Top Prospect: Playboy Tre
Atlanta’s Ham Squad Crew is pretty much slaughtering the competition this year. While B.o.B. turns heads with the stellar B.o.B. vs. Bobby Ray mixtape, Playboy Tre might be on his way to becoming the most intriguing presence in the crew.
Tre has logged over a decade in the ATL hip-hop world and recently catapulted from solid hype man to a veritable MC to watch. Using a patented mixture of sharp self-deprecating one-liners, full album concepts and serious talk about addiction, crime and poverty, Playboy Tre presents the rare instance where a new voice is also that of a true veteran.
His two recent mixtapes, ‘Goodbye America’ and ‘Liquor Store Mascot,’ should be more than enough to convince you, but why not have the man himself lay out his story a little more? Playboy Tre was nice enough to get on the phone with us from his home in Atlanta while taking a break from installing a new washing machine.
The BoomBox: Tell the good people your story. Where are you coming from?
Playboy Tre: I come from Atlanta, Ga. I was born on the eastside, which a lot of people call Decatur.
I took to music at a young age because a friend of mine named Aday was really good at rappin. He always won battles and everyone would come to him at the lunch table. When you got a friend that raps, you get into it in the same way. I rapped with him, but that really wasn’t taking it serious. I was far too young to take anything serious, you know?
I started messin’ up in school, thinking I didn’t need to pay attention, thinking I knew everything. Music and writing and songs gave me a good, positive source to put my energy in. When people started thinking it was good, you know it gave me the mindset like, “I need to get on stage, man.” It’s no risk.
The BoomBox: So you performed back then?
Playboy Tre: I used to get on stage and rap for people on Friday nights. We used to get together at this spot called The Hill — well, people in the neighborhood just called it that. We’d get together, drink, smoke, do whatever and that was the highlight of my week. I’m writing Monday through Friday so they can hear my new songs on The Hill. That was my real introduction to music and when I really started to make something of myself.
I started a record label with my Uncle called Bootstrap Records. You know, like you pull yourself up by those bootstraps? Me and Aday and my friend Carlos put together a little something called Southbound, which sold pretty well, you know? A couple thousand… Not so bad.
Then I joined up with the Attic Crew, which consisted of YoungBloodZ, Polow Da Don and a few more cats. I got hooked up for that through a producer that I used to do songs with called Mark Twain. That crew was just natural. That’s when I started being able to travel, do shows and see how things really work musically outside of Atlanta. When you comin up, you stuck in your city. You don’t really know what’s going on. Your eyes haven’t been exposed to anything yet.
The BoomBox: Was this before your work with Lil Jon?
Playboy Tre: Yeah, that’s right about that time. It led to it. He was an A&R and heard some music of mine. He came and recruited my services for the first major project I was on — this thing called Bass All-Stars. I have a song on there with Mark Twain. Back then, my name was YBM, which stood for Young Black Male. I was trying to go into a more positive light with my name. My rhymes and my songs were trying to uplift or whatnot.
Everybody knew me as Playboy Tre, so nobody was takin that s—! They were all like, “F— that, man! You Playboy Tre.” I actually said to Lil Jon that I wanted to be called YBM, and he flat out told me, “That s— sucks.” I went back to the first name that I had since I was teenager.
Eventually, I came out of that situation and everyone around me started branching out and getting their own. I did a lot of learning and legwork.
The BoomBox: Tell me about Georgia Durt.
Playboy Tre: I started working with Bohagon, who was basically this guy I just knew from music. You know, sometimes he’d roll through and need a place to kick it at or a place to stay. We started Georgia Durt, which is really the foundation of everything I’m doing now. We put out an independent project called ‘Bohagon and Playboy Tre Presents Georgia Durt.’ That did really well. We sold a lot of copies on the Internet and hand-to-hand. That was a great experience.
That’s when we got a home studio going. We didn’t really have s—. We were broke, but we got some equipment and that’s all we asked for. We recorded, recorded, recorded. That’s why I love the Georgia Durt project. We didn’t have too much, but we had each other on those songs. We got together over video games and alcohol, man. Video games and alcohol can make a lot of friendships!
B. Rich, my manager, had a young cousin he wanted me to hear. That was Mr. B.o.B. I helped out. I checked his crew out and liked what they were doing because they were teenagers and didn’t rap about guns, bitches, weed and fighting. They needed some work on they concepts, so I agreed to work with em.
