On the final day of our "12 Days of Christmas" series, we speak with Paper Route Empire-signed producer, Bandplay. The Tennessee native details how he initially connected with Key Glock and Young Dolph, shares some of his fondest memories with Dolph, and gives us the story behind one of Dolph's biggest singles, "Major."
2021 seemed to end with heartbreak. It didn't necessarily start that way. Following a year in lockdown and uncertainty (that is, all of 2020), 2021 appeared poised for a (new) sense of normalcy, and indeed, that is what happened, for the most part. The rules placed upon us by our various governments were not necessarily quite as strict as what we experienced the year prior, and thus, we were all able to move around a bit more freely, whether it was rappers trying to get their bag back, or fans simply trying to enjoy/live their life; among the biggest highlights of 2021 was surely the return of both festival and tour circuits.
And yet, with this return to "being outside," we also received some of the absolute worst moments of the year-- and for whatever reason, they seemed to have snowballed towards the end. One of the biggest tragedies to plague our final months of 2021 was, of course, the Astroworld festival which resulted in the loss of ten lives, and from there, just over a week later, we had to contend with the death of Young Dolph. These two events alone would be enough to shock and deeply sadden, not only our community, but the world at large, and yet, little did we know, at a different festival, just a month after Dolph's passing, we would lose another local legend in Drakeo the Ruler.
Image provided by Bandplay
Now, as we wrap up the year and usher in 2022, we've been speaking with different artists for our "12 Days of Christmas" series. To be transparent, we had initially reached out to Young Dolph for this exact series, and we were in the process of scheduling when he was killed. While we ultimately did not get the chance to speak with him, we've continued to reflect on his contributions to hip-hop at large, and will continue to do so, be it through his artists signed to Paper Route Empire or otherwise. To that effect, we recently connected with one of PRE's go-to producers, Bandplay. If you're unfamiliar, the Tennessee native has been working with Dolph's camp for a good four years now, earning his first introduction by way of Key Glock. Thus, the producer has developed quite a reputation for the hard-hitting type of banger that Key Glock is known for (Bandplay's credits are all over Key Glock's albums, veering on joint-effort-type of energy). Nonetheless, Bandplay progressed from being one of Glock's go-to, to someone that all of PRE could depend on for the exact type of sauce needed for their southern trap music. He was quickly signed to Dolph's label and brought into Dolph and Glock's inner-circle (which, let's be real, is essentially just Dolph and Glock). It's safe to say that Bandplay had the type of relationship and access to Dolph that not many artists or producers were privileged enough to have.
Approximately one month after Dolph's sudden passing, Bandplay was able to sit down with us and reflect on the Memphis rapper's legacy and impact, share some anecdotes about the Paper Route Empire boss, as well as share the details of his own come-up for our twelfth and final "12 Days of Christmas" interview.
Long Live Dolph.
Merry Christmas Eve and Happy Holidays to our HNHH family.
Read the full interview below, edited slightly for clarity.
HNHH: Hey, what’s up?
Bandplay: What’s poppin’?
So because we’ve never spoken to you before, I wanted to give our audience your history. So, we can start at the beginning. From what I understand from Key Glock, you got your start producing for country artists. Maybe you can take us back to what was happening there. How did you start producing and what was that like?
A lot of people think I’m from Memphis, TN. I’m actually from middle TN where Nashville is, pretty much. I’m from a small town– Colombia, TN, but I migrated towards Nashville to be able to take my music a little bit more seriously. Being that, that is the country music capital of the world. You feel what I’m saying? I had to gravitate towards that– I ain’t gone say I had to– it just kind of fell in place like that. Working with different artists and getting in tune with different session players, guitarists and stuff like that. It was just being what it was, it was dope.
That sounds cool. So, at the beginning, when you were doing that type of production, that was like instrumentation? A guitarist would come in and all that stuff?
