31 July 2011
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Rae, please introduce yourself to our worldwide audience.
[ Playa Rae ] : I'm Playa Rae born and raised in San Jose, CA. - artist name givin' to me by Mac Pacino of Mac & AK out of East Palo Alto. I'm Latin (Mexican & Puerto Rican), never been a gangsta, always been real and keep my vibe and those around me on the positive side as much as possible. I state that because a lot of folks feel you gotta be a gangsta to rap these days, that's not true... only true if you try and portray that lifestyle... then you better for sure be one.
I own and operate Monstaville Music as well as the Southbay's #1 Music Media Site 408INC. At the end of the day, you can say I'm a businessman trying to build something positive from the streets and city I grew up in.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Let's start off with where it all began. Tell us when and how you launched your rap adventure? What was your first performance?
[ Playa Rae ] : It started for me on Delbert Way in a small apartment in West San Jose. I connected with an old friend from my graffiti days (Rob) who was helping another artist (K.O.D.) put out his first CD. We ran into each other at the "Killa Sharks 2" record release party in San Jose at Ceilito Lindo's. I was doing a lot of graphic design work and web shit while I was attending trade school. We exchanged #'s and pretty much joined forces and I helped out with what I knew on the graphic side and then learned the music side by watching them and taking mental notes. I had a musical background already from my father who was a vocalist in a few bands. I just hadn't taken it serious myself nor did I really know anyone in the music shit that would show me how to get started without charging me.
I did a few things for locals, built the first Crazy Times website for them and some event fliers and shit. Musically my very first experience in the studio was a fluke. I had been at a house party with a few friends and the artist my dude Rob was working with (K.O.D.) was freestyling over a song by the R&B cat named Avant. I jumped in and freestyled a singing hook that folks there were kinda buggin' on. Anyway, they had someone remake a similar beat... he wrote verses and next thing I know I'm in Sand City (Central Coast) laying a hook in the studio for the first time. It was kinda crazy for me. After the hook... the engineer said I had a dope voice... actually said it sounded like it would be dope for rapping, 'cause it made me sound 6 Feet Tall (lol, I am 5'5"...) Anyway, they said drop a verse... I had never dropped a verse nor written one before but they showed me how to count bars and all that and I ended up laying my first 12-bar verse in about 10 minutes.
That really is about how I got started rapping. My best friend Johnny "Loonatic" Rodriguez was an aspiring rapper but passed away in 1995... I got his face tatted on my writing arm and I tell everyone I only got good at rapping, because he blessed me, not because I was born into it. I never wanted to rap or had any desire to do music professionally.
My first performance was at The Usual in San Jose on a Thursday Night with about 75 people there and I was addicted to being on stage from that night on. Brickhouse Entertainment I believe was the promotion company name.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Who inspired you to rap and make music? Who are your biggest mentors? (not necessarily from music industry)
[ Playa Rae ] : As I said earlier, my best friend was an aspiring rap artist who went by his street name "Loonatic". He was a Crip from the East Side of San Jose crew called HWC (Hard Way Crew). I feel he left me the gift to rap because I never had it until he left. He was shot in '95 in a gang shooting off McGlaughlin Ave. while we were visiting a cousin of mine. We just happened to be at the very spot the funk popped off between some Uso's & Cambodians and when it was all said and done... my car was hit 13 times, a bullet was 8 inches from my head that nearly hit me as I was trying to pull him through the driver side window. That night is forever in my head. That is my Inspiration to do right and to do well in music still to this day.
As for mentors, my biggest is Daric B of Sickmix. He has taught me more than anyone I know and has always shown me things and ways to make money that others would never, because they felt I may be more successful at it than them. He's like my big brother and I've been everywhere with him... from L.A. to NYC.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : I remember I've heard you for the first time on AOD "Noncomposmentis" album as a guest appearance on one of the hooks with your RnB flow. I thought that you were an RnB artist, haha. Tell us about mixing rap and RnB. Is it hard for your to sing and rap?
[ Playa Rae ] : Yeah, that was done when I stayed in Modesto for 'bout a year. I met the AOD homies out there and laid that down with them. Good dudes.
