Continued from Part 2
NJS4E: And each of you still get recognized for your individual talents and for being affiliated with DeVante at the beginning. Does it surprise you that Da Bassment & the form of music that was developed during that era is still something that’s talked about to this day?
Whenever it happens, whenever someone wants to talk about it, like you, I think ‘Oh wow!’, but it doesn’t really surprise me like that. Not on a stuck up level or anything like that but for one and why I feel this way is because we were with one of the biggest & most successful groups that have ever done it. Then the other thing is that there have been a whole load of artists and producers that have branched right out of that and that throws up the Da Bassment story again; here’s Da Bassment coming up again in various peoples’ biographies and track records. And then finally, the way that music is today, you can’t help but think back to when music was worth something; you can’t forget about that. So it doesn’t really surprise me. It just brings me joy that there are still people on the planet who realize, recognize and acknowledge real music.
NJS4E: I too personally have always felt that R&B in this day and age generally is missing that old school feeling that we’d seen in the days of New Jack Swing and R’n’B in the early ‘90s. By the late 90’s , after Playa dropped their first album which I loved because it was reminiscent of Da Bassment and what Jodeci had accomplished, music indeed changed. Yet, in the last decade we are seeing that R’n’B/Hiphop is dominating the mainstream more-so than ever before. I have always felt a Jodeci album is timeless, as are other classic albums from the late 80’s and 90’s, that if released now would yield huge success, because they are timeless and there is a need and desire to see and hear that era again?Is this something you think too?
Oh yeah. I agree totally. That’s one of the reasons why I’m trying to do what I do with my music. I’m trying to bring that back to life and give that to my fans. It’s also one of the reasons I released Playa’s unreleased album that nobody’s heard, and why I also released an R’N’B Resurrection album with me singing songs from that era, like Babyface’s "Whip Appeal," "Overjoyed" by Stevie Wonder, Keith Sweat’s "Make It Last Forever" & "Where I Wanna Be" by Donell Jones; hits from back then. That’s why I called it the resurrection. 'Cause I know all that music is timeless and I know I want to hear that kind of music. I also know there are others out there who feel the same and those people have been feenin’ for that stuff the longest. I wanted to show those people that it’s still all about those throwback legends.
NJS4E: Is there any artist/group out right now who you admire?
There’s no one I really admire right now, musically. I can’t think of any group or soloist off the top of my head who’s come out recently that I really aspire to be like or anything. But that’s because like I said, the music situation at the moment is ridiculous. Maybe if I had a day or two to think about it, I probably could think of someone. But what I do have to say is, there is someone I have listened to and there’s something about him that did catch my ear and I did like it even though it’s not quite the particular era of music I love most. That artist’s name is The-Dream. I did like it.
NJS4E: And now for the old school artists! How about the artists/groups that you’ve most admired and found most influential?
Jodeci, Intro, H-Town, Rude Boys, Luther, Freddie Jackson, Guy, Basic Black, Today, Big Bub, Mint Condition, Shai, Al B Sure, Black Street, Troop. I mean, there were so many of them back then. The list goes on forever. And to think that all of those groups and artists, big groups and big artists from back in those days- to think that there’s not one of those and there’s not even anyone like them out right now, well that is just ridiculous. That is a bad business situation right there for a record label. Why would you not have them? Or find people with that kind of talent? It’s the absence of groups like that that has impacted worldwide with R&B…and we have to swallow all that bullsh*t knowin’ groups like that existed in the industry once upon a time! I don’t wish to say that-but that’s real talk right there!
NJS4E: Finally, out of all the producers you’ve worked with, who would you say is the most inspirational producer you’ve ever worked with?
Besides DeVante or including DeVante?
NJS4E: Including DeVante first, and then besides DeVante?
NJS4E: And besides DeVante?
Good question. Probably a guy called J-Dub. Key Beats, which is Eric Seats & Rapture Stewart. A guy named Butta.
NJS4E: Now to life after Da Bassment. Playa sign to Def Jam- were you happy being signed to them, seeing as you only released one album?
We were happy to be on a label, but we were unhappy with the way things were going with them-there was a general lack of support. Initially, we felt as though it’d be a great marriage- an R&B group with a predominantly hip hop label, but that ended up showing itself as not being a smart idea, being that they didn’t do certain things correctly. And then the second album- the album that everybody has heard some of and loves and feens to hear still to this day, was the album that we gave to Def Jam, which they said they ‘didn’t get’. And they just dropped us. It was a bad thing to happen to us, but it turned out to be a blessing.
NJS4E: That always shocked me, because of how great an album Cheers to you actually was! It was almost under-promoted- an album that flew under the radar yet should have been recognized as one of the most significant albums that year. I personally was really looking forward to seeing more from Playa. Why do you think the situation panned out the way it did?
We really didn’t want to lose what Playa was- our harmonies, our sound and just what we’d been so used to as a group and what we were good at. We weren’t about being like other artists. We wanted to adapt to the changing industry without losing what we were. So we took the bull by the horns when it came to our second album- when it came to deciding what was gonna go on it (seeing as we had recorded tonnes of songs), basically, we kept Def Jam out of the picture until the project was done. I think there was a lot of ego-trippin’ ‘bout that- they didn’t like that we had so much creative input, didn’t want to ‘get it’ and so they dropped us.
NJS4E: So then what happened? Did your group decide to part ways then?
No, we were going to release our album with another label. The only thing that really shut that down was a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that mainly Static was doing. We kept recording, went touring and even released a song that actually became song of the year in Spain- "Never Too Late". So we did have plans and were working on material and touring for a few years, but eventually there were too many other commitments and we were pulled in different directions.
NJS4E: Leading to your solo career. Tell me a bit about that.
It’s just me trying to do what I do best, so I’m workin’ hard. I’ve released a couple of albums since 2006. My new album The Truth in the Booth is coming out on April 22nd this year. The albums are all primarily me- vocally, writing & production wise. I’m also handling all the promotional aspects. I’m just doing what I love and trying to give the fans what they want.
NJS4E: Thank-you Smokey, for allowing me to interview you today. It’s been a total pleasure. I almost feel like singing ‘ Cheers to you for giving me the chance…!’
Haha. My pleasure! Thank you for the interview.
I click off out of our conversation, pleased with my new-found perspective- the tale of talent prominent in Da Bassment, fronted by DeVante & Smokey’s personal journey from Playa to a successful solo career. Yet somewhere in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder about '98…how did the industry miss the beat with Playa?
Thank you to Smokey for taking the time out of his busy schedule to be interviewed by me. It was not only enlightening but completely enjoyable talking to such a talented and down-to earth artist, who at the age of 32 has accomplished so much. Smoke E Digglera’s latest album ‘The Truth in the Booth’ was released on April 22nd 2009. The R’n’B resurrection compilation mentioned in the interview, comprising of Smokey singing R’n’B classics is also available for purchase, as is Playa’s unreleased album.
For more information on Smoke E. Digglera or to purchase any of his albums, please click on the links below: