Lil Playy is enjoying life right now. After hitting the proverbial Rap lottery once Ludacris turned his infectious hook on “My Chick Bad” , into a platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated smash in 2010, the Houston rapper officially landed on the mainstream radar. He met Suzanne de Passe, signed to Rodney Jerkins’ Darkchild Productions, then officially added to Jimmy Iovine’s loaded roster at Interscope Records all before the release of his first mixtape, TourBusMusik. But while Playy is excited about his prospects, he’s also quick to admit that just because he signed, the hustle hasn’t subsided.
Speaking with HipHopDX, Lil Playy discusses his journey to Interscope, his desire to collaborate with Lady Gaga, his upcoming all dance music mixtape, and why he thinks you have to approach Hip Hop competitively in order to achieve success.
HipHopDX: What else were you working on around the time you made “My Chick Bad” for Ludacris?
Lil Playy: I was working on my first little demo to try to get a deal. It was some old stuff. I was like 17 or 18 [years old] back then. I was really just starting back then, so “My Chick Bad” was a blessing.
DX: It’s a great hook. It works perfectly with that beat. You’re very good with melody judging from the singles you have released. “Birthday Dress” has potential. When you’re looking at the broader Hip Hop landscape, you’re hearing a lot of melodic rhymes. Has that always been an emphasis for you as an artist or has that been a recent transition?
Lil Playy: Definitely. Say if you go to Billboard.com and look at all the records that’s hot right now – the Top 10 records. Everyone of them records is going to be some kind of melodic. I don’t care if it’s a rap record, pop record, there’s gonna be some kind of melodic tone to it. In all of my music, you’re going to hear some kind of melodic sound in it. That’s how I do all of my music. Melodic catches a lot of people. It just helps the song out way more.
DX: Are you having fun right now? You always seem to be enjoying yourself. It seems like it’s been a pretty good year and half, two years for you.
Lil Playy: Yeah, man. We loving it, man. I got the TourBusMusik that’s dropping – my first mixtape. “Birthday Dress” is obviously out. And now we’re actually going in the studio to pick a second single. It’s real good. I’m loving it. I’m dropping a viral video every week for my mixtape now. We’re loving it now. We’re just grinding.
DX: When you were in the underground scene and putting together your demos and just growing up listening to music, who were you listening to?
DX: When looking at the broader music landscape, there are a lot of cross genre-collaborations happening right now as well. You’re starting to see a lot of fusion, a lot of outside the box team-ups. You mentioned earlier that if you look at the Billboard Top 10, you find a lot melody within the songs. You have a bit of an outside the box collaboration going on “Birthday Dress” [featuring Mathew Koma] How natural is that for you or is that a product working within the major label structure?
Lil Playy: Before I got with Rodney Jerkins, I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t doing nothing like that. I was straight Houston street music. I was nothing like that. So when I got with Rodney, he broadened my music. He got me out of my box to where I can make all kinds of music. That’s when I started going into the pop field and doing R&B records and all these other crazy type records. When I heard “Birthday Dress” I was like, “Oh, give me that!”
DX: So what’s your album going to sound like?
Lil Playy: The album is universal. It got more records like “Birthday Dress.” It’s got bigger records. It has pop. It’s got R&B. It’s Hip Hop. It’s got the street urban records. It’s all feel good party music. It’s crazy! It’s crazy right now!
DX: Do you put a lot of emphasis on lyricism in your bars and in your song writing?
Lil Playy: Yeah. I’m very precise on my lyrics and what I say and how I say it. My music is filled with punchlines. I don’t know if you know punchlines, but I love punchlines. To me, in every one of my songs there’s gonna be a punchline in every other bar. I love punchlines. I put that in all my music.
DX: Hip Hop is the most competitive genre of music. Every element has a battle, for example. Over the course of the past six or seven years, that overt competitiveness has seemed to be deemphasized for a number of reasons. In your point of view, is it possible to be successful in Hip Hop without approaching it from a competitive standpoint?
Lil Playy: Not really. I’ll be real with you. Not really, to me. I’m trying to get the best new artist of the year. That’s my 2012 goal. We’re about to go hard to try to get it, too – starting with “Birthday Dress.”
