Introducing Play Nice | The Internet Collective Sound-Tracking Quarantine
Evan Dale // May 21, 2020
As if it hadn’t already, the Internet is proving its worth during quarantine. Not only can one order whatever food they want to their door, still shop their favorite brands, and watch the latest movies, one can also be inundated with new music from their favorite artists, and even see them collaborating with their talented friends online.
Meet, Play Nice: the newest internet collaboration leading the charge for a future of music unbound by political or geographic borders; unbound by stylistic restraints of the past or even a global pandemic.
For our own part, we arrived here through Naji – an individualistic coalescence of soul & hip-hop, production & vocals, who gave the world Misfit in 2018, and is best known for his 2016 single with Monte Booker, Mona Lisa. But there are a growing number of collaborative sources through whom you, yourself could have stumbled your way into Play Nice’s emerging catalogue. No matter the path, the destination is a gold mine.
It would seem that worldwide pandemic has only spurred these artists’ desire for collaboration, and that with each passing single, they’re is gaining both collective numbers and a refined idea of the breadth in their cohesive sound.
Through only three releases to this point, Play Nice are something of Neo-Soul BROCKHAMPTON, sharing their collaborative stage for every part of their project: from production, to vocals, to raps, even to the design of album artwork. As a team thus far, their three singles include the understated and underrated genius of names like Naji, Zilo, RNDYSVGE, Bowtye, J. Robb, Tay Iwar, Benny Abe, and Biako, with all of the design work to date and also musical contributions, coming from Insightful. Through three singles with ten project collaborators, they’ve outlined a massive sonic range, and mounted upon it, a refined, unique edge.
First came dessert, in the form of Sweet. Play Nice’s sugary – but no cheesy – debut marked their start as a collaborative group bringing an air positivity through punchlines stemming from the moment of its opening lines. Hilarity and some self-indulgent jokes about their own stuck-at-home situations with Coronvirus set a stage for something of a short-lived, but powerful internet collaboration looking to make something fun and creative during the downtime and strangeness of this moment in history.
But then came Pick Up Your Phone, and a sharp change of stylistic pace hand-in-hand with a stretch for timelessness rooted in the specificity of the very odd now. The single – a funk-fused ballad that would find itself at home in anyone’s summery neo-soul playlists – is a stark contrast from Sweet, offering just as enticing a sound to those willing to experiment a little more with their tastes. Unfolding as a relatable composition even outside of the constrains of COVID-19, Pick Up Your Phone is again, another single rooted in the dynamic oddities of the world’s situation. A call for a lover, or even for a friend, just to remove oneself from the boredom and predictability of such a banal schedule, again hits home with quarantined listeners and the overarching Neo-Soul fan base beyond it.
And now comes Distance. Play Nice’s third – and at this point culminative release (though there’s surely more on the way) – is the most emotionally evoking of them all, which at a time like this, says a lot about its texture. A downtempo, dizzying organization of its titular concept into sound, Distance is the type of tear-jerking soul ballad that can come to define moments of struggle and pain in human history, just as they can in relationships. With Zilo & Naji working as a duetting force of poignant intensity, and with the entire collaboration coming together to draw their sound from the lighthearted hip-hop direction of Sweet to the soulful subtlety of Distance, their seem to exist no limits in their collective numbers.
If nothing else, Play Nice have shined a light on the positives that come from creatives in times of hardship. Though undoubtedly, it’s convenient that at this point in human struggle, artists are fit with an exceptional amount of time; that at this point in human history, artists can still work with one another through technological advances that hadn’t existed in humanity’s most traumatic of prior moments; it has always been true that great struggle inspires great art. And for Play Nice’s part, with art so forthrightly rooted in the challenges of the moment, it’s beautiful to already see such cultural highs during such tragic lows.
The world may one day look back and note how though the world could never go back to being the same that it was before Coronavirus, music couldn’t either because it was so inspired by such a Renaissance effect of artists and artistic collaboration doing their part to capture the moment and inspire the future.