With two full releases under his belt in 2011, and four in the last year and a half, Dallas, Texas hip hop artist Playdough doesn't seem to be taking much time off. In a recent interview, Playdough spoke with JfH's Scott Fryberger about his most recent solo album and his Wu Tang Clan mixtape with emcee brother Heath McNease....
This interview took place on: 11/18/11.
Jesus freak Hideout (Scott Fryberger): Before we get into the newer stuff, I wanna talk about Hotdoggin' first. I haven't talked to you about that since it came out. Now, that was your first official album in five years; how long did you spend working on it?
Playdough: Oh man. As a whole, at least three years I was officially working on it. There were a few songs that had been even longer than that. Just from working on music...you know, 'cause I'm always working on something. So if anything had any potential, I kept it around, worked on it for a while, tweaked it, changed it around, all kinds of stuff. But it was only a couple of them that were like that. Most of it was over the span of three years.
JFH (Scott): You did some production work, but you also had some guest production as well. How long were those guys working on their tracks?
Playdough: No, it was the same type of thing, 'cause even the beats I had gotten from people...like "Hotdoggin'" was one of the first ones that I got, and DJ Bombay did that beat. And I worked on that for a long time. That was one of my first jams. And yeah, even the stuff that people sent over - I still added live instrumentation on top of a lot of the beats that I got from other people. So I still worked on almost everything. There are only a couple songs on the album that I didn't touch. So, you know, some of them I would lay the groundwork on and do different things, and work on it, and if I thought it needed more still, then I would take it over to some other guys and have some other dudes do some instrumentation on it. So I just sat with it a long time, man. I could've put it out a long time before that, but I just really wanted to be strategic with it. I really wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward, and I didn't wanna just put it out because it was done. I mean, even after it was pretty much wrapped up, I went in the studio one last time and just re-cut all the vocals one last time. (Scott: Wow.) Yeah, it was crazy. It took a minute, but I just wanted it to have some consistency too. 'Cause I recorded it over such a long period of time, that I didn't want it to have crazy different sounds from stuff that was more current to the older stuff. So I just redid everything. It was helpful dude, 'cause I got out everything - like maybe there was a take where I wasn't super happy with a part of it, but I liked the verse as a whole. So I didn't redo the verse; I just kept one part, and everytime I was like "Oh man, I hate the way I say that word." So it was cool to get in and kinda fix everything. But that's the problem, dawg; when you're doing it independent and there's nobody telling you when to put it out, you could just keep going and going as long as you want until you decide you're done. So I just had to wrap it up. I just had to put a deadline on it and just move forward. Just wrap it up.
JFH (Scott): You released [Hotdoggin'] in April, so there's been some time for listeners to kinda wrap their heads around it. I thought it was great, but I'm curious as to what other feedback you've gotten from critics and fans.
Playdough: Oh man, it's been great feedback. All the stuff I've seen has been dope. People hitting me up individually, and all the reviews that have been coming out; it's been my most successful record, dude. Like critically, I didn't see any bad reviews for it. And also sales-wise, it's done really well. I've had some really dope placements, and it's been awesome, dude. So it was worthwhile to kinda take a little extra time on it, and put it out and make it be what it is. Yeah it's been going great, bro, it's been really good. I mean...haha...there's an occasional email from people where they...you know, to be honest with you, it's probably weekly that I get an email - at least one - from somebody that's talking about something they don't like. And it's not like they're telling me their taste of their preference; like something they didn't like that I said 'cause I'm a Christian. Kinda weird. *laughter* 'Cause they come across so hateful, man. They're not even like "You said this and I'm concerned about you" and whatever. It's always like "How could you say this?!" and "How does this promote Christ?!" *laughter* And crazy stuff, man.
JFH (Scott): That's unfortunate.
Playdough: It is, dude, it is. And for a minute, it got me down, and every once in a while it'll still get to me. Man, I just wanna be united, you know? I want people that love God to have each others' back and be united. And when it seems like they're not feeling me, that makes me feel bad. But I mean, some of it's so awkward that it's laughable. So it doesn't even seem real, it just seems like "Man, who would say this? Who thinks this way?" I mean, if they think this way, why would they ever be listening to my music to begin with? Why would someone who thinks this way ever like my stuff? You know what I mean? It doesn't seem like somebody who would be into me.
