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Smoke of Playa: An Insider's View of Swing Mob

Smoke E. Digglera

One of the great highlights of the 1990s was Swing Mob, a collection of artists formed under DeVante Swing of Jodeci that collaborated together and brought the best of music to the world. Swing Mob included the artists Ginuwine, Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Magoo, as well as groups like Playa, and Sista.

R&B Haven recently had the opportunity to speak with Smoke E. Digglera, former member of the group Playa. As part of Playa, Smoke appeared on hits like "Cheers 2 U" and "Don't Stop The Music." "Cheers 2 U" was the group's biggest hit, reaching #10 on the R&B charts and #38 on the Hot 100. Smoke has since gone on to have a successful solo career.

In part 1 of a two-part interview, Smoke talks about the creation of Playa and the group's involvement in Swing Mob. Check it out below! For more information on Smoke E. Digglera, check out Smoke's Myspace, and his new album, coming out April 22nd, Truth in Da Booth!

Interview with Smoke E. of Playa

How did you meet Digital Black and Static Major?

I met Static/Major in 1988 through a friend that attended my church with me. He brought Static/Major in to a group that we had formed, singing gospel in churches. At that time, we won the Black Expo Gospel Talent Show, taking first place.

I met Digital Black through a friend in high school who said that I would really be interested in hearing and singing with him. She called us both on three-way to meet. We both took turns singing songs on the phone, as if we were in an R&B battle, while she just listened.

From that point, the local groups I was a part of had members leaving and new members coming, and eventually became a group that included us three. The name of the group at that time was called A Touch of Class. Haha.

So how did this become Playa?

When we started working with DeVante Swing of Jodeci, he called us lil playas from his experience with us and getting to know us. Thus, the name came from that....Playa.

How did you guys hook up with DeVante Swing of Jodeci?

We met DeVante Swing of Jodeci at a concert in Louisville, Kentucky (91 or 92). At the time the members did not include Static/Major, but did include Digital Black. A security guard saw us and remembered us from singing at another function in Louisville. He agreed to help us by allowing us outside where the artists performing in the concert were boarding and unboarding their tour buses. We went out and talked to Mr. Dalvin and he said he wanted to go get his brother, DeVante, so he could hear us. When DeVante came out, he really loved what he was hearing. We exchanged numbers, in order to stay in contact.

When DeVante finally got off tour, formed and finalized his Swing Mob label, he started reaching out (93 or 94). He initially called me by memory of my number (which I thought was dope!). He wanted to work with me and put me in either H-Town or Intro, which were two groups he was working with at the time. I told him that I had a group he may be interested in hearing, due to member changes that had taken place. This group included Digital Black and Static/Major (I ran into Static/Major at University of Louisville, and vouched for him that he could sing, and that we should put him in the group). DeVante said ok, and that, following the Soul Train Awards, he would come down to Louisville to check us out, since he had to go to Cleveland to check out a group called Suga, that was also a part of Da Bassment crew.

When he came down he heard us and agreed to take Static/Major and I. Once we moved into DeVante's house, in Teaneck, New Jersey, and started working with him in Rochester, New York with the whole Da Bassment crew later that fall, we eventually talked him into getting Digital Black up there to sing with us. Da Bassment crew included Suga (Tweet), Sista (Missy Elliott), Ginuwine, Timbaland & Magoo, Stevie J (The Hitman), Playa, and many others.

Once you knew DeVante was going to move you guys from Louisville to Rochester, what was the family's reaction like? I read in the article VIBE did on Static that his mom wanted him going to school, getting a degree and having something to fall back on. Was it the same situation with your mom? There must have been some concerns because you were only 17/18 or so...generally speaking, still a young guy.

When we knew DeVante was going to move us out of Louisville, my mother was all about me having something to fall back on. That is definitely something that I wish I had had a chance to do. The reason why I say "had a chance to do", is because the opportunity we had with DeVante was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Therefore, I had no chance to go to college and have something to fall back on. It was either DeVante or school. I chose, of course, DeVante.

But as fucked up as the music industry and the music is now, it would have been for the best. When we were finally contacted by DeVante, my mother was not allowing me to do anything until I graduated from high school. As she said, she didn't care if Quincy Jones was sitting right in our living room, I wasn't going anywhere til I sealed that deal. Forty-five minutes after I walked down the aisle and graduated from high school, I was on a plane to move to Teaneck, New Jersey in DeVante's house.