play-n-skillz

Change isn’t always a bad thing. In the past, many producers never dipped into the pools of other genres in fear of drowning in oblivion. Rather than relegate themselves into the mosh pits of rock or EDM, they often choose to sit comfortably in their respective lanes. Recently, production duo Play-N-Skillz decided to test their luck and tap into the market of EDM in hopes of reversing the curse.

Play-N-Skillz have had past success in the realm of hip-hop. After producing Chamillionaire’s Grammy Award-winning record “Ridin’,” the duo began latching onto success. They would continue churning out notable down Aouth records in the forms of Hurricane Chris’ “Halle Berry” and Kia Shine’s “Krispy.” The two would crack back into national prominence after delivering a poignant record for Lil Wayne’s Grammy Award-winning album Tha Carter III with “Got Money.” Later on, they would break into the world of dance by penning the hook for David Guetta’s “Where Them Girls At,” which featured Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj.

Even though the tag-team of Play-N-Skillz stepped away from hip-hop in hopes of evolving, they have adamantly admitted that they’ll always remain true to the culture that birthed them. XXL spoke to the duo about their five favorite hip-hop productions of all time. —Carl Lamarre

MTV EMA's 2014 - Show

"Where Them Girls At"

David Guetta featuring Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj 
2010
Play: This is a song where we didn't really get the producer credit on it, but we wrote the song for David Guetta. You know, writing is an art of production as well. We wrote the song "Where Them Girls At" featuring Flo Rida and Nicki Minaj. And why that song is in the top five is because that was the first time we stepped into other genres of music and entered this world of exploration of trying to conquer that side of things. We actually got to go into the studio with David Guetta, who's legendary. This guy makes like the biggest records in the world. We worked with him on the arrangement of the song. He and his production team actually did it, but we worked with him on the arrangement.

We ended up writing the hook for the song, which ended up being a huge massive worldwide hit for Flo Rida. Why I think this was important is because a lot of people don't know that that was the first time Nicki Minaj did a dance record. That was the very first time that she ever did an EDM song or a song with David Guetta. That opened the door for her to really explore that avenue. So I feel like we really helped open that door for her. I really do feel like if she [had] never done that record and felt comfortable about doing it, maybe she would have never stepped into the realm of doing dance records.

It was actually David Guetta's idea to put her on it. But, as the story goes, as Guetta says, he just presented the song to her and she loved it. She only heard the chorus and she loved it. The chorus was sung by Skillz originally before Flo Rida came and resang the song. That song came and opened the doors for us in the EDM world. That album was also Grammy nominated and that song was No. 1 in numerous countries all around the world.

Photo: Getty Images

49th Annual Grammy Awards - Arrivals

“Freaks”

Play-N-Skillz featuring Krayzie Bone and Adina Howard
2004
Play: That song just changed our lives. It was the first song that garnered a lot of radio play and just got us on the road as artists. The thing is, we never really intended to be artists. We just wanted to be producers, but we had some issues with some the artists we were working with. You know how that goes, the producer just starts living in his studio and starts thinking he can rap or that his voice can sound good on a song or whatever the case can be. We put the song out as artists and Krayzie Bone, being a longtime collaborator and friend, jumped on the record. With the title of the “Freaks” song, we thought, who better than Adina Howard to do it? She has classic records. We reached out and she was available. She killed it.

We actually sampled "Moments In Love" by Art Of Noise, which was a huge sample that ended up biting us in the ass at the end when we couldn't clear it in the long run for that album. But, it got a lot of radio play and it still gets play in many markets. It was just a life-changing record for us. Hell, there are just places that we go and perform and people still want us to do that song. It's a decade old. We kind of don't wanna do it, but we have to. That was really produced badly sonically. That was literally like a two-track. We didn't even spread the track out.

Skillz: Matter of fact, it might have been a four-track. We had the sample, the clap and the kick. That was pretty much it and it was all on the same track. Like, when you make a track, you have to dump out every instrument by itself. We didn't even know how to do that at that time. Krayzie Bone killed. Adina killed it.

Photo: Getty Images

MTV TRL With Lil Flip

“I'm The Greatest Player”

Lil Flip
2003
Play: This was in like 2003 I think? It was on NBA Live. You know, growing up as a kid, you dream of having your song on a video game. It's priceless. I mean, I grew up playing the game. And then, to have my song in the game, it was amazing. It was like one of our first placements. It was before the Lil Flip album actually came out. The video game came first and that was kind of our first thing. We were still in the hood. We didn't have anything. This is a game that's played in the neighborhood. Flip actually said our name at the beginning of the track. You know, we were like one of the first pioneers to force rappers to say our name in the beginning of the track and to put tags in the beginning of our tracks. We wanted everybody to know that Play-N-Skillz did the track.