Yeah. A lot of stuff I did with the country artists that I was working with, they would have session players come in. Whether it was a guitar, a fiddle, a banjo, whatever the case may be. They’ll come in. At the time, I was also an engineer. A lot of people don’t know I engineered as well. I was engineering those sessions and recording everything. Building the beat from scratch pretty much. Then, it was sometimes where I would just build the beat and they would go straight in. Majority of the time it would be like session players and it would go crazy.
That’s really interesting. I feel like that might be what has made your sound in hip-hop so unique. Do you think that is what gave you this distinct sound? I feel like a lot of the production that you do now for hip-hop, you have these instruments that you put in that are unexpected. Whether it’s the flute, or anything. Do you feel like that country music origin kind of set the tone for your hip-hop production?
Well pretty much, I’ve been making hip hop beats. Me getting into country isn’t really where I got my start. My first placement was actually in 2012 with French Montana. That was a record called “Water” on his Mac and Cheese mixtape that had dropped. In that same year, I did a record with Nipsey Hussle on the Crenshaw mixtape. It was called “Drop Coupes.” I was always working with rap artists and hip-hop artists. It was just, at the time, me being in Nashville, bumping into different country artists or whatever the case you wanna call it – it just worked, so you’ve got to go with your move when you got it.
"My first placement was actually in 2012 with French Montana. That was a record called 'Water' on his Mac and Cheese mixtape that had dropped. In that same year, I did a record with Nipsey Hussle on the Crenshaw mixtape. It was called 'Drop Coupes.'"
In terms of connecting with French Montana and Nipsey Hussle back in the day, how were you able to do that? You were still really new at the time. Did you just hit their email? What was the process?
At the time, I was working with different A&Rs. So, sending beats out and pretty much hoping it would get chosen. Still to this day, I don’t know how either one of those beats got chosen. I know the few select people that I did send it to, but I don’t know how it came about. I had to do a lot of work to make sure that I was credited for the stuff even though my tags were on the beat. I had to do a lot of stuff to make sure I was credited correctly. But, so on and so forth – it’s working now.
That’s dope. I heard that one of the first artists you connected with was Starlito. That was a local connection that you made?
A lot of people know Starlito. Him being from Nashville, TN, that was just given me working with him. Me and Starlito, we’ve got history that goes way back to like 2013. Ever since then, every time we lock in, we go to work. Everybody loves our sound even with his artists that he deals with- several of his different artists. They love the work that we put together with “Grind Hard.”
With French Montana and Nipsey Hussle, did you stay in touch? You weren’t connected with those artists directly. Did you get in touch with them later?
I did, I did. When the records came about, I reached out to both Nipsey and French. They both responded with, “Yeah, send me more beats. Let’s try to work some more.” It wasn’t any bad blood or anything like that. I respect both of them for even taking a chance and rapping on my s**t to begin with.
Image provided by Bandplay
What would you consider your first major placement? Was it a Dolph song? Or was it like one of these French Montana or Nipsey, older songs?
I would say the French was my first major, like on a bigger scale outside of anybody local. As far as the work me and Dolph did, nothing compares to what me and him did. Nothing compares to that. Everything me and him did is my biggest placement.
When I was talking to Key Glock, the way that he explained it is that Dolph hit him one day and was like, “Who’s that dude Bandplay? Who’s this guy producing your beats? I need a beat from him and I need to connect with him.” Key Glock was like, “Yeah.” From your side, how did that happen? How did Dolph reach out to you or how was the connection made?
What was so crazy is I was already working with Glock. Just sending him beats and stuff through a mutual person that I had met dealing with him. One day Dolph called me and it was actually on a day that one of my auntie’s had passed. He called me that day and was like, “Bro, my whole label rapping on like 45 or 55 percent of your beats. What’s up man? I’m trying to sign you.” I feel like at the time that he called me, the song “Major” was already done and recorded. I don’t know if he had already shot the video, it hadn’t been put out or anything yet. The song, I feel like, was done for the simple fact that two or three weeks after he told me he wanted to sign me, the song was coming out. The video dropped the same day and that s**t just went straight up. That’s pretty much how that went. Negotiations back and forth. Making sure everything he wanted for me was inside of a deal. It just made sense. Us being from Tennessee. It just made sense. We take each other up.
