Hip-Hop is a music that often is built on regions. It began in the North East before migrating to the West Coast and then down South. In recent years the Mid-West has really become a serious force in the industry. With artists like Paul Wall, Lil’ Flip, Slim Thug, and Chamillionaire, Texas Hip-Hop sought to continue the legacy started by groups like UGK and the Geto Boys. A major influence in keeping Texas prominent on the radars of serious Hip-Hop listeners is the production duo of Juan “Play” and Oscar “Skillz” Salinas, also known as Play-N-Skillz. While scoring production work with 50 Cent, Lil’ Flip, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Pitbull, Play-N-Skillz are keeping the ground in Texas fertile. In 2006 they took home a Grammy for Producing and co-writing Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’” (Dirty). Although a great highlight in their budding careers, Play-N-Skills are quick to note that “Ridin’” is not the top of the mountain for them. Play-N-Skillz time out with AllHipHop.com to discuss what it takes to stay in the game, how Lil’ Flip helped launch their careers, and how they go about crafting a hit.AllHipHop.com: Who are some artists that you’ve worked with?
Play: Bun B, Lil Flip.
Slim Thug to Hillary Duff, which was a chance to do a pop record, to Tego Calderone to Nina Sky, Akon, all the Texas stuff, to Chamillionaire
AllHipHop.com: Congratulations on the Grammy!
Skillz: Thanks, appreciate
AllHipHop.com: Who would you
like to work with in the future who havent worked with already?
Skillz: Definitely Jay
Z, of course but it might be too late I dont know. (laughter)Maybe next time well catch
Play: Also, Michael Jackson,
but those are like the dream artists. But, weve been blessed because
the list of people we want to work with, were close to !
Were from Texas and UGK is our favorite group of all time.
We had the great opportunity to work with Bun B and Pimp C. Bun
has been like a Godfather to us. He was very humble when he first got
in the studio to work with us. Hes really given us a lot of great
advice. That right there was like a dream come true. Of course,
Bone Thugs~N~Harmony is me and Skillz’ other favorite group. Were
doing Krayzie Bones whole solo project and were doing a joint
venture deal with him for a solo project through our production company.
So, that right there is just a dream for us. So weve been blessed
to work with two of our favorite groups growing up.
AllHipHop.com: Tell us about your
weapons of choice the gear you use to create in the studio.
Skillz: The MPC4000
all day thats the main weapon right there. I bring my sounds
from back home and as long as they have a 4000, were good to go.
We use the Phantom, the Triton, and I just ordered the Miko; the Motif,
the Virus, old school records, and turntables.
Play: Its all preference
because, you know, they got six, seven different models of the MPC.
Sometimes I pull out the 2000XL and bang on that and still be on the
4000! As long as you got a MPC of some sort, youre good to go. Now
our sessions are expanding and were using live musicians a lot. Were
bringing in live guitar, live bass along with the weapons of choice.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned UGK and Bone
Thugs-N-Harmony earlier, but tell us about your other musical influences,
both past and present?
Play: We want the readers
to know that we started off as DJs. One thing wed like to
stress is that some of the greatest producers in Hip-Hop were all DJs,
or are DJs in some type of form. I dont think thats a fact
thats publicized enough.
DJ Premier, Just Blaze, Swizz Beats .
Play: What being a DJ
does is, it enhances your ear towards hot music. A DJ’s job is to
play all types of hot music. A good DJ plays Reggae, plays Hip
Hop, plays a little old school, maybe a little house, and gets down
with some R&B, so youre influenced by so much because youre
playing a bunch of hit records. Thats what really inspired us to
be producers. As far as one artist, probably not. We dont come from
a musician background or anything like that. It really just all
stems from us being DJs.
AllHipHop.com: When did you start DeeJaying?
Skillz: I think I was
fifteen, and Play must have been seventeen.
Play: Yea, like end
of junior year, Sr. year in high school. Its really a weird story
how we even did it. It was actually my birthday, and I was looking for
something to do. I was watching MTV, and saw DJ Scribbles. I dont
know if you remember, but DJ Scribbles used to DJ on a show called The
Grind. He used to play all these records, and used to scratch it
up. I saw the power he had of controlling the crowd and I thought that
was so dope. Besides all the women going crazy, I thought, this may
be a route I need to go.
Skillz: I was watching
the women! (laughter)
Play: Nobody wanted
to hire us as DJs because nobody knew us, so we started throwing
our own parties within high schools. We gained popularity throwing
parties in high schools, and then we would rent hotels out and take
the ballroom – $3 for the guys and $1 for the girls. Those parties
were crazy packed! That built into us going into the clubs and
everything else. That was like the start right there.
AllHipHop.com: Your team produced 12 tracks
on the Lil’ Flip album U Gotta Feel MeHow did you meet Lil’ Flip?
Play: I just want to
let people know that no matter what state or situation hes in now,
or whatever trials and tribulations hes gone through, Flip was big
part of helping me and my brother Skillz out, and I dont ever want
to take that away. I think sometimes people blow up and dont give
credit. Whatever may have happened, you still have to give credit where
credit is due. Flip at the time, 02, 03, 04, was the
biggest thing in Texas. He was the Jay-Z of Texas. To be
able to work with Lil Flip at the time was an honor within itself.
Flip happened to come in town, playing at show. We were actually working
on the Play-N-Skillz artist album, and wanted to get Flip on a record.
So, we went to a club he was playing at and one of our guys got at him,
and the next morning he actually came through. He wanted some
money for a verse, but we were like nah, were not gonna pay you
for a verse; well give you some beats. Youre talking
to the Jay Z of Texas at the time! Hes like Cmon are you serious?