JFH (Scott): On an unrelated note, I liked the part in "My Cadillac" where you had your son throw in a little rap. That was cool.
Playdough: Oh yeah, man! He wrote that little part.
JFH (Scott): Did he really?!
Playdough: We were in the car one day, and we were rolling around, and I was talking to my wife and he started just kinda freestyling or whatever. Just rapping a little bit. But not really anything we were listening to, haha. He was just kinda messing around, and he started saying that over and over again - "Put the wood up, put the wood up." We were like "What are you saying man?" He said "Put the wood up! You know, like you put the wood back up on the trees!" *laughter* And I said "Oh man that's fresh! You came up with that?" So yeah I had to put that on the song, 'cause it sounded like a fresh little chorus! *laughter* Put the wood up! You know, I just love that freaking kid, bro, and I had to throw him on a jam.
JFH (Scott): Yeah dude, definitely. Now, you mentioned how you're working independently now. Do you have any desire or intention to sign to a record label again?
Playdough: Man, I don't know. I would say probably no. But I mean, I don't wanna act like I've made up my mind forever. But I mean, I'm not pushing my stuff to any labels, and I'm not shopping anything. You know, it was a very purposeful decision. I think a lot of times people think that when you put out an independent record, it's because you couldn't get a deal or whatever. But yeah, it was purposeful for me, man. I mean I could've put it out with the label that put out Don't Drink The Water, or I could've gone elsewhere. But yeah, I like it, man. At least right now, it's swell. I mean, if I get to a point where someone's offering me something that was beneficial, then I'd be at least open to it, but nothing has been beneficial to me, man. Like I said, this has been my most successful record. And I think it's 'cause I'm actually doing the things for it and with it that I've wanted to do. I mean, a lot of times a label would tell me they were gonna do something, and then you turn over the album that you've been working on for so long and so hard, and they don't do any of the things that they said they were gonna do, and you're just kinda stuck out. 'Cause I mean, what are you gonna do? You're waiting for them to do it, and then months go by and nothing happens and then you find out what they actually did and you're like "What?! You were supposed to do all of these things!" And then once it gets past a certain point, they're not willing to invest in it anymore or go back and do those things 'cause it's been out for however long and you've missed that initial push. So you've done all these years of your life working on this music only to turn it over to somebody else and just kinda see them do nothing with it. It's tough, dude, it's so tough. But yeah, I had enough. I had enough of that. And I had done enough mixtapes, and the game was kinda changing a little bit right after I put Don't Drink The Water out. So, doing all of the mixtapes I did, I just kinda figured out a new way to do it that would be more helpful. So once I saw that side of it and I started to realize, "Man if I do x and y, then this is gonna happen," then I just kinda started putting together a little formula. But I'm still learning, dude. The game is so new, like with what happens and what's popping. It's kinda cool to try and figure it out. It can be frustrating but I'm still trying to be creative. That's what I like about it; you can be creative with not just the music, but also the way that you promote it and the way that you make it public. I think that's cool. I don't think that there are a lot of labels that would put that kind of thought into it. I think they have a little formula that they do, but I think it's more of an artist to try to think about what I wanna do - like me doing that promo video for Hotdoggin' when I wore that hot dog suit. You know, it's cool to be able to come up with things and do things that are kinda outside the box. I like that. So it feels good. I like being independent, bro.
JFH (Scott): Yeah, stuff like that video; that's what grabs people's attention.
Playdough: Yeah, I agree, and that's the whole point. And that's what I'm saying - to be able to sit down and try to think of stuff like that - like, what would grab peoples' attention? I mean, it could be tough, but if you're a creative person, then it's fun to think of stuff like that and execute it and see a finished product and see it be successful and accomplish the whole reason why you did it from the jump is like, it makes you feel good, you know? Like "Man I did that! I came up with that idea and it worked!" It's tight.
JFH (Scott): In the last year and a half, you've had four different releases: Bible Bus, Writer Dye, Hotdoggin' and now the Wed, White & Wu mixtape. If you were still signed to a label, do you think you would've been able to do all that?