It definitely made sense. I know “Major” was one of your guys’ first collabs together. From the sounds of it, Glock had already given him the beat? Or he already had the beat before he called you? Is that it?
I don’t know how true this is, but if I’m not mistaken, I feel like Glock had did a song to that beat already, but Dolph had did a song to the same beat. I feel like they were just like, “F**k it.” Dolph did his song and then threw Glock on it. That happened to be the first song that they did together as well. Them being label-mates, cousins, family members and everything, this the first song that they ever did together and put out to the world and it went gold.
"If I’m not mistaken, I feel like Glock had did a song to that ["Major"] beat already, but Dolph had did a song to the same beat. I feel like they were just like, “F**k it.” Dolph did his song and then threw Glock on it. That happened to be the first song that they did together as well. Them being label-mates, cousins, family members and everything, this the first song that they ever did together and put out to the world and it went gold."
That’s crazy. That’s why I feel like you’re so important to Paper Route Empire. It’s so many of your beats that are their biggest records or the fan favorites. So, you are actually signed to Paper Route Empire?
I am a Paper Route Empire producer.
You also have Street Orchestra which is also an imprint?
Street Orchestra is actually my label. That’s my production team with the producers that I have. I also have an admin deal with Sony as well. I’ve got situations and I’ve got a situation with my own because I’m trying to bring my producers up. I’m sure y’all have heard of them if y’all have listened to any Yellow Tape or anything that’s been out lately.
For sure. On the Street Orchestra side of things, or business in general, what’s the hardest lesson that you've had to learn? Something that you had to learn the hard way and that you would warn or share for upcoming producers so they don’t have the same pitfalls?
Us, as producers, we send out beats to different artists in hopes of going off of somebody’s word. You don’t really know if the artist opened the email or listened to the beat. To young producers from my standpoint of view, I would say, don’t wait on anybody. If you’ve got a beat that you sent to an artist, send it to five more other artists because you never know who’s going to hop on that s**t. It’s really a first come, first serve basis out here. We’ve got the product and they want that s**t. Don’t wait on nobody, man. Go for what you want and get that s**t.
Dope. I do want to talk a little bit about Dolph’s passing. Obviously, that was super shocking for the hip-hop community and also super heartbreaking. Something we were totally not expecting. It was really upsetting. I was just like, “What the f**k is happening?” He was one of the few artists that was truly about business and about his fans. He wasn’t like on Instagram doing bulls**t or trying to engage. He was so solid and everything was so consistent. Where were you when you heard that news? What was going on in your mind at the time?
I ain’t gone hold you. The day that everything happened, it was like a normal day for me. I was actually in the city of Nashville at the time. I had walked in my studio, sat down, had just rolled up. Started making a pack for him because he had called me earlier that week saying he was going to be in the studio and he needed some beats or whatever. I had started making beats with him in mind, literally, when somebody called me and told me that news. I was like, “Nah.” Me being me, I hung up from that person because I didn’t want to believe it, and I called like two or three people that I knew would know. The first person I called that answered was his engineer, Peezy. Peezy at the time, I feel like he was getting the same news that I was getting. When I asked him all he could tell me was, “I don’t know bruh, I don’t know. I’m getting the same news you’re getting.” I hung up with him. Next thing you know, I see everything on the internet. I didn’t know what to do. I think I just sat in the studio and sat there. It’s still hard right now. I ain’t gone front. Even after the funeral, the memorials and everything, I’m still in disbelief. I can’t believe my dog is gone, man. They took that man from us like that.
