Production duo Play-N-Skillz have probably banged on your eardrums. Over the years, brothers Juan “Play” Salinas and Oscar “Skillz” Salinas have logged sweatshop hours in the studio, perfecting their craft. The studio sessions for the Dallas natives morphed into bangers for familiar faces like Lil Wayne, Chamillionaire, Akon, Pitbull and Bun B, among others. In the midst of stacking units, Play-N-Skillz also snagged a pair of Grammys for 2008’s Best Rap Album (Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III) and 2007’s Best Rap Performance by Duo or Group for Chamillionarie’s “Ridin’ Dirty” featuring Krayzie Bone.
Now, after more than a decade of lacing projects with addicting beats, Play-N-Skillz’ ear for what’s hot is acute. That’s why the bros cuffed Houston MC, Enertia McFly. “First of all, Enertia can really rap. He can spit bars but energy is very important,” Play recently told VIBE. “And I’ve been in the room with the Lil Wayne’s, the Akon’s and all that. And I’m telling you that Enertia is just as dope.”
The 29-year-old energetic spitter is a completed checklist of a promising hip-hop star: unapologetic lyrics, catchy hooks, authentic swag, diligence and an experienced coaching squad.
With McFly’s dreamy yet catchy shake-that-a– anthem,
Go To Twerk,” turning heads, he’s following up his buzz with an upcoming mixtape tentatively titled My Dream Is Your Nighmare, featuring guests Shawty Redd, French Montana and others.
With an entourage comprised of his mentors Play–N-Skillz, publicist and two lady friends in tow, a loud yet humbled, naturally ecstatic and humorous Enertia stormed into VIBE HQ to chop it about being homeless, the industry, his latest single and more.
VIBE: You’re still new to the rap game so tell us how you got started?
Enertia McFly: I started rapping when I was about 15 years old. I always played sports. I was supposed to be the guy to go play football in college then go pro. I played sports because I knew it was an opportunity and it was something to do because I didn’t know my pops, but I always loved music. I lived through magazines. I lived through the Jay Z’s, the Luda’s and T.I.’s and Scarface’s. I was always so excited to get a magazine and read about them and see what their life was like. I would tell my mom that I’m going to do music. I promised her that I would make it.
Explain the process of getting to this point?
My older brother got arrested for attempted murder. My mom ended up going bankrupt paying his lawyer fees. So during my junior and senior year, me and my mom were homeless. We were sleeping in a grey ’86 Bonneville. [It] had a dent on the front left. I hated going to school. She would pull up to the school in amazing style. “Park down the street, mom.” (Laughs)
Wow. You had to man up early.
Every now and then, she was able to get [a room at] Budget Suites—motels where you can pay like thirty bucks a week. I was working at Six Flags so I was able to give her money for my brother, so the music sh-t went out the window. At that point, it was all about my mom. She was paying the lawyer like $20,000 every three months. So when she was finally able to get back on her feet after she paid the final payment, I was finally able to get back to making music.
What happened with your brother’s case?
When the guy didn’t show up on time for court, they had to drop the charges. My mom ended up getting an apartment in my name. That’s when I started hunting for these guys.
That’s some stressful sh-t to go through.
Going through that helped me build that “never give up” attitude. My mom could’ve easily did it. She living out of a car but she never stopped going to work. That woman is amazing a nd I want to succeed solely for her.
Play: Once I started to know him on a personal level, I really fell in love with his story, him as a man, how he is with his kids. And it’s not always good to be personal like that, but this situation made me go the extra mile. But don’t get it twisted. This guy is so musically inclined. I’m like a disco head, so we get into competitions with each other and I’m digging through the crates and this dude knows everything. If I play bits and pieces of samples, this guy knows every musical theme out there. That’s special. I run into artists and have conversations about music and samples and it could be a conversation about Ready To Die or Frankie Beverly Maze, Marvin Gaye, and a lot of these young-uns can’t. It’s frustrating at times. So it’s amazing to run into someone who is musically inclined.
How’d you develop your musical knowledge?
Enertia: My mom is a heavy music fan. She loves Scarface. She can give you the rundown from the ‘70s, ‘60s all the way up to the 2000s. Mom’s will have trivia with you and I promise you, you’ll lose ’cause that’s all you got when you in the car. I was lucky enough to actually have that situation happen to mold me to propel me into who I am now.
