U92's Summer Jam: Rap producers get a chance to shine
Superproducers in the rap world live in darkness. They work long into the night, mostly in recording studios without windows, and sleep during the day.
Utah audiences will get to see three great hip-hop producers in the afternoon daylight Aug. 2 in what's billed as the biggest rap concert of the summer.
U92's Summer Jam returns to Usana Amphitheatre with The Game headlining. Also playing are David Banner and the duo of Play-N-Skillz, who have temporarily released themselves from the chains of co-producing tracks with T-Pain and Lil Wayne to display their own skills at the mic.
Play-N-Skillz » "We want to put a face behind the production," said Juan "Play" Salinas, who along with his brother Oscar "Skillz" Salinas makes up the prolific and influential producing team behind some prominent cuts on Lil Wayne's groundbreaking and popular "Tha Carter III" album.
Producing and performing are "different types of energies," Play said. He admits producing is "better financially," but he and his brother decided to become a rap duo to guarantee that the Dallas music scene where they grew up got the recognition and headlines it has deserved.
Besides working alongside 50 Cent and Pitbull on the artists' upcoming releases, Play-N-Skillz will release its own album, "Out Tha Box," soon. "It might not work and sell 13 copies," Play said. Not likely.
David Banner » His stage name is familiar to fans of the Incredible Hulk, as Banner is the mild-mannered lead character of the television show and movies who turns into the Hulk when he's angry. The rap producer took his name from his fanboy days.
Banner is also well-known in the rap community for producing tracks by artists such as Akon, Lil Wayne and Snoop Dogg, but he is coming to Utah to perform. He said he wasn't surprised he has a devoted following in the Beehive State. "I've been to Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, and see them yell 'David Banner,' " he said.
Banner, born Levell Crump, grew up in Mississippi and said the state - not known for producing rap stars - emboldens him. "There are no excuses for you not to make it," he said, talking about blazing a path for other Mississippi rappers to follow.
As for the latest "Hulk" movie, Banner said it is "a lot better than the last one."
Wiz Khalifa » From Pennsylvania, the young Wiz Khalifa is not a producer yet, but is loudly making strides as a fresh face in rap music. Location often defines rappers' styles, but Khalifa is, like Banner and Play, from a locale not known for growing hip-hop stars.
"There's definitely a Pennsylvania sound," Khalifa said. Although Pennsylvania is on the East Coast, the performer states he's from western Pennsylvania, which is why he draws upon West Coast and Gulf Coast influences to create his beats.
Khalifa is still humbled by his early success. "I'm surprised that Utah knows who I am and wants to have me," he said.
David Burger writes about popular music. Contact him at email@example.com or 801-257-8620.
U92's Summer Jam
When » Aug. 2. Gates open at 1 p.m.
Where » Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City.
Tickets » Tickets are $20 and $30 in advance, $30 and $40 the day of, at SmithsTix.
Opening acts » Performers include The Game, David Banner, Play-N-Skillz, Wiz Khalifa, Dolla, Chino 4 Real.