In anticipation of his first full-length studio album since 2006, Hot Doggin', Dallas, Texas emcee Playdough has been busy in the last year making fresh new music for all his fans. He's been a part of two Deepspace 5 projects and he's released a free mixtape called Bible Bus through his Bandcamp store. As if that wasn't enough to remind us that he's still around doing his thing, in early November, he released his second free mixtape. This new mixtape is somewhat of a concept album, called Writer Dye.
When I say it's a concept album, I don't mean in the sense that it's a collection of songs telling one big story, like !Hero: The Rock Opera, or Showbread's Anorexia Nervosa. Rather, all the tracks on Writer Dye just have something unique in common (aside from the obvious things). Each of the tracks' hooks have been borrowed from songs by other bands and molded to fit perfectly into Playdough's flows. And it's a very eclectic list of bands that Playdough borrowed the lyrics from: indie artists to rock bands to one hip hop group. Interestingly, despite the stylistic differences, they're all artists that Playdough lists as influences for his own music.
It's pretty easy for the most part to figure out which artists were the inspiration for the songs based on Playdough's song titles. For instance, the first track borrows from Modest Mouse's "Are You Dead or Are You Sleeping?" as the hook for "Modest Mouseketeer." Even though the hook is written by somebody else, Playdough brings his own quick wit and tight flow, the way Playdough always does it. It's easy to see why he's one of the freshest in the game today. "Modest Mouseketeer" uses the entire chorus from Modest Mouse while "Stickabush" only takes one line from the De La Soul track "Patti Dooke," the line "It might blow up but it won't go pop." It's actually a pretty clever line when you actually think about it (the song's talking about a dance craze called the Patti Dooke). "Adidas Have 3 White Stripes" borrows a great deal of lyrics from the hook of "Catch Hell Blues" by The White Stripes. The original was an out-and-out rock jam that Playdough took and slowed down quite a bit, but still managing to make it work really well. "Nirvanding" follows, using the chorus of Nirvana's "Lake of Fire" (though the song was originally by Meat Puppets - Nirvana just made the song famous). An artist named Chucky Sly performs the hook "Where do bad folks go when they die, they don't go to Heaven where the angels fly, they go to a lake of fire and fry, won't see 'em again till the fourth of July" in a signature, Jamaican-accented reggae voice. Playdough doesn't just stop at borrowing Nirvana/Meat Puppets' chorus, but he takes the idea of it and makes the rest of the song about the reality of Hell using one of Jesus' parables. He retells the story of Lazarus and the rich man from Luke 16 (of course, in his own way - "I knew this dude, said that Hell's hot, asked for some water, just one drop, 'Lazarus could you come give me a squeeze, a little water on my tongue and set this fire at ease'). TheDoors' "Five To One" serves as the inspiration for "Kick In The Doors." He's joined by Othello on the mic and Theory Hazit providing the cuts. It makes for one of the top tracks of the mixtape.
Sivion throws a verse into "Leon Is King," which, obviously, is inspired by Kings of Leon. The hook comes from King of Leon's "Revelry" from their critically-acclaimed album Only By The Night. "Leon Is King" is another track that doesn't borrow from the original's chorus, but instead it borrows from the second verse of "Revelry." Playdough uses half of the chorus of the Violent Femmes' "Color Me Once" for "Violent Feminine." The original says, "Color me once, color me twice, everything gonna turn out nice, everlasting arms you gotta keep me from these false alarms," while Playdough's song says "Color me once, color me twice, everything gonna turn out nice, painted my house as black as night, and then when the sun came up it was back to writing." Sean P comes in and scratches up at the end of the song, giving it an authentic, old school hip hop feel. Playdough talks about being poor in "Pearl of a Pig Jam (TempleOfDogma)" (which, for those uninformed, is not from a Pearl Jam song, but the lone hit single from Temple of the Dog, "Hunger Strike," though Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder was a vocalist for Temple of the Dog as well). The chorus of "Hunger Strike" works perfectly for Playdough's hip hop rendition. One of the top selling rock bands of all time was the inspiration for the next track, "Arrowsmitherines." Aerosmith's "Janie's Got A Gun" provided two lines for the hook of "Arrowsmitherines" ("Daddy gonna get his gun, daddy gonna get him some"). This track almost works as the mixtape's lead single, as it was released on Playdough's Bandcamp before the rest of the mixtape was. It's a good choice of track to get the listeners excited about the rest, as everything about it is tight, from the lyrics to the flow to the beat. The last track is taken from an artist named Brendan Benson. The original song is called "What I'm Looking For," which Playdough doesn't so much borrow from as he takes inspiration from. While Benson's chorus talks about searching despite not knowing what he's searching for, Playdough's hook in "Bending Benson" talks about wanting to keep living as opposed to searching. It's a relatively short track that makes the listener wish there was more to come.
When it comes to the beats of a Playdough album, you can almost always expect the tracks to have fantastic beats made by Playdough himself. For Writer Dye, he enlisted the help of Florida producer For Beats' Sake to do all the beats. For Beats' Sake shows off his talent here, with some amazing beats that fit Playdough's style perfectly, while also displaying his own personal style as well. He uses a lot of real instruments, like horns, drums and guitars, all mixed up into gorgeous hip hop beats. "Arrowsmitherines" features one of the best beats on the mixtape, with music that sounds slightly Far Eastern and Native American at the same time (though that's just what my mind comes to). "Stickabush" sounds a lot more like some older, west coast hip hop, along with "Adidas Have 3 White Stripes," while "Modest Mouseketeer" and "Bending Benson" have a bit more modern style incorporated into them. For Beats' Sake goes all over the board for Writer Dye, but never misses a beat (pun slightly intended). He's not alone when it comes to the music though, as famed Humble Beast artist Theory Hazit and longtime Playdough DJ Sean P jump on a couple tracks as well. Theory Hazit takes the reigns on the cuts at the end of "Kick In TheDoors" while Sean P rips up "Violent Feminine."
Free music is great. While it's important to support the artists that make the music, it's also a treat when one of your favorite artists decides to give away their music to their fans. It's even better when it's someone as talented as Playdough, and it's twice in one year. Writer Dye is a great mixtape to hold us over until Hot Doggin' triumphantly enters the scene next year. It's also one of the top hip hop releases of 2010, even if it isn't technically an official album. The combination of his raps with the beats of For Beats' Sake and the cuts of Theory hazit and Sean P make Writer Dye an instant classic. It's free through his Bandcamp, so you've got nothing to lose, but so much to gain.- Review date: 11/28/10, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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