"The day that everything happened, it was like a normal day for me. I was actually in the city of Nashville at the time. I had walked in my studio, sat down, had just rolled up. Started making a pack for [Dolph] because he had called me earlier that week saying he was going to be in the studio and he needed some beats or whatever. I had started making beats with him in mind, literally, when somebody called me and told me that news."
It’s really unbelievable. Do you remember the last time you spoke to Dolph before he passed?
It probably wasn’t even a full week. I had called him randomly. Like, “What up bruh? What you got going on? What you doing?” On some s**t like that. He said, “Man s**t, bruh. Just handling some business right now. Where you at?” That’s his favorite thing to ask me– “where you at?” [does Dolph voice impression] Other than that, he told me, “I’m going to call you back in a minute. Send me some beats.” That’s what he told me. That was the last time I spoke to him.
What’s one of your fondest memories with Dolph? Something that is a story that you’re going to always remember about him?
It’s so many memories. People don’t know, he’s a real funny guy. He doesn’t really show his emotions like that. Looking at his Instagram and social media and stuff because he’s always about business. In fact, he is, but if you know him and he knows you and he’s comfortable around you, dude is a funny guy. I know one time in particular, we were on the European tour for Dum and Dummer. We were in Switzerland at the time. We were eating at this restaurant and we didn’t know what the f**k was on the menu at all and Dolph is country as h*ll. Them people didn’t understand nothing he was saying. We were in there having a good time. It was just fun. We all somewhere we ain’t never been before. We eating some s**t we ain’t never ate before. We from Tennessee in Switzerland. That right there alone should tell you. It wasn’t only us. It was me and 20 other people. He had 20 people with us. Dude is just a phenomenal guy. I love him forever and after.
He was able to do so much. Just the fact that you guys were able to tour Europe off Dum and Dummer. That’s so unexpected.
Hell yeah. That’s crazy. That was right before Covid and everything. Just thinking if Covid had hit a year earlier, I never would have gotten to experience any of that type of stuff with him. A lot of people don’t even know that I’ve only been knowing Dolph going on four years this year. When I signed to him, the day that I met him, that’s the day I made my first beat ever for him. That was “Large Amounts” and he ain’t even rap on that beat until Rich Slave.
I did want to talk to you about that. Role Model, you didn’t have that much of a hand in producing that album versus Rich Slave-- which is one of my favorite Dolph albums ever–you’re all over it. The deluxe edition is like all you almost. What was that like? That was the first Dolph solo project that you had a really large hand in producing and creating the sound.
That was rolling right off of Dum and Dummer, the collaborative project with him and Glock. We still had the fire going. A lot of the songs that were on Rich Slave were ones that didn’t make Dum and Dummer just for the simple fact that it didn’t have Glock on it. Just working with him was just an experience. Not only was I signed to him, he made sure, “Bandplay is my producer. Bandplay is who I’m running up them bands with.” That’s what he told you in the song. He made sure you’re going to hear me on this album more than you’re hearing his damn self. He made sure for the simple fact that I’m a part of his empire. I’m a part of his label. He’s doing this for me because I’m his producer. That’s what he’s supposed to do.
I want to talk on Key Glock. Have you talked to him since Dolph’s passing? Do you know how he’s holding up?
I spoke to Glock a couple of times. I can only imagine how Glock is feeling because, with only the short amount of time that I’ve known Dolph, I know how I’m feeling. So I can only imagine. That’s his partner, his cousin, somebody he’s been knowing his whole life. He is doing better, but it’s going to be hard for all of us because it’s still fresh. I don’t really think Glock has gotten back into the studio yet, but I do know he’s planning to do some stuff here pretty soon. Shoutout to my dog, Glock. Keep your head up, my dog.
