The Philosophy of Playdough

That album found him on a creative high, weaving enigmatic Bible references and narratives about his own artistic struggles into tracks that could be respected not only for their against-the-grain messages, but infectious beats and samples.

In the breakout single from Hotdoggin, "Ya Heard," he cleverly lays out his approach to rapping about faith: "It's life in a song/I disguise the topics/It's easier to take with steamed rice and chopsticks."

"CMJ premiered my video [for "Ya Heard"], which was super dope," he says. "And then it started doing really well on CMJ and got all the way to No. 2 on the hip-hop charts. Then it cracked the Top 200, and I started getting these reports, just tripping out."

The writer and his muse
Jason Janik
The writer and his muse

The CMJ attention allowed Playdough to tour and make a modest living for himself and his 8-year-old son for more than a year. When he's home, he constantly writes, conceptualizes and records for his next projects. And his lyrical focus remains largely unaffected by popular trends.

Do you ever enjoy radio hip-hop, even as a guilty pleasure?

Local radio stuff? I usually hate it. But every now and then there's something I can appreciate. But those topics break my heart ... the money-cars-hos thing.

They're building on time-honored hip-hop brag tracks, though.

I don't mind bragging, but I just don't like dudes getting so caught up on money. That's just trouble. For your life, and to be all about money, that's dangerous. It just makes me sad.

Your music has a similar effect to the bangers on the radio, in a lot of ways, because you take formulas and flip them to fit your message.

You talkin' 'bout some Southern Texas stuff?

Yeah, like the song about your '77 Cadillac, and also "I Got It Like."

I try to do that. It's definitely the goal. Being from Texas, I dig the style. I'm an emcee. It's friggin' braggadocio all day. Even when I hear someone else doing that, it just gets my heart pumping, bro. It's like, "Yeah, tell me how good you are!"

Krum does his share of playful boasting on his new mixtape, Writer Dye: Deux or Die, the sequel to the Writer Dye mixtape he put out in 2010. Both find him sampling and re-imagining classic rock and hip-hop songs.

"I know there are people just into making all original music, and that's dope," he says. "And I do that here and there, but I really like samples."

On Deux or Die, which he'll debut at a dual release party with local rapper J. Rhodes on October 26 at the Prophet Bar, there are inspired tributes to Bob Dylan, Modest Mouse, The Beatles, Bon Iver, Digable Planets and more. The first promotional single, "King of Queens," samples an iconic Freddie Mercury lyric between rapped verses from "Bohemian Rhapsody."

"There's an art to it that some people will never understand," he says. "It's just hip-hop. We always take whatever's there and use it, flip it into something else."

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