs?
Playdough:There’s no official theme. I intentionally wrote songs in good times, tough times, regretful and disappointing times of my life to convey the emotions that we all experience in life. The contrast of the day to day. So it’s really about putting all of me in the music and comparing that to a hotdog being made out of everything. It’s a flawed man who loves God, his family and life and wants to offer something of use to the LORD and the listener.

ONE21:What is the title track about?
Playdough:Putting everything I have into my music. Just like a hotdog is all parts of whatever animal a hotdog is made from. My music is all parts of me whether they be mistakes or victories, regrets or success. Hoping we can learn from it all. I know people are just like me so I wanted them to know I’m just like them. We’re human, I’m just really good at rapping. It’s also meant to be a light hearted song that allows me to show off a little bit of word play.

ONE21:Who is Harry Krum?
Playdough:That’s a great question. He does a lot of my production and has always been my go to producer. He also handles my booking and other day to day business dealings.

ONE21:How much control do you have over the beats on your projects? Has your involvement in that process changed over the years?
Playdough:100% control. I’ve always maintained that. Even when labels would try to accomplish an agenda that was different from mine, it’s always come down to me.
ONE21: What is your writing process as far as coming up with beats? There are alot of layers in your songs, so how long does it usually take you to create a song?
Playdough:I’m a pretty fast writer. Sometimes the hook just hits me and I can’t stop. Other times I may write a verse and lay a rough vocal to see if it’s worth persuing and go back later to fill in the gaps.

Some beats are done when I hear them. If I add additional instrumentation it varies. I’ll have players lay parts down and then go back and sample the new parts to chop them and use my MPC to replay them.

ONE21:Hotdoggin is out, so what is the next step for Playdough?
Playdough:I’ll be touring and supporting this album on the road. Working on new music at some point but I’m not thinking too hard about the next music I make just yet. I’ll be working this album for a while.

For the next part of the interview, I asked Playdough: some more genreal “survey” questions on a few topics that are near and dear to our heart

ONE21:Why hip-hop?
Playdough:Hip-Hop is the only music that ever inspired me enough to give it a shot. Hip-Hop isn’t just the music I chose to do, it’s my culture and everything I know. I’m in it, I live it and I love it so even if I tried to do something else it would still come out as Hip-Hop in some way.

ONE21:Whats good in music right now?
Playdough:You tell me. I’ve been working so hard I feel like my head’s been in the sand a little. I like the classic stuff, hip-hop and classic rock. I also like anything Jack White, Paris Jones, Mayer Hawthorne, The Black Keys, PacDiv, J. Cole, Coldplay and all the usuals. Anything with good writing and soul.

ONE21: What would be your dream project?
Playdough: I’d love to work with Jack White. Just vibe out and see where it goes.

ONE21:Is the digital age of music one that helps or hinders the artist?
Playdough:That question can only be answered when you’re comparing the way artist’s sales were and what they are now. If you just take the way things are right now for what they are then digital is great for artists. It’s a whole new world.

ONE21:Who is Jesus to you?
Playdough::This shouldn’t be a hard question to answer but it is. I guess it’s kind of hard to put into words because He’s so much to me that I don’t want to sound cliche and say He’s my life, though He is. He’s my hope, my future, my ransom and my example. In Him I live, move and have my being. He’s my reason.

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