Play: Enertia’s energy goes a long way, too. Instead of the artist that goes into the room and feels like the journalist or the label owes him, this guy is appreciative in any room he walks into. I’ve been in plenty of places where I don’t have to do the introduction. He’s on his own and people instantly love him.
When did you realize he can really spit?
Play: Enertia is on this song with Krayzie Bone—I’ve struck gold with Krayzie Bone quite a few times–and I asked Enertia to do a verse at the video set because Krayzie Bone didn’t show up. ‘Man, you got to write a verse, memorize it and spit it right now.’ So we went to our car, we had a studio set up in there and he wrote a verse, recorded it, came out with a MP3, split it into the video stuff, shot the video. That’s amazing. Listen, Chamillionaire is one of the best rappers. It can take him days to write a verse. I’ve been in rooms where rappers need the perfect situation and after a while, you give up on that.
How’d you guys meet?
Enertia: It was like ’07 or the end of ’06. It was the Texas Summer Music Conference. They would always do the conferences but then they also had a radio show on K 104. That’s when I first started trying to get to them. When I would go, these motherf–kers were taping the show. My dumb a– thought it was live, so I’d be outside the station for hours thinking they were going to walk out but they never did. So when the Texas Summer Music Festival came around, they were on the panel. Mind you, I’d seen them at two or three of [these events] beforehand and I was blowing up their phone but it would beep this guy in. He always answered but he would never forward me or nothing. He’d always be like: ‘I’ll get them to you. I’ll let them know.’ I gave up on that and just said that I’d catch them at a conference. The first time I met them I was like, ‘Y’all got to check me out.’ They was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll see you.’
Play, why’d you blow him off like that?
Play: Well, the first time I saw him he was dressed in this straitjacket. He was performing and he was wheeled out. And I was like, ‘Who is this crazy guy performing?’ But he was rapping his a– off. He caught my attention. But at the time we’d just did “Ridin’ Dirty.” I had so much music intake, artists coming in. What I was looking for was something completely different. And when I saw that, that was impressive but I wasn’t sure. When we were able to land a label deal with Universal, I was looking for a flagship artist to bring on. I wanted an artist that was unique and able to cross over. I heard a freestyle he did over [Black Eyed Peas’] “Boom, Boom, Pow.” If he would’ve gave me a trap record, I would’ve been like, ‘Yo, there’s a thousand of those.’ I loved his energy more than anything. He’s always the loudest voice in the room. They say the loudest in the room are the weakest people but in this situation, it’s not that. It’s just him at all times and we just became family. Our kids are like best friends so it’s more than music.
Let’s switch gears and talk about “Go To Twerk.” That track has a dreamy-like yet catchy feel to it unlike the average twerk song.
Enertia: I was intoxicated at the studio, just chilling and some chicks came in. I was supposed to go to the strip club that night but I ended up getting held up in the studio. The beat came on, the girls came in and they just started twerking and I started singing, ‘Don’t stop, don’t stop.’ It wasn’t even a song at that point but when it dropped, I was like, “She got a lot of a–.” At that point, everything just sounded real good to me. When I laid a rough [draft of] the record and I sent it to him, he was like, ‘This could be something.’ I put it on Instagram when we was just vibing out and Skillz was like, ‘I don’t know what you doing over there but you got something going on.’ It was so organic.
Play: I liked his delivery. I love the topic: twerk season, twerk year but it was a different take on it. We’ve heard a thousand twerk songs. I love the phrase, “Go to twerk.” I feel like that’s a phrase that can be used in the social media outlets. And it was fun. That’s what we looking for with Enertia. It’s like a fun club record.
Is this industry everything you thought it would be?
Enertia: It is what I thought it would be—bullsh-t. The high cappers, the bullsh-t, the two-faces. I take that back. I am surprised about how some people are really genuine as they say they are ‘cause I was honestly expecting when I came in the game to deal with nothing but bullsh-t. Now, I do a verse knowing that I may have to change it. But now I can’t help but appreciate that because I know he wants me to succeed. He could easily allow me to put the bullsh-t out and be like, ‘I told you so.’
Play: I bring Enertia to all my sessions. I’ve seen other artists who have half a hit. (Laughs) I know what the top looks like. I know the end result. You see these guys and the attitude is amazing. That’s what [made me stray] from urban music. Dudes just don’t get it so I’m making sure that as I mentor him, that doesn’t happen.