I've always felt that's one of the things that set me apart from a lot of normal rap dudes. I have a vocalist background coming from my father. I was blessed with a little bit of it, so I use it when I see it fits and it usually gets me some great feedback. My father has run into rappers that I know when he was in the Pen and they had no idea he was my dad, haha... but they'd call him OG and have him sing to them while they were locked up. I would trip out, 'cause I would get these funny ass messages from homies who just got out on MySpace (when it used to be poppin') and they'd be tellin' me they met my dad and how dope he is and all that. Shit was crazy... lol.
It isn't very hard from me to do both sing and rap. I think eventually I'm gonna do something more along the singing side on a full project... we'll see. I'm older now, so I always try and do things or learn things that give me longevity in the music.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you consider recording a full length RnB album?
[ Playa Rae ] : I have... I have an EP that is majority RnB... just haven't released it. Who knows... maybe will one day.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : As a versatile artist do you listen to other music genres except for rap or hip-hop?
[ Playa Rae ] : Yea, to be honest... I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath, Pantera, Metallica, Kid Rock and shit like that. Lol... yea I know... a lot of people trip out on that side of me. I've been told by a lot of people that I have one of the most broad interests in music they've ever seen. I go from Rap, Rock, RnB, Reggae to Hawaiian Island music (JBoog, Fiji etc.)... that's because my wife is Viet & Pinoy... and loves the islands.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Speaking of your records, truth is you've only dropped one official solo album. What's up with all these mixtapes, promo cds, street projects etc. - is it really necessary these days to release a whole bunch of free joints before coming out with an official one?
[ Playa Rae ] : For me it was (passed tense) and I always say that because I didn't have the money to compete with all these artists dropping real albums with paid features, beats, studio time and artwork. I had to do what I could within my means to build my name and flood the streets. Mixtapes were easy for me and I did my own art, so it was cost effective. It wasn't the best when I was young, but I think you can see I've come a long way and it's pretty much how I make my music money.
I don't do it these days because I don't have to. I'm established, we press everything in-house, design and record. We also distribute worldwide through 408INC and our Distro Deal with Empire who distributes everyone from Snoop Dogg & DPG to Kendrick Lamaar and more.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Tell us about "Dayz Like This" album. What will rap fans hear on it?
[ Playa Rae ] : "Dayz Like This" was my first solo album and it was very personal. I went through a lot of struggles during the recording of that album. Moving, Changing Labels and Distributors, Girl Drama and Life PERIOD. I just poured it all out in this album. Some say it's a dark album, but those who love it say it hits home with them because it's real life shit that people go through and don't discuss. #9 is the best seller on iTunes and it's called "Never Again".
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Looking at your whole discography you've been mainly working with San Jose rappers. Do you plan to get at some bigger figures, for instance from southern California, maybe even East Coast or do you rather stick to your own ground and support local scene?
[ Playa Rae ] : I have never been a big fan of paying for features and always wanted to prove to myself that I could build my name first without doing all that. Show that I could hold my own, you know. Now that I have... I do have a few things in motion with some bigger names that you'll recognize and I will speak on when I am ready to drop. As for SoCal artists it's always been an issue for Latins from Nor Cal to do something with SoCal so in that department the only avenues I have been exploring is with cats like Mitchy Slick and a few others. I ain't never banged, but I know a lot of cats on both sides of the music game when it comes to the Latins... I just keep it neutral and show them love when I see them, 'cause it ain't my place to pick sides you know... it's all politics, I just follow the rules the best I can and stay out the way.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Speaking of the local scene, how do you feel about San Jose rap on California map? Who are the most significant factors on the SJ market right now?
[ Playa Rae ] : I feel my city is making a lot of good strides just like any other in the Bay or Cali for that matter and it also has its struggles too. It's always been a city looking for an identity when it comes to music. I think we're close and people are starting to realize in order for us to make moves and be looked at, we have to show the game who San Jose "IS"... not who we are trying to "be" like. We got so many different styles out here it's dope to me.
I am a huge fan of cats like Rey Resurrection, Counter Productive Krew and those who've built strong homegrown roots with not only in-house music but brands as well (Cukui, Clout & Breezy Excursion). Branding is huge to me and these two I named are great at it. I feel Monstaville & 408INC are getting that same recognition when it comes to us branding what we do.
