On Creative Inclusivity | Closing the Book on Play Nice's First Chapter
Evan Dale // July 27, 2020
When at the beginning of March – at the beginning of all of this madness in which we now find ourselves enveloped on the day-to-day – a little known collective with a simple message made some stirrings in the experimental soul-adjacent underground, the world couldn’t have known where it would go. Truthfully, it seems, Play Nice themselves weren’t quite sure what was happening. Naji, Insightful, Zilo, RNDYSVGE, Bowtye, J. Robb, and Tay Iwar were just trying to amuse themselves and stay busy with their passions while the world began to burn. And as the inferno gained strength, so did Play Nice, making more music with more friends for the coming months. Nine single releases and a debut album later, this isn’t only a story about the power of digital creative collectives; this is the story of how Play Nice included anyone with the prerequisite passion and skills to join the team.
Play Nice are a collective of artists – rappers, vocalists, producers, and visual – that are far too wide-ranging to be boiled down to any stylistic delineation of the past. Instead, they’re a beautiful image of the transcendence in the modern creative sphere; an image of art’s perseverance, and perhaps thriving success, when made under the most limiting of circumstances. Trading verses and beats around the internet, their insemination brings to mind memories of how Brockhampton began in the nether regions of a Kanye West fan forum. But, Play Nice are different. Past collaborators know friends, friends know artists, and eventually everyone comes together – from a safe distance – as a new supergroup piecemeal from music’s underground yet artistically influential circles.
The ride to the release of Home Buddies was a wild one. At every turn, a new Play Nice member was seemingly grabbing the reigns and directing a single’s compass with that of their own. And yet – thanks to a particularly adept ear from myriad producers involves – a signature texture was developed and held consistent in the group’s foundations. You can call it post-modern hip-hop soul transcendence. Or you can call it Play Nice. We prefer the latter.
From the early days of that unmistakable, irreplicable aesthetic, Play Nice pushed forward with unpredictable, unapologetic confidence. But all along, they were doing more than pushing the boundaries of music, how it’s made, and how it’s shared. They were letting their fans do the same. An open invitation to remix any given one of their singles – an open invite to download raw samples from their website – Play Nice built a creative collective much larger than their established selves. They let everyone in on the fun and provided anyone with a passion for music an escape of their own from the hell hole wrought by so much global uncertainty. Under the pressure of that uncertainty, with so much human capability suddenly being poured into art, Play Nice thrived even more so.
We can’t be sure just how many submissions they received throughout the process but given the fact that they settled for eleven remixed additions to their debut project, there must have been quite a bit. Where their nine original cuts were bound by a certain underlining, the eleven chosen invite a broader swath of artistry with a broader ear, while still holding true to the original risk-taking yet purposeful curation of their sound. Floaty effervescence ties the remixes akin. The chimes, keystrokes, progressions, and reworkings at large are born from tropical house, bass, and simply indefinable regions of music’s reach. But, they all bring a certain level of positivist danceability into the fold – something we could all use, don’t you think?
More than anything, Play Nice bring creatives into a singular fold, allowing everyone involved to learn, grow, and kill so much-needed time in the process. The entire experience brings to mind memories of the remix eras, where doing such a thing was cool until the likes of Kygo and company a bit overextended themselves. Perhaps, the moves made by Play Nice will usher in a new remix era – one not defined by a singular producer reworking art from all over – but in the opposite direction, where a wide-ranging collective expands their own boundary by inviting outside collaboration and remixing.
During such a trying time for so many reasons, there are few spots in the creative community burning brighter than Play Nice – the little digital collective that could but chose to do so much more by introducing the idea of creative inclusivity through the making of Home Buddies.