Im Lil’ Flip So, he heard the music and felt our vibe and our
whole lil get up and what was doing and that opened up the relationship
for us to start recording. At the time he left Suckafree Records, and
he didnt have no where to record. So, like a week later I get
a chirp back from him on the Nextel, and hes like Yo, is your
studio available for me to do some freestyles. I said Yea, come
on down. He was like How much? and we said Man, dont
even worry about it lets go From there, it was over. He stayed
eight, nine months in Dallas and we recorded U Gotta Feel Me and
did numerous mixtapes. He took a chance on two Latin guys doing
Hip Hop with nothing under their belt It was a blessing to even
get that opportunity. You gotta give him props no matter what the
situation with him and T.I.P. Sometimes people dont look back
at where people were in their careers. Three or four years later, actions
or things occur and people forget. But, it still is what it is.
AllHipHop.com: What advice can you offer
aspiring producers as far as getting in the game?
Play: You gotta have
your own sound. Thats number one. Lets say, snap music is
in, so a producer goes and starts doing snap songs. But,
they have to remember that somebody else is the guy who actually really
did the record, and hes actually the guy who is responsible for that [sound]. So, he owns that type of brand. Theyre
gonna go to him, before they go to you, if youre mocking his sound.
It makes it that much more difficult for you to go and try to do it.
If Kanye West is speeding up the soul samples, and granted hes not
the first one to do it, but thats what hes known for. If youre
doing it also, I think the major label would rather have the Kanye West “brand behind that beat than you. And then, number two, you
got to create your own opportunities, however it may be. Through
an artist, through YouTube, through Myspace, and going to all these
different conferences that they got. People act like these conferences
dont help you, but they do because its great networking you
meet different people.
Skillz: Its all about
the relationships.Play: This whole business
is all about relationships.
AllHipHop.com:Once youre in, what advice
can you give regarding staying in the game?
Skillz: You gotta keep
making those New York and LA trips, and stay in the A&Rs faces,
and keep playing them your music.
Play: That was a big
problem for us. When we won the Grammy for Ridin,” the
number one record at the time, nobody knew we did that record!
Skillz: You gotta let
em know .
Play: We didnt have
the publicity team that we have now, which was a big mistake. We should
have hired the biggest publicity firm in the world. We had the biggest
record! Why is Pharell such a successful guy away from the incredible
talent and songwriting and all the abilities that he has as an artist?
Hes in every video, hes at every party, hes in every magazine
hes a superstar within himself. So, consistency, really
staying out there – going to the parties, meeting people, doing interviews
and all that stuff is what helps build a brand. As young artists, thats
what were learning to put a face to let the world know what
weve done. A lot of people dont know half of the music that weve
done, except “Ridin’.” Theres more to us than the “Ridin’”
AllHipHop.com: Tell us about your mental
approach when working with an artist/producing a
Play: We try
to transform ourselves into the artist, but at the same time, take a
chance with everybody. “Hits” is the name of this business, you
know? A great album cut does not equate to making a hit record.
So, you always wanna make the best record with somebody. After making
a record like Ridin’, everyone expects for you to make a number
one record for them. Anything less is probably not good enough.
If were working with Bun B, and we know this is the King of the Trillz,
Undaground King right here, you would think that he would want to make
the best street record. But, in actuality, I wanna take Bun to a level
hes never been. If hes never made a girl, top 40 type
of record, I would like to take a chance a make a girl, top 40
record with a street edge. Thats more valuable to me than making
the standard type of street record hes been making for 20 years.
Whats the point? If Ive never worked with you before, and for
20 years youve been doing great with whoever youve been doing
it with, what would be the point of you coming and doing it with me
too? If youre going in with us, lets take a chance, but stay within
the lane. Thats a challenge within itself. One thing
about Play-N-Skillz that we want people to know is, the majority of
the time when we work with somebody, songs are already done and
Im talking hook, beat, idea including Ridin That record
was already done. Finished – the hook, beat and Krayzie Bones verse
was already on it. A couple of words got changed based on the
fact that Chamillionaire does not smoke or drink, cause the original
concept was about that. We come in and have the majority of the record
Skillz: Especially when
youre making the beat. A lot of times you might actually go
to that note, because youre already hearing the chorus in
your head. Thats why youre already changing the part on
the hook so thats why we might be like lets lay the hook now.
As were making the beat, were actually making the whole song.
They might come in and be like Im not feeling it and change
it around, but most of the time its done. Even on Flips album,
half of the records we did on that album were actually gonna be on our
first album, on the artist side. Thats why on a couple of
the records, were actually on the hook. Like on our new album,
probably half that album has been scratched, just because we already
gave them (the tracks) to different people. But, for us its not a
problem, because we produce first, before we do the rap thing. And,
as a producer, you cant be scared. If you scared, like you
cant do it again, then you must be in the wrong business to begin
AllHipHop.com: Is there anything else you
want to leave with the readers?
We definitely always looking for artists too, so if they want to hit
us up on the myspace page, myspace.com/playnskillz, well check
Play: We got our own
record company, were in the process of finalizing a label deal
called G4 Recordz. We got a R&B artist by the name of Reyes were
working on. We got this Hip Hop/Rock band thats a fusion of
a little bit of everything called the Big Red Roster, which were
really, really excited about. Krayzie Bones solo project that
were gonna put under our label , Pitbulls single with Lloyd Secret
Admirer, Lumba, and of course the Play-N-Skillz album coming out
sometime next year on Asylum called The Titaniq.