There are some really solid camps coming out of San Jose right now that I will refrain from naming just because someone usually feels the need to express some issues if they weren't mentioned for the work they've done. I see them all due to my affiliation with 408INC and I usually email them back giving them props on all their hard work. It's all about respect.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : And who's going to move the crowds in the future? Can you point out some young and talented cats that will definitely rock the scene?
[ Playa Rae ] : Haha... um who I like and see a bright future for is cats like Westacy out of Campbell, Savzilla from East San Jose... both two VERY different vibes but seem to be building solid foundations and continue to do great business and work hard at their craft. I've worked with them both and hope they do well.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Let's move on to your business company or should I say corporation - the 408 Media. When and how did you found your stable? What's its main activity right now?
[ Playa Rae ] : 408 Media, L.L.C. (408INC) basically took form 3 years ago, July 13th. It started as an idea for a 408 website to be the home to our music scene that blossomed into being a site that not only does that but also helps me offer all the services I provide. Graphic Design, Web Design, Online Distribution, Video, CD/DVD Duplication and so much more. Without me realizing it, I ended up using what I went to trade school for to make some serious moves. I gave up on Multi-Media because the industry was fucked up and all these "do it yourself" books and software programs came out that convinced people they can be all these things with the push of a button. It's still that way today, but you can't deny Great work and that's what 408INC does... Great Work.
Our main activity currently is CD/DVD Duplication and Online Distribution.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you mess with graphics or engineering yourself?
[ Playa Rae ] : Graphics, YES. Engineering, NO.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Do you plan do develop into even more sectors? Maybe build a clothing line?
[ Playa Rae ] : Yes, we do. By the time this is up... we'll have a new branch up from 408INC that is basically user driven for music videos and more. Clothing line? ehhhh, maybe we'll see. We have our eyes set on bigger things... more along the lines of what Strange Music is doing.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : What's the difference between MonstaVille Music and 408 Media (408 Inc)?
[ Playa Rae ] : Monstaville Music is the label we push our music through. 408INC is the media company and digital distributor.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Who's on the MonstaVille roster right now and what are its plans for the nearby future?
[ Playa Rae ] : No real roster because there is no real paperwork between any of us. We like it that way. You're free to come and go as you please. Whoever is ready to work, got money on the table and ready to rock... we get it in motion. We're a collective of dudes who love music and want to do it for as long as possible. Right now my focus is on this "Facetime" project with Trey C, Tha Critic and myself and then the I.L.A.M. EP from Trey and I. So that's where I am currently.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : As far as I know your label represents only local emcees. Do you plan to sign people from out of 408 area code?
[ Playa Rae ] : I don't sign people, but we do have Trey C rockin' with us and he's from the 707.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : 2011 brought a group album from you, Tha Critic and Trey C called "Facetime". Tell us about it. What can people hear on it?
[ Playa Rae ] :3 Artists from 3 different sides of the game. It's dope, 10 song... it's short, but ALL KILL, NO FILL. We recorded tracks and gave you the best 10. That's why it's just $5.99 on iTunes.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : And the DVD that's included to "Facetime" project - what can fans see on it?
[ Playa Rae ] : It's 40-minute long, behind the scenes, our photoshoot, L.A. trip, studio sessions, live show, mixing and mastering process and us just fuckin' around to be honest. We have a good time and I think that shows.
[ BayUndaground.com ] : Your last words - tell us anything that's on your mind that we didn't ask about.
[ Playa Rae ] : I'm simple man. Hopefully ya'll learned a little bit more about me than what's been told and I appreciate anyone and all of you who continue to support what I do with Monstaville & 408INC. It's so cliche to say, but seriously... we ain't shit in this independent hustle without the loyal support of those who believe we'll be stars one day... I mean that. Thank you.
I.L.A.M. (Independent Like A M#fuka) drops Sept. 6th, look for the "Numbers" video to drop on Vevo prior to that off the EP.
Thanks BayUndaground.com for everything ya'll do... it's a blessing to have ya'll support us so tough.
Be sure to visit the official 408Inc website.