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Smoke E Digglera: From Playa to a Solo Career

Smoke E. Digglera

The end of the 1990s saw the launch of the R&B group Playa, former members of DeVante's Swing Mob. The group released one album, Cheers 2 U hich featured a similar style to Jodeci and scored two successful hits. Playa scored hits with "Don't Stop the Music," and "Cheers 2 U," which both reached the top 30 on the R&B charts.

Following the group's break-up, member Smoke E. Digglera launched a solo career, releasing three albums. His most recent album, The Truth in the Booth came out in April of 2009. In addition, he formed his own label, signing artists like G.No the Latin Bird.

Smoke recently sat down with R&B Haven for a two part interview. In this second part of the interview, Smoke talks about Playa's work and their eventual break-up, as well as his work since then. He also offers insight from his experience running a label and comments on the R&B industry today.

Interview with Smoke E. of Playa

How'd the members of Playa get their nicknames? With your nickname,Smoke E. Digglera, what's the E stand for?

Static got his name from the concept of "creating Static in the industry". Black got his name from his neighborhood, Victory Park, in Louisville, Kentucky. There were two guys in the neighborhood that were real dark. They called him Black, and called the other dude Blue. He kept the name.

Smokey came from a VP at Def Jam that was reminded of Smokey Robinson when he heard me sing. And, the name Smokey was popular at the time, due to movies like Friday, so I kept it. Through the years we gave one another nicknames, and Major, Digglera, and Digital stuck with us during our solo career periods.

The E can stand for whatever you want it to stand for (lol), but it's truthfully a replacement for Smokey; instead it's Smoke E., since I have a last name (Digglera). Now, it sounds like a real, full name. Digglera was given after Dirk Diggler, haha. I'm just gonna stop there on that one. Chicks get the picture, though.

How much did Jodeci have an influence on your music in Playa?

Jodeci had a big influence on Playa's music. Jodeci was the only group that had came out doing R&B, but incorporating gospel roots in it. Playa grew up on and grew up singing gospel music, so that's all we knew. Those were the ones before us that we could look up to, from the singer's, writer's, producer's, and arranger's standpoint. All of the time we spent under them listening and learning, had a big influence on us, as well.

What happened after Cheers 2 U? I know you guys went back in the studio to record tracks for a second album. Judging from some of the tracks on Playa's MySpace, you guys went for more of a street sound on some songs (the tracks with Lil Flip and Gravy Train). Was that just Playa experimenting?

After Cheers 2 U, we started to work on the next LP. Def Jam dropped us, because they said they didn't get it (as in, they didn't understand). We tried to keep up with what music was doing, but not veering off, too much into bullshyt music. We went a little more street, which is where we were from anyway. We recorded a lot of songs and then decided to work on solo projects.

This was mainly due to a negative issue that came about within the group that demanded me to be on some grown man shit and get a job to take care of my little ones, since I received no and was offered no financial help on a business level or "brother" level. I had to do what I had to do. Then, I got a vision of being solo one day, and I went full speed ahead with that vision.

Another issue was that I couldn't make any money with Playa. Singing doesn't get you any money. Producing and writing does. I had no one within the clique that believed or had faith in what I could do, rather than sing. I had already established myself as an artist. It was time to make some bread, like others around me were doing, ya know??

Is there any hope of seeing this unreleased material on iTunes or to have any other means of accessing it?

There is hope of getting some of that material. I plan to release it with my new upcoming 3rd solo album, The Truth in The Booth, very soon. Stay tuned to my MySpace (myspace.com/smokedigglera), Facebook (http://www.new.facebook.com/pages/Smoke-E-Digglera/21826819650) or just Google me, baby!

Smoke E Digglera

Smoke opens up about his relations with former Playa group members.

Why did Playa break up? Digital Black said something along the lines of "I don't want to put it all on Smokey, but for the most part the last year and a half Playa was together it was more me and Static then me, Static, and Smokey." What went on during that last year and a half?

I have no clue of what Digital Black was talking about. That whole article was really a trip to scan through. Notice I said, SCAN THROUGH. I haven't even read it all. But, from what I saw and was asked about, which brought things to my attention, it was really a trip to me. There were things said in the article that weren't true and things that were said that, to me, were inappropriate. Ask me about anything in that article and I'll tell you what's really hood!

The only thing I can think of that Digital Black was talking about was the fact that I had to "man-up" and take care of my personal business, while they still went hard in the paint with everything. But, I would not and could not, any longer, go out of town or on tour without any money and coming back home with nothing but a cd of music that had no work of my own on it, except for my vocals. But when I had to take care of my children, little do people know, that was right after tour, which, on tour, was the last time I spoke to Static/Major. I hadn't even heard from him through the times I needed the money and wasn't able to just do Playa any longer.

This was back in 2002 or so. Yea, that long ago.

These kinds of things I've hid and would have been willing to continue to hide, but after that Vibe article, it's like, "you know what? this is The Truth In The Booth era". So, I'm-a keep it real. I feel no shame nor do I feel like I should. No animosity with Static/Major. I still love him to this day, the same as I had always loved him. That would and will never change. It's just that sometimes you have to love people from a distance. Most can attest to this statement when speaking of family members. So, you know, it's not far-fetched when speaking of the opposite.

And there are still crazy issues going on, still to this day. They had a birthday party for him and a Pre-Grammy party for him that I wasn't invited to nor would I have known about if it weren't for other fans asking me if I was gonna be at something I had no clue about.

I haven't spoken with Digital Black since we were getting together a situation to do another Playa album, following Static/Major's death, out of tribute for him. He went off and did some fucked up shit continuing, as they always did throughout the years, to make me look like I wasn't an asset (lazy, bullsyt, etc etc). He lands a solo deal and I haven't heard from him since the week before it happened. WOW! (even to myself). My love for him won't change either.

I wasn't brought up in any other way. But, you just move on, in a positive manner. I'm confident in what I do and what I can do. I'm also confident in my future. Not trying to be negative, just trying to be informative to and for the fans, in a truthful manner.

But let me hit you off with this! And, this is just real talk!

David knew Samuel was coming to his house looking for a king, and that he wasn't invited. That hurt. So how did he respond? By asking somebody to put his name in the hat? No! "Promotion comes from God" (See Ps 75:6-7). David knew that nobody could keep God from blessing him. "Then Samuel...anointed him in the midst of his brothers" (1Sa 16:13NKJV). If you remain faithful, God will lift you up in the midst of those who overlooked you and put you down.

Be prepared for trouble! Like Joseph's brothers, they'll say of you, "Let us...kill him and cast him into some pit...[and] see what will become of his dreams" (Ge 37:20 NKJV). Why would those who are supposed to love you say such a thing? Because they don't really know who you are, or recognize your God-given dream. "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us." (1Co 10:11 NIV)