DX: Houston is one of Rap’s most respected rap cities. It’s reputation is solidified. Houston’s legacy dates back to the late 1980s. In the last half a decade or so, Houston artists have seemed to clash more often than people outside the city are used to seeing. There’s several examples at this point. One of the strength’s of Southern Hip Hop is that the artists always seemed unified. What’s the Houston scene feel like now, and as you described, coming up in the past two years independently before you met Rodney Jerkins?
Lil Playy: Houston is a very competitive city, man. We all fit together but it’s like Texas is in one. A lot of people in Dallas and a lot of people in Houston compete a lot. With me, I’m about to try to bring it together. We have great music, man. We started with that “Dougie” shit first. Dallas came out with that. Lil Wil came out with that “Dougie” song first, then it moved to [Los Angeles] and all that. We have a great movement, man. We just gotta stick together and combine on a lot of stuff. With me, once I get a big enough name, that’s what I’m going to do – bring a lot of us together. Dallas artists, Houston artists, and just make some crazy music. That’s why I wanted to come out different. Because I’m from Houston, a lot of people expected the normal Houston music out of me. That’s why I came with “Birthday Dress” first. Once they hear “Birthday Dress,” they’re like, “Oh, where’s he from? Oh, he’s from Houston. He’s from Houston?” You hit them with the left field on that one. My urban single will come with more of that Houston sound, more all of me on that urban record we’re gonna drop. Right now with “Birthday Dress,” we’re shooting for the starts on this one.
DX: What’s the title of your urban single?
Lil Playy: We got a lot to pick from, man. We’re going into the studio tonight to pick the top three and then bring them to Interscope and let then pick out of the three. That’s how we’re going to do it like that. Once we know which one it is, the title will definitely be dropped.
DX: There’s been a number of artists having success independently. People are projecting Mac Miller will 100,000 copies this year, independently. Wiz Khalifa made a big name for himself independently before officially linking with Atlantic Records. Odd Future did some pretty amazing things independently before signing to Sony/RED. What made you want to sign to Rodney Jerkins and Interscope and go the major label route at a time when the industry is definitely influx?
Lil Playy: To be real, I didn’t have no connections. I had no connections. Zero. Zero connections musically. Me wanting to do music, if I was trying to do it for myself, it was gonna be hell. It was gonna be hell, hell, hell. Me meeting Suzanne de Passe and she introduced me to Rodney Jerkins then Rodney Jerkins taking me to Jimmy [Iovine], that was the best thing we could do, so that’s the route we took.
DX: How was the BET Black College Tour?
Lil Playy: It was off the chain, man. We got one more city and we’re ending it in my city. We’re ending it in Houston. It’s gonna be lovely. We’re gonna shut that down and I’m gonna shoot a video while we’re on stage.
DX: Word up. Which college is it at?
Lil Playy: It’s at [Prairie View A&M].
DX: Which colleges did you visit on the tour?
Lil Playy: I went to Norfolk State. I went to Alabama State. Man, I went to a lot of colleges, man. Clark Atlanta, all of them.
DX: Your career is happening pretty quickly right now. You’re on tour right now. You’ve got a major label deal right now. You just got your mixtape out. You’re headed to the studio tonight to pick out tracks to send to Interscope. With everything that you’ve experienced so quickly, and with all of the influences you mentioned earlier – from Lil Flip to Kanye West – what still surprises you about Hip Hop?
Lil Playy: Really just the whole deal. I couldn’t really explain it. You’d just have to be in the game to experience the game. It’s not what everybody thinks: “Oh, you get signed and you’re fucking Lil Wayne now.” I’m still grinding like I don’t have a deal. I’m grinding. Just because I have a deal, that don’t mean nothing to me. I’m still grinding like I don’t have a deal. It’s good when you’re getting it. We just pushing. We’re just working. We’re pushing Lil Playy in their face until they can’t do nothing but listen and hear what I’ve got to say.
DX: You’re on a loaded roster over at Interscope and Jimmy Iovine has a history of putting all kinds of amazing acts from all corners of the musical divide – whether you’re talking about U2 or Snoop and Dre, or you’re talking about Lady Gaga. Who on that roster would you want to collaborate with and is their anyone on the roster now that you’re preparing to collaborate with?
