By Chris Richburg
Rappin’ is his game. Hip-hop is the culture he helps maintains. And Playdough will have it no other way. While there are rhyme sayers who take themselves a bit too seriously, the Dallas, TX entertainer has made a career of displaying his knack for rhyming while cracking smile at a fan or casual listener via audio or live in concert. Not bad for someone affiliated with two legendary crews, Deepspace5 and Ill Harmonics. With so much talent in those respective groups, giving fans something to separate you from your musical brethren can be a challenge.
But with two albums, a few mixtapes and a beat tape to his credit, Playdough is having no trouble letting you experience the world according to him. With his latest release, Hotdoggin‘, the rapper admits his third opus was done with care, love and a sincere desire to push himself creatively. Not too mention the humor he is known to insert in to his material.
Taking a minute to chat with the Sphere via e-mail, Playdough touches on freestyling, Hotdoggin‘, his dislike of a certain St. Lunatic, the possibility of a Deepspace5/Ill Harmonics collaboration and who would comprise his dream freestyle cypher.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: You mention that the title of your album came from the Book of Proverbs. How did you get hotdoggin’ from Proverbs?
Playdough: It didn’t come from Proverbs at all. That was just a really fresh vocal sample that I couldn’t pass up using.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Hotdoggin‘ is your third studio release to date. With two past albums under your belt, (Lonely Superstar and Don’t Drink the Water), what’s the biggest difference regarding your latest album and your previous offerings?
Playdough: Hotdoggin‘ wasn’t just songs that I liked and got collected into some material for an album. I was very deliberate with what I wanted to do and really tried to do things that I hadn’t done before. I wanted to stretch myself and not just do what came natural, but get out of my comfort zone. Even incorporating some styles that aren’t necessarily my favorite to listen to but I wanted to challenge myself to take something that people usually don’t hear me do and make it mine. I really wanted to make some good songs as well, not just three and a half minutes of me rapping. Different song structures and change ups.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: I notice you have a track on Hotdoggin‘ titled after one of my favorite actress (and former ‘80s crush), Elizabeth Shue. What’s the motivation behind the track, “Elizabeth Shue” and all the shoe references? Very creative.
Playdough: There was a local mixtape that asked me to do a song for a sneaker event they were having. Everyone was doing songs about sneakers and clothes. I let them know that I’m not a sneaker head at all, but they encouraged me to just do what I do. I got a beat from Picnictyme for it and really wanted to come in the back door on the shoe thing. So the whole song is wordplay about shoes, feet, legs, running, standing, etc. It was a super fun.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: This song seems to be the companion to “Nia Long,” a track from your Who’s Harry Krum? beat tape. The big difference is you rhyme on “Elizabeth Shue,” while “Nia Long” is comprised of mostly just the music. Is this the continuation of a series of tracks featuring my favorite celebrity crushes on the title?
Playdough: That’s not a bad idea. I could call the project “Flee Youthful Lust”.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Speaking of creative, I gotta mention “Mr. Mike R. Phone,” a track on Lonely Superstar where you rhymed from the perspective of the microphone. Have you thought of doing another song in that vein? Maybe you could rhyme in the persona of the beat.
Playdough: I did it a little bit already on “Family Reunion” on my first album. It’s all about the different percussion used to make a beat and telling a story about them. It feels like Deepspace5 has done the whole “rhyming from the perspective of” thing a lot so…if something hits me that I feel that I could really dig in to I might try it out. As of now, I’m going to let that breathe.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Shifting gears a bit, freestyling has played an integral part of you getting to where you’re at now. You’re known for the events you’ve won in the past. In addition, there was the recent Who’s Rhyme is it Anyway? event you participated in that utilized freestyling in a creative way. As an MC, what are your thoughts on the importance of being able to freestyle?
Playdough: For me, it’s made me into who I am as a writer and affected my patterns heavily. Anyone that asks me for advice can tell you the first thing I suggest to them is to freestyle anytime they’re alone. It gets rid of the ABC rhyming and develops into a lot more complex rhyme schemes. Plus it’s so much fun. It’s like exercise for your mind. I love to freestyle because I still enjoy it. I just love rapping, dude.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: With many rappers passing unreleased or pre-written rhymes as freestyles, do you feel that the art of coming off the top is dead?
Playdough: It’s not dead, but it’s definitely not like it used to be. I don’t remember the last time I was at a show and just saw some dudes rhyming over a beat box and passing it around the circle. Things change, I know. Freestyling makes you very vulnerable. You could say something really wack and become the butt of a few jokes if you fall off. Writtens that you’ve practiced leave no surprises when you’re busting them. I say put yourself out there and live in the moment.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Hotdoggin‘ is an interesting title for an album. And while most rappers work hard to promote their projects through various means (tours, interviews, mixtapes, etc.), you’ve taken things a step further by putting on a hot dog suit and dancing in one of your videos. With all the bragging and boasting going on in rap, it’s rare to see a rapper putting himself out like that. So what was it that made you throw caution to the wind and decide to really go “hotdoggin'”?
Playdough: I had the idea and couldn’t deny the humor in seeing an emcee who talks about how good he is being seen around town wearing a hotdog suit. I can be a pretty light-hearted guy and I’ve really worked hard on ways to let my personality come through. I’m not super hard, and battling has a tendency to make you come across that way. I wanted people to know this album was different for me and I thought it was a good way to get their attention. I like to do things differently than the average rap guy.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: As stated before, you’re known for freestyling. If it was up to you, who would you include in your dream freestyle cypher and why?