Playdough: That's a good question. I don't know, it's kinda up to the label. When Mars ILL was with Gotee, they still put out a lot of little side projects for their fans and stuff. So they were cool with it. The people that I was with? I don't know man. I don't know if they would be. It's definitely not something that you can say that they would or they wouldn't. I would've definitely had to go to them and ask permission and go about it a certain way. I definitely wouldn't have been able to do it like I did it. I would've probably been able to find a way to get those projects out, but I wouldn't have been able to do them like I did it, for sure.
JFH (Scott): I wanna talk a little about the latest mixtape you guys put out; you and Heath McNease. I know you guys have been friends for a while, but what brought you guys together to do this mixtape?
Playdough: We'd been doing kinda similar things with our hustle, and we're putting records out, and we go on the road together a lot. We both do the Whose Rhyme Is It Anyway? stuff. And we would just talk about things, and talk about what worked and what didn't and ideas and all that type of stuff. And he put out some freebies like I did, and we both got to kinda test the waters, and see what we liked and what we didn't, and use each other's failures and successes to help us too. So we just decided that since we'd been doing this stuff separate for so long, that if we did something together, we could do something bigger than what we had been doing, and just kinda use his fans and use my fans - and I know they kinda overlap here and there - and just kinda use our own hustle power to put something out. But that wasn't established until the idea was. He actually had the idea and came to me and told me about it, and we kinda talked about the logistics and how we would do it and it sounded great to do it. To have those beats, bro? And to be able to rap over those beats? And he came to me with that idea, and I thought "Man, that would be so fun." But we wanted to make sure it was more than just something to do for fun, you know? I mean, we wanna have fun big time, and I think our fans like it when we have fun. From people that dig our stuff, that's kinda the comment that I hear more than anything; they really like that we're having fun and not trying to be super hard. So we knew we were gonna do that, we just wanted to make sure it would be good business-wise and kinda keep our names out there and just get more fans. That's the goal, man. Gotta get in front of more people. And I figured Wu Tang would help us do that. And it has, man. It's great. Super cool. That junk went to number one on Bandcamp the first day we dropped it, bro.
JFH (Scott): Yeah I was following that. I thought that was pretty cool that you guys could make it to the number one spot so quickly.
Playdough: Yeah man, real cool. We just had a lot of fans that were waiting, so as soon as we made it available, people just downloaded it, bro. It's pretty sick.
JFH (Scott): Do you think if you got the opportunity that you'd do another mixtape like this with any other hip hop artists that have inspired you?
Playdough: Yeah I'd be open to it, man. It's all about timing, and, you know, I definitely like to do different things as well. You know, it could be something similar, working on a project with somebody. But it would definitely have to be some sort of a different concept. You know, I don't know if I'd be down to just take somebody's beats and...'cause we didn't just take different beats from different people, we took all Wu Tang beats. So it's pretty specific. So to do that again with another crew might just seem a little "been there, done that" for me to get excited about it. But if it was some sort of concept, I'm all about that, man. Those are fun.
JFH (Scott): Did you and Heath record in the same studio?
Playdough: Yeah, we tracked everything in my studio. I did some stuff when he wasn't around, but I was there for all of his vocals. I gotta coach him dude. I tell him how to rap. If I'm not around, nobody would know who he was. *laughter*
JFH (Scott): He'd just be singing everything.
Playdough: Yeah man. I'm just like "Dude, don't say it like that." *laughter* And even after he records everything, I get into a ProTools session and move everything around to make it fit the beat.
JFH (Scott): Somebody's gotta do it.
Playdough: I know, exactly. I'm looking out for him.
JFH (Scott): When you guys were in the studio, which one of you had your shirt off the most?
Playdough: Oh definitely me. Look, we were in my studio, I felt mad comfortable, that's how I roll anyway. Heath McNease - real talk - this fool came in the booth wearing sweat pants and a really tight shirt that was a v-neck, and he had his hair pulled back in a ponytail. *Scott laughs* And for real, he looked like Steven Segal in the vocal booth. He had no shoes on. It was ridiculous. He's like "I'm just trying to be comfortable, bro" or whatever. 'Cause I think he was on the road, and he stopped here straight from touring and I think he was just mad tired. So he took a shower, and that's how he came in the studio. *laughter* "Let's do this, man!" I'm like "Dude, you look like Steven Segal right now." But it felt good, man. It felt very Wu.