The BoomBox: When did you start doing solo stuff? Was it all collaborations back then?
Playboy Tre: Yeah, there wasn’t enough Playboy Tre stuff around then. Until you hear a man on his own, you aint never knowing where he really comes from. On a mix, you hear a rapper’s complete thought or concept, but sometimes you need to be on your own from beginning to end for people to really understand who you are.
I sat down and started ‘Goodbye America.’ At first, this was a project where I took a few older songs and was going to put a CD together. Through the course of getting tracks, I heard this beat with all these horns and energy. The first thing I said was, “OK. Goodbye America!” I felt the song. Right there on the spot, I was like, “I gotta do this song right now.” It gave me a total concept on where I needed to go on the CD.
The BoomBox: That’s what I feel is so exciting about your work. You’re very savvy at flipping concepts over an entire record.
Playboy Tre: I come from that era, man. People were making concept records back then. Nowadays, people try to record singles. You have whole albums of attempts to get a hit. I want to tell a complete story. Concept albums are what I look up to and enjoy listening to. I got the title for Goodbye America and saw how I wanted to deal with it. That’s when I got out there and started talking shit for real! I wanted to get up on they ass.
This was my first project by myself. This wasn’t only for people that don’t know me. It was also for those in my community to see what I bring to the table — some things they overlooked for so long. Once I put it out, the response was exactly what I had hoped for. To be honest, it went further than I even anticipated in the beginning. That opened up a lot of doors.
The BoomBox: You followed up ‘Goodbye America’ with ‘Liquor Store Mascot.’ What was the concept behind that one?
Playboy Tre: I started just doing songs. In the beginning, there was no absolute direction. The first four or five songs were just there. Then I started one that had the line, “I do it for the have-nots, and keep an ice cold bill like I
‘m the liquor store mascot.” I thought that was just perfect. You know, I’m a drinker. I’m not saying I sip every fucking sip all the time, but I enjoy some alcohol.
With Liquor Store Mascot, I take you even deeper into the way I think. I recorded so much. It was my follow up to the first time I had ever put out something by myself. I didn’t really know how people would perceive it. I just try to the best of my ability and hope the world thinks it’s good.
I sat one night with B. Rich and played him some possible songs and he was like, “S—, it’s done.” I asked for one more song. I kept stalling. In the end, I put five more songs on there! I think it’s really a complete project that shows you where I’m coming from. I started from scratch and created a total concept. It has some moments that are serious. It has some moments where it’s funny.
I love to laugh and I’m always talking shit. From Goodbye America, people thought I was always serious. I can be both. That comes from my parents. My Dad was just out there. He was a fool — kind of a funny shit-talking dude. My Mom was very serious. You know, “Learn your history. Learn why this happened. Learn why that happened. Try to change the world in some way.” My mind is both. I love crass jokes and I know when it’s time to get serious.
The BoomBox: Are you looking to sign with a major label now that you’ve built up that foundation?
Playboy Tre: I think at this point I’m really starting to open up some eyes. If the right opportunity comes, I’m open to it. I’m getting closer to being and staying independent. I learned a lot going on those two tours with B.o.B. I saw artists who I aint never heard of doing shows in front of 30,000 fans. I had never heard of Immortal Technique or Wale or Murs. In my mind, I was like, “How the fuck are these dudes getting these shows?” They must be doing something right.
Maybe I was just doing what I was doing and haven’t been paying enough attention to the total scope, but those guys had been independently working and built up a performance fan base in the street. Here in Atlanta, you come up with a song and take it to the strip club. From the strip club, you go to the club, from the club to radio and bam — you got a record deal.
These guys are making a real living off this s— and that gave me a new mindset. If I built this foundation correctly, we don’t have to even think about labels. Let’s just do these CDs right, put em out, do shows and show up for the fans. At the end of the day, I want to be able to pay my bills doing what I love. Ideally, this would be on the biggest stage possible, but if I can get music to the fans and get paid, then that’s cool with me, too.
The BoomBox: What’s on the horizon?
Playboy Tre: I’m getting ready to release a project called ‘The Return of Feel Good Music Pt. 2.’ It’s gonna be me and an artist named Homeboy. This one will be done from scratch. There’s also one coming called The Best of Playboy Tre for those that haven’t heard or for those that want to get all my verses in one place. It mixes my whole history together.
There’s also a new Playboy Tre coming soon. I have some songs, but no official name yet. It’s coming. People need to be on the lookout.