Playdough: Geez, all these guys would probably make me look foolish. I’d love to see Mos Def, Black Thought, KRS-ONE, Brother Ali, Jurny Big, Supernat, Redcloud, Aceyalone, Vursatyl, Gift of Gab and Casual bust a few go rounds together.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Another song on Hotdoggin‘ that struck a chord was “1 Day.” I love the beat and the flow. In the song, you detail what you would do with one day left to live. Very entertaining, but I notice you seem to go at Nelly with the line “One last request before I leave this place. Tell the whole world about God’s good grace. Two last requests before I leave this place. Somebody smack Nelly in his dag’on face.” What’s up with that?
Playdough: I can’t stand that dude. His rhymes, his songs, his look, his fake KRS battle, his acting, his freaking face. I guess if you don’t have something nice to say you shouldn’t say anything. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I’m not feeling him, though.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: As a member of Ill Harmonics and Deepspace 5, you definitely have the group member thing down. So as the link between the two crews, will we ever see an Ill Harmonics/Deepspace 5 collaboration in the future?
Playdough: No way. Ill Harmonics isn’t doing anything new these days, we’re planning on putting out some b-sides and unreleased songs but we’re not working on anything new. Deepspace5 is just Deepspace5. When we get together it’s so special and there are so many of us we really don’t collab with anyone.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: I’ve heard and read many things concerning your name. For those who constantly wonder, can you set the record straight as far as the meaning behind the name and how you it fits in to your musical equation?
Playdough: It’s just a play off of my government name. Probably the biggest headache in my life to deal with was creating a rap name. No one wants to call you that and people act like they’re extra down if they know your real name. They like to try and talk to you using your government name to prove they know you. But most of the homies just call me Playdough.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: In addition to rapping, you’ve established yourself in other areas. You play instruments and sing on your albums. Does it feel overwhelming at times to wear so many hats when working on a project?
Playdough: It feels very natural. I don’t wear those hats because I have to or feel pressure to do so. I do those things because that’s how I enjoy making music. It’s fun to me to create melodies and add instrumentation. It feels like what makes a song a song. Life and change ups and actual music.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Being a Christian MC, there’s the challenge of finding success in a genre that hasn’t generated the respect or notice it deserves. As someone who has established himself and built a fanbase, what can be done to elevate the current status of the faith-based hip-hop so people can take notice? In your opinion, is there enough being done now to promote gospel rap?
Playdough: I hope I don’t offend anyone but I don’t care at all about gospel rap. Music and art don’t have a faith. Gospel rap seems like it only gets heard by other people who already know the Gospel. Sermon rap. I care about hip-hop and the culture and I feel like Christ followers have Life to offer others that are living this culture. You can’t expect anyone to respect what you say when you’re outside of the culture looking in and judging. Be a part of people’s lives. The only thing I can offer to elevate the status of faith based hip-hop is stop being wack. If you’re good people will like your music. Don’t get angry because there isn’t someone promoting it like you feel there should be. Get out of the bubble you live in and promote it yourself. Don’t wait for someone to promote it for you and act like it’s tough because you do gospel rap. Stop talking down to people and using Jesus’ name for a punchline. I’ve probably said too much, sorry if that disappoints anyone. Let’s just stick with “no comment”.
Playdough: Definitely more mixtapes and freebies in the pipeline. I try to release them strategically instead of just putting them out to put them out. More to come for sure.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: You seem to have a knack for adding something extra on your songs, with the interlude skit or new track with a new beat. (“1/2 inchin” and “Simple 1” from Lonely Superstar; “Emergency Broadcast,” “Tip Your Hat,” “Don’t Drink the Water” and “Leave You,” from Don’t Drink the Water; “The Business” on Hotdoggin‘). It kinda reminds me of the extra scene you get when watching a Marvel Studios film. How did you manage to capitalize on this before the people behind the Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America movies took it and ran away with it?
Playdough: I give all credit to Prince Paul, De La Soul, Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest. They were the first ones that I heard do that. I always loved it and have been adding obscure samples like that to my music since I was making pause dub tapes in middle school. It’s so fun to share crazy samples and songs as in between joints.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: Two years before Hotdoggin‘ came Who’s Harry Krum? Are there any plans for Harry to follow up with another one for the instrumental heads?
Playdough: I will do more beat tapes. Right now rapping is providing for me. When I have time to really make enough beats to put a beat tape out I will. Making beats is the most fun for me. I don’t have enough time to do it like I’d like to so when I do it’s very fun. I have a few different ideas for the next one so we’ll have to see how it starts to take shape.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: We get a bit of an introduction in to who Harry Krum is on the beat tape. With that, I wanna flip it and ask: who’s Playdough?
Playdough: Man, what are you my therapist? That sounds too scary to answer. To put it humbly, the greatest emcee in the world.
Sphere of Hip-Hop: 2011 is proving to be a fruitful year for you. What does 2012 and beyond hold for Playdough?
Playdough: More touring and freebies. I probably won’t get to put out another full-length studio album in 2012. Some mixtapes and other free downloads will happen. I’d love to do another PC album with Freddie Bruno. I’ve also been working on a project with Manchild that will hopefully see the light of day next year. I’ve been trying to hit the road as a responsible family man as well and really figure out how to tour and still be there for the fam so hopefully I’ll be balancing the road and home life. Hopefully in 2012 Jesus will come back riding a surf board on a hurricane right when I’m in the middle of the dopest freestyle I’ve ever done. 2012!