That wasn't the best production in the world. We actually sampled the basketball from a live TV game that we took. Then, we sampled sneakers from another video game—like the sound of people screeching in sneakers. That's how we kind of made the track.

Photo: Getty Images

"I Am Music" Tour with Lil Wayne and Special Guests

"Got Money"

Lil Wayne featuring T-Pain
2008
Play: In my opinion, it's probably the most relevant record on that Tha Carter III. It's probably the only song that could still get play in 2014. The record was released in 2008. That's a song that could still get play. That record was a very interesting record because the song was never intentionally for Lil Wayne. We never made the song for Wayne. We actually never even made the song with T-Pain on it. Skillz actually sang the original chorus and we pitched it to Pitbull. Pitbull did a full version of it and he asked us to go get T-Pain on it, since Pain was a friend of his. So Pain ended up changing some of the lyrics on the chorus. He ended up doing it for Pit and Pit tried to go do the record. They couldn't get it cleared in time for his album. It was three days too late for his album, so he couldn't use that song. So now the song basically was a T-Pain chorus because we had to take Pitbull's verses off. So we started to shop the song and we shopped it to different people. Plies had it. Fat Joe had it. N.O.R.E. had it.

Skillz: N.O.R.E. was first.

Play: N.O.R.E.'s the big homie, man. He's a legend. We came up on C-N-N. So I was happy when N.O.R.E. wanted to do it, man. He's a friend of ours. So N.O.R.E. even cut on it. I think Capone and N.O.R.E. actually put a full version on it. Then, we got a phone call from T-Pain's people saying that Wayne wanted to use the record.

Skillz: That's a crazy story. Play actually had to call N.O.R.E. back and tell him that they couldn't use the record. It was almost like a bittersweet situation. Like you gotta call N.O.R.E.—who you're a big fan of—and tell him that they can't use the record. But he was real cool about it. He was like, "You know, as long as y'all give me something hot. Just give me something good." So we went back in and we gave them another record that was pretty crazy too. But that was just crazy to have to call him back and tell him that. That was crazy.

Play: I was a little scared. [Laughs] I didn't want N.O.R.E. going off on me. I respect him so much. Sometimes a situation like that happens where you know with timing and people hold records. They may have a plan for it, but they never really tell the producer. Then, the producer continues to pitch the song and record it with other people. Then, what ends up happening is two or three people end up having the song and you gotta end up making a tough decision. N.O.R.E. understood the situation. He saw where Tha Carter III was going and that it was a grand opportunity for Play-N-Skillz. He's a humble person and stand up guy. We worked it out with Wayne and Pain. They ended up doing the song. It ended up being on the Grammy Award-winning Tha Carter III. So we'll take it.

Skillz: It's rare when you have such a big radio/club record. Those records are hard to come across. Like "Ridin' Dirty," you couldn't play that record in the club. And it was on Tha Carter III. That right there was a classic album. He sold a million first week.

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"Ridin'”

Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone
2006
Play: It was our first big world hit. We collaborated on that with Chamillionaire. That's actually a very interesting story because that was the last song on the album. The song almost didn't make the album. Our manager at the time, Charles Chavez, kind of forced the song to go on there, because truth be told, Chamillionaire didn't really want the song on the album. He wasn't as much of a fan of it as we were. When we made the record, the record was pretty much already done prior to Chamillionaire even getting on it. Krayzie Bone was already on it. Krayzie Bone did the verse for Play-N-Skillz because we've known Krayzie and Bone Thugs. They're our big brothers. We've been making music prior to that. We asked Krayzie Bone to do a verse for Chamillionaire—who he didn't even know or know of—because we told him we thought this would be something huge.

I just remember being in the studio with Krayzie Bone and him having a problem with pronouncing Chamillionaire's name at the end of his verse. If you go back and listen to his verse, he kind of stumbled at the end of it because he did so many takes. So we ended up just taking the best take because he didn't really know him. Then, we went back to Chamillionaire and played him the verse. After he heard Krayzie Bone's verse, he kind of felt entitled to finish the record. We finished the record and we went back and re-edited the song because Chamillionaire did it one way and the hook wasn't really the same way as when we came back. So we re-did the hook and made it lot catchier. Then, we turned it in to his manager who was co-managing us at the same time. Then they just forced the song on the album.

It wasn't even an official single. He put out a record with Lil Flip first. Then, he put another one out with Killer Mike, which was supposed to be his second single. And then, internally, we put the record out "Ridin' Dirty" and it just exploded. It ended up being the last song on the album, but the biggest song on the record.

Play: I would go back and I would change the kick on it a little more. I would add a little more this or turn up this instrument. I mean, you know, after a decade of producing, you learn the real art of producing, and that only comes with time of training your ear to listen to sounds in a different way. I don't think of the arrangement, the verses, or the performance of the artist. I just think more sonically. To make it a perfect 10, it would have taken where we're at now to make that.

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