Hip Hop Icon Spotlight: Christopher “Play” Martin

Christopher “Play” Martin (Kid ‘N Play) and Cheryl “Salt” James (Salt-N-Pepa) Co-Executive Produce documentary “And iDanced”, which debuted on International Dance Day in April 2021. “And iDanced”, is about the women and men who danced and helped make a lot of the 80s- 90s Rappers & Singers performance presentations exciting and unforgettable. From the earliest low-budget Hip Hop videos to the Kings and Queens of R&B, Pop, and Hip Hop, their faces, presence, and dance moves compelled thousands of music fans to watch Video Music Boxx, MTV, BET, and more to record and rewind the videos over and over again! Christopher “Play” Martin traveled from city to city to talk with many faces you would remember but didn’t really know.

These are the dancers responsible for the videos, dance shows, and images we enjoy today. Rap artist includes LL Cool J, NWA, Salt ‘n Pepa, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Heavy D, Slick Rick, Queen Latifah, Kid ‘N Play, Kwame, Kool Moe Dee, Naughty By Nature, MC Lyte, Chubb Rock, MC Hammer, Kool G Rap, Tribe Called Quest, Whodini, and others had to have dancers like Saleema, Trinee, Kim J, Venus, Erin, Radiyah, Big Lez, Jossie, Shaik, IBM Dancers, Jennifer Melchor, Boogaloo Shrimp, Ali Shabazz & The Soul Brothers, Phendi, Scoob Lover, Shawn Bailey, Leg One & Two, Shane, Latisha, Tyrone Proctor, Auti Angel, Donielle, Carolyn, Darrin Henson, Aphro, Portia, Flex, I.O.U Dancers, Joyce Van Hook, Oliver, Omar, Cliff Love, Kiam, Doc Ice, Stevio, G Whiz, Goofy, Mr. Swoopster, Str8 Ahead, Heart & Soul, Carrie Ann Inaba and more as they share their remarkable stories and success in entertainment. Interviews with recording artists like Salt (Salt ‘n Pepa), Kid (Kid ‘N Play), Bell, Biv, Devoe, MC Lyte, Sisqo, Big Daddy Kane, Omarion, and more talk about the dancer’s value and priceless influence.

AND iDANCED sheds light on the issue of women’s roles and image in Hip Hop today. From girls with big dreams to women that helped put a culture on the map! Now they’re successful Parents, Entrepreneurs, Producers, Writers, Community Leaders, Teachers who can proudly say “AND iDANCED”

Half of Legendary Hip-Hop Duo Kid ‘N Play, Christopher “Play” Martin is an Icon and Pioneer in Hip Hop Music, Dance, Pop Culture, and Film. The “House Party” film franchise is certainly iconic in Urban Culture and around the world, along with “Class Act” and their infamous kick step that is performed by generations of dancers to this day. 

Did you know that Play was the first rapper to have his own clothing line? He designed the original “eight-ball” jackets for Salt-N-Pepa and oversaw their production at the atelier of Dapper Dan. Also, he designed Martin Lawrence’s early styles during the Def Comedy Jam series which locked Play in as a Fashion Pioneer too.

Play has stamped his mark in our hearts and has achieved so much within the duo and on his own. You can also catch him these days playing the role of Julius on the BET Plus hit TV series “Bigger” produced by Will Packer. Play, a man of faith is all for paying it forward to the generation coming after him who aspires to enter the entertainment, music, and film industry. We salute, honor and pay tribute to the fella with the low top fade, Christopher “Play” Martin as our Icon Spotlight. 

Hustle and Soul Magazine got an exclusive interview with Play.

Tammy: Congratulations Play! Your documentary And iDanced debuted on International Dance Day. What can viewers expect from it?

Play: Thank you! They can expect a good time in this age of us needing and wanting a good time. They can also look back on things that we had and maybe didn’t appreciate as much as we could have because we didn’t think of days, culture, atmosphere, and climate that we’re all going through right now. 

The documentary is an opportunity to see what the music has been known to do for us. It’s some form of escapism. So if you like Verzuz and Club Quarantine with my dude DJ D-Nice, this is a cinematic contribution to that in regards to going down memory lane. For those who don’t know anything about that lane, they will be able to learn some history in a very fun and entertaining way. 

More importantly, with And iDanced we’re giving flowers to those that are still alive to receive the flowers. Three people have passed since I’ve produced this documentary, but most of them are very much alive and doing their thing. So it’s about giving flowers as well.

Tammy: Speaking of history, while I was watching the documentary, I noticed at the beginning there was a guy moonwalking. Now, this had to be way back in the day. I said to myself wait, that’s not Michael Jackson. 

Play: Thank you for that acknowledgment. What you noticed, in the beginning, was for the purpose of letting people know that there’s nothing new under the sun. You’re looking at some of the early days and those moves in black and white from that era of the 30s. So that was a historical reference.

Tammy: What was the process like getting everyone involved in the documentary?

Play: It took over seven years to complete because I had to find everybody. I want to thank the two co-producers involved with the piece, Shane Johnson and Donielle Artese. Donielle represented and coordinated things for me on the West Coast and Shane coordinated things for me on the East Coast. Then my co-executive producer, Cheryl Salt James I want to thank her too. 

It just so happened when I began to embark upon creating this documentary, Kid and I were just starting the I Love The 90s Tour. It was only going to be for about two weeks to a month but ended up being well over six years. 

The conversations took place in a controlled environment, which was my hotel suite where most of the interviews took place. Other parts were on locations with the artists while we were doing shows. Such as with Ginuwine, and Omarion, those were all during shows that Kid and I were doing with