"[Key Glock] is doing better, but it’s going to be hard for all of us because it’s still fresh. I don’t really think Glock has gotten back into the studio yet, but I do know he’s planning to do some stuff here pretty soon"
Hell yeah. A lot of people don’t understand even the first Dum and Dummer, we recorded like 40, 50, 70 songs for that s**t. A lot of those songs just rolled over into the next project which we finished. Then we made another 30 songs. We just got songs with Dolph and Glock just ready to go for a Dum and Dummer III. That’s been done even though it hasn’t been brought to the surface.
"A lot of people don’t understand even the first 'Dum and Dummer,' we recorded like 40, 50, 70 songs for that s**t. A lot of those songs just rolled over into the next project which we finished. Then we made another 30 songs. We just got songs with Dolph and Glock just ready to go for a 'Dum and Dummer III.' That’s been done even though it hasn’t been brought to the surface."
I want to talk about your production. Are there other artists that you’re working with right now that you can speak on? What’s that like for you aside from the Paper Route Empire stuff?
Aside from Paper Route Empire, it’s several artists that I work with on the Sony label being signed to them as far as a producer. They send me different new artists and everything to work with. Outside of that, my personal relationships I’ve got with artists. I do a lot of work with Bobby Shmurda, a lot of work with Bankroll Freddie, Meg, Big Scarr of course, Wop. A lot of people that I work with. The process is kind of the same. We’re just letting the band play, for sure.
Do you still feel like you’re kind of an industry secret at this point? I feel like you’re getting more elevated, but you’re not as well known as a Murda Beatz even though you have all this production that people should know about. How do you feel about that?
I feel like even though I’ve got a lot of records out, it’s still that one record. You know that record you cut on and they’re probably playing it every time you get in the car and you’ve gotten in the car six or seven times today? That’s the record that I’m lacking right now. That’s kind of what separates me from a lot of your A-List, so to speak, producers. I’ve got the music. Everybody knows what the Bandplay is, everybody knows what’s going on. I’m just lacking that record though. It’s coming.
Who are you watching coming up in 2022? What rappers would you tell us to check out on a local level?
Based out of Nashville, TN, I know Trapperman Dale. Starlito signed him. We’ve got a new album out now called Dale Chapo 2 and it’s dope, it’s going up. I’ve got an artist I work with out here named Phat Talk. Everybody knows, they see me with him all the time, a big guy. CookUpBoss. Lil Double 0. Grimey. Ganz and Lil Ske, they’re from here in Nashville as well. I like focusing on people in middle TN and Nashville because it’s not a real rap scene around here yet. The only artist that ever came from around here that reached on a platinum level, as far as a rapper, would be Young Buck, if you remember him. He was signed to G-Unit at the time. It’s really nobody that has came from behind him to lay a staple in a book of hip-hop seen in Nashville. So, I’m trying to be a staple for that. It’s another artist that’s in L.A. named P1 that I mess with. He’s dope as hell. He worked with Roddy Rich. It’s just several artists. I’m just trying to work.
You’re in Nashville right now? That’s where you stay mostly?
That’s cool because you guys are truly creating a hip-hop scene. You’re creating something where we’re excited about it. That’s pretty much all I have. I don’t know if there’s anything that you want to add or say. Actually, I didn’t ask this, but what’s your favorite Dolph song ever?
Can I say three of them, please?
Yeah, for sure.
I would say “Major.” Everybody knows it’s major. “It Feel Different” off the first Dum and Dummer. That’s one of my favorite songs. I actually cried to that the other day. I’m going to go ahead and tell you. I did. “One Hell of a Life.”
I love that. “One Hell of a Life” is one I kept playing after Dolph’s passing because it’s that vibe.
One hell of a life, man.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I know you’ve had a rough end to 2021, but I hope 2022 is more lit. We can end with this – who do you want to produce for in 2022? If you can connect with anyone.
I want to produce for whoever is hot and whoever is going to do my beat right. That’s who I want to produce with. Whoever is going to give me that record I need. Let’s go. That’s who I want to produce for. Let’s do it.
Thanks so much.