Play-N-Skillz's Play Talks "Con Calma," Creating Global Music, and the Duo's Career Evolution
When “Con Calma” first hit airwaves early this year, those who grew up in the '90s were hit with pure nostalgia. The song is a hyper, Spanish-language take on Canadian rapper Snow's 1992 hit “Informer,” and was the brainchild of Dallas legends Play-N-Skillz, who've been dominating the charts since the early 2000s.
“We started off with old-school house music,” Play, one half of the duo, tells People CHICA. DJ Skribble, an Italian American musician who at the time Play believed was Latinx, inspired him to try DJ-ing; his younger brother Skillz picked up the art shortly after he purchased his first DJ equipment. The brothers, of Venezuelan Argentinian roots, began to make a name for themselves while still in high school, spinning at house parties, clubs and underground raves. Growing up in an area with a large Mexican population and living in a predominantly black neighborhood influenced their musical taste, and helped them understand a wide variety of styles and genres.
Their first big break was made possible by Texas icon Lil' Flip, with whom they scored their first platinum album, and in 2006 they earned their first Hot 100 number-one with Chamillionaire's “Ridin'.” Soon after that, collaborations with artists like Snoop Dogg, Akon, David Banner and Lil Wayne followed. As music and hip-hop began to change, so did the brothers. “We wanted to challenge ourselves as producers and writers, and dabbled in electronic and EDM as it started to explode.”
Working with people like David Guetta and Pitbull pushed their creative approach in a more global direction. Coincidentally, Daddy Yankee was also hoping to expand his horizons, inspired in part by Pitbull's bilingual success. ”We met with Daddy Yankee in 2015,” recalls Play. “He came by the studio in Miami to listen to music and talk, and from there on we bonded and started a friendship and a working relationship.” Their efforts are audible in genre-spanning tracks like “Azukita” with Daddy Yankee, Steve Aoki and Elvis Crespo; “Give Me More” with De La Ghetto and the K-pop band VAV; and now “Con Calma.”
When the idea for a Latin version of “Informer” came to Play three years ago, Daddy Yankee immediately loved the idea. “It's an iconic song that will live forever,” says Play. “When I told Daddy Yankee, he was all in. He said, ‘Absolutely, let's rock ‘n' roll.” The original was special to both the duo and the reggaetonero. “I've always been a fan of it,” Play continues. “I still play it in my DJ sets — I'll drop the original and people still go crazy.” Similarly, the song held a special place for Yankee, who's said it's one of his favorite songs of that era.
The new version must be magical, too, because it lived at the top spot on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart for 14 consecutive weeks. The video surpassed 1 billion views in early June, making it one of the most-watched videos on YouTube. It surely won't be Play-N-Skillz's last smash, either, because as their 15-year career shows, the duo isn't afraid to evolve over time, sprinkling their magic on everything from southern rap to EDM. More importantly, their savvy reflects a deep understanding of the way music is increasingly inclusive — a fact that more people in the industry would do well to understand.