Lil Playy: Definitely Lady Gaga on some different, poppy, cross-over type records. I’d definitely love to get on something with her and try to just shock the world with some crazy different stuff from her and from me. Music-wise, Rap-wise, I’m up for anything. As long as we can get in the studio and pop off something great. I’m just trying to make some great music and put some shit out so we can really just rock and roll with it.
DX: Trae Tha Truth is an institution down in Houston. He has his own day in Houston: “Trae Day.” There’s a big annual community festival/fundraiser. Have you ever been to Trae Day?
Lil Playy: No. I’ve never been to Trae Day. I heard it’s crazy, though.
DX: Really? That’s surprising. Why not? Have you just not been in town or just never had a chance to?
Lil Playy: I moved to [Los Angeles]. I’m in L.A. now.
DX: When did you move to L.A.?
Lil Playy: I moved to LA when I signed my Darkchild deal. I moved to L.A. six or seven months ago. And then before that I was staying in Atlanta, so I never got the chance to even go to Trae Day.
DX: Were you surprised about the conflict between Trae Tha Truth and Hot 97.9 The Box?
Lil Playy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was crazy! That was real crazy. I went to 97.9 like a month or two ago and they were telling me about that. I’m like, “Man, that’s crazy! Everybody jams with Trae.” And they were like, “Well, we don’t.” I was like, “God damn.”
DX: Do you pay a lot of attention to what other artists are doing or are you the type of artist that stays in the zone and pays little attention to market movements?
Lil Playy: I definitely do. I’m the type of artist that’ll say, “I’m in my own zone right now.” I’m a writer as well. I’m about to send a whole lot of hooks to different artists. I’m about to start working on two other mixtapes. I’m doing a whole pop dance mixtape. Then my second mixtape is gonna be called Lil Playyweather. Every morning I wake up and get on Mediatakeout.com and WorldstarHipHop.com, so I’m definitely in tune with what everybody’s doing. But other than that, I’m trying to get it.
DX: You do a lot of thinking, man. You have a real keen focus right now. It’s refreshing to hear. A lot of artists don’t seem to pay attention to everything else.
Lil Playy: The thing is, I think a lot of artists do pay attention to it, but they’re just scared to try it because they’re scared to see what their people will think. Or they’ll say, “Oh, he’s not hood or he’s not this anymore.” Me, I don’t give a hell. Me, I’m getting this paper, man. I ain’t trippin. Y’all can say what you think, but I’m about to make this dance music and this urban music at the same time. Now what?
DX: Are you writing for anyone else currently?
Lil Playy: I’m writing for anyone. Anyone that needs a hook, they’re getting a hook from Playy this year. Right now, we in the studio going in on hooks. I’m sending them to everybody. Anybody that says they’re working on albums or they need this or that, they’re gonna get an email from Playy’s manager.
DX: What does your family say about your success?
Lil Playy: They love it, man. They’re very supportive. I went to Houston like two weeks ago and the whole family showed up to my event. It was crazy. They’re very supportive and they’re motivating. They’re the ones that keep me going like this.
DX: With this whole interview, I wanted to approach this from a more introductory perspective. Your name is out there, but I haven’t been able to get a sense for your story and, more importantly, who you are as a person. I wanted to get a better idea on how a lot of your career dots connected along your path to recognition so quickly.
Lil Playy: Right.
DX: So if you could only pick two major influences – two artists that influenced you – who would those two artists be?
Lil Playy: I would say the person that started me off and even got me rapping was Lil Flip. And then I’d have to say another one is Kanye West.
DX: Let’s say your sitting down and there’s two buttons in front of you. One button says “Lil Flip” and the other button says “Kanye West.” You have to pick a button. You have to pick one button and whichever button you push, that artist will have never existed. After pushing that button, you’re wiping that artist from Hip Hop history. Which button do you pick?
Lil Playy: Oh shit! Aww shit, that’s fucked up! Man, that’s fucked up!
DX: You gotta pick a button.
Lil Playy: Damn. I mean, if I pick Flip, then I’ll probably never be rapping. I don’t know. Damn. I’d have to pick the Kanye button because if I pick Flip then I’d probably never be rapping. That’s a tough question, man. That’s a good one. That’s a real good question.