JFH (Scott): That's pretty awesome. I'm picturing that in my head, and I like what I see.
Playdough: Haha, oh that's good.
JFH (Scott): Now I'm curious, has anyone from the Wu Tang Clan heard the mixtape that you know of?
Playdough: Oh, I don't know dude. I don't know those guys. They definitely haven't told me they heard it. That'd be cool, though. I think they would dig it. It's all nicely done, and it's done with mad respect for them and what they did and who they are. So, I think they'd feel. I mean, have you heard it, bro? We're rapping our butts off on it.
JFH (Scott): Yeah, you are.
Playdough: Yeah, any emcee would have to feel that, right?
JFH (Scott): Definitely. You'd think so.
Playdough: If they're not feeling it, I hate 'em. *laughter*
JFH (Scott): That's the right attitude to have.
Playdough: You know what I'm saying? I'll take their record straight to the trash. They don't like my raps? I don't care who they are.
JFH (Scott): They need to recognize.
Playdough: Exactly dude! That's exactly right. They need to recognize.
JFH (Scott): *laughter*
JFH (Scott): Going back a little bit, but also staying on this point; you were talking about getting negative feedback every once in a while. Do you get negative feedback from being a Christian who's also a Wu Tang Clan fan?
Playdough: No, I haven't had that at all. Not at all.
JFH (Scott): Well, that's good.
JFH (Scott): I would imagine that with some of their content you would hear something like that.
Playdough: Yeah, I haven't heard that. But I mean the record's only been out for like a week and half, so it might still happen. *laughter* But I don't care.
JFH (Scott): Yeah, well hopefully not. Another question I had for you was this: a lot of people throw the word "mixtape" around when they're talking about a free album download. In your eyes, what makes a mixtape a mixtape instead of just a free album?
Playdough: I think if it's mixed. I think if a DJ mixes it together, then that's an official mixtape. What we did on Bible Bus, and then what Heath did on the Nintendo Thumb Mixtape - yeah when a DJ mixes it together, that makes it an official mixtape. I mean, that's what it was. What it is now? That's any dude's call. Like you said, basically anytime anything's free, people call it a mixtape. Even if you don't, even if it's not in the title and you call it an album or whatever, people still call it a mixtape. So I don't know what that is now.
JFH (Scott): Alright, I have one more question for you. With the mixtape being pretty recently released, I know you're going to be spending some time promoting that, but do you have anything else scheduled in the near future as far as putting out albums or making new music?
Playdough: I'm definitely making new music. That's just kinda my process. That's why Hotdoggin' has songs done before I even knew what Hotdoggin' was gonna be. So I steadily work on music, but I don't have any plans as far as the next release. To be honest, I'm still pushing Hotdoggin', and I think Heath is the same way with pushing his projects. This Wu Tang project is kind of a side project. It was really just something to be fun and to be dope for my people, and for people to check us out and gain some new fans. And Hotdoggin' hadn't even been out for six months yet, so I'm still pushing that, and it's still doing well too. So I'm gonna kick in another gear for it, and keep pushing it and touring in support of it next year. So that's what I'll be doing, man. But I always work on music when I'm on the road or when I'm home or whatever. I'm always working on music. But yeah, I'm still pushing Hotdoggin', man. Still hitting the road and supporting it.
JFH (Scott): Alright, well that's really all I had for you. Is there anything you'd like to add?
Playdough: Um...Wed, White & Wu is free. I want people to know it's awesome. It's the best album yet, ever. Hotdoggin' is pretty fresh. And I appreciate you doing the interview and keeping my name in front of people. Maybe just let people know I'm on the road, dude. When you do it indie, between that and selling records, that's how I'm providing for my family. My shows are getting bigger and better, and man, just bring me to your city. Let's do it.
Hotdoggin' and Wed, White & Wu are both available now!