After a turn towards dance-pop on 2010’s Everything, last year New Zealand producer P-Money returned to his hip hop roots with a fourth solo LP, Gratitude.
The record’s vintage, street hip hop production was complemented by guest appearances from the likes of Talib Kweli, M.O.P. and Mobb Deep’s Havoc. See, when it comes to P-Money – otherwise known as Peter Wadams – the ‘solo’ tag reflects only what’s printed on the album spine, not the number of on-record contributors.
“With Gratitude,[there’s] a cast of thousands singing and rapping on it,” he says. “I take the lead, I pick the music that I think is cool, then I think, ‘This vocalist will fit,’ so I contact them.”
It’s now 12 months since the album’s release and two brand new P-Money records have hit the shelves. Earlier this month, Wadams and UK sensation Gappy Ranks dropped The Baddest EP, which features five tracks of bouncing dancehall. Meanwhile, Gratitude’sboom-bap recapitulation is taken one step further on the new LP BackPack Travels – credited to P-Money and New York underground luminary Buckshot (of Black Moon and Boot Camp Clik fame). Despite dishing out such an abundance of material, Wadams sounds exceptionally relaxed.
“It’s never hard work – I love what I do. I was hoping to showcase a little bit of versatility within my production skills.”
Mission accomplished. Not only do the two records diverge from one another stylistically, The Baddest EP stands apart from all previous P-Money releases. Wadams hasn’t dabbled with dancehall production before now, but he’s no stranger to the genre.
“I’ve been a low-key fan of a lot of dancehall records,” he says. “I keep a playlist on my iTunes of certain records – people like Beenie Man and Shabba Ranks. When I was kid I had Shabba’s stuff.”
The EP’s co-pilot, London’s Gappy Ranks, has captured the attention of the world’s dancehall community over the past five years. Intrigued, Wadams made contact via email to suggest collaboration, but he didn’t have any major expectations.
“I just sent him a beat that I thought was cool. I didn’t hear much for a number of weeks and then I got this email, he was like, ‘Hey man, I did this.’ Gappy just did whatever he wanted to do. I wasn’t there to critique him, I just left him to interpret the music.”
This method proved successful and the track developed into the EP’s ostentatious lead single, ‘Baddest’. Excited by the effortless songwriting dynamic, Wadams and Ranks finally met in person to carve out four more tracks – in one day.
“He doesn’t take much time to write,” Wadams explains. “He just comes up with the rhymes and then, rather than write down the ideas, we record the ideas. It’s a great way of composing songs – go with the flow and don’t dwell on things or mull over it too much. Just get it down, record it and then listen to it a day or so later and see if it stands up.”
Compared to the recordings with Gappy, the Buckshot collaboration was considerably more organised. P-Money signed to Buckshot’s Duck Down record label in 2012 and has spent the bulk of the last two years living and working in New York. After teaming up on Gratitude highlight ‘Killuminati’, a long-form collaborative work beckoned.
“He would come around to where I was staying in New York at the time and we would record together,” says Wadams. “We would throw ideas back and forth about what tracks to use and stuff like that, so it was fairly collaborative.
“I definitely took Buck’s lead on the sound that he wanted to go for. I had to take some time to get to know what type of tracks he likes to rhyme to, what beats he’s looking for and make some things to fit that style. The end result is my production, but tailored to Buckshot. It suits his vibe.”
BackPack Travels features guest spots from several younger hip hop artists, including Joey Bada$$, Raz Fresco, CJ Fly and fellow New Zealander David Dallas. Wadams, a lifelong hip hop fanatic, has been particularly impressed by the rise of New York teenager Bada$$.
“Dudes like Joey are a great example [of] kids that I’ve been excited to see come through and bring a little bit of balance back to the American rap scene and showcase that you can have this underground sound, you can have the more commercial sound and all of it can coexist. And all of it has merit.”
When it comes to admiring the people that he’s worked with, Buckshot could sit at the top of the pile for Wadams. The New York guru has been a personal favourite since his formative musical years in the early ’90s.
“When I discovered Black Moon and Buckshot, they were a big deal to me back then. That first album Enta Da Stage was the soundtrack to my life for maybe a whole year in high school, so it subconsciously influenced a lot of my beatmaking.”
P-Money’s prior career achievements aren’t anything to sneeze at, but the significance of BackPack Travels isn’t lost on him.
“All these years later, to be collaborating on an album and producing tracks for this guy – it’s pretty cool, man. I used to record his videos off TV. Now we have a video together! These things are pretty special to me. I’m crossing them off the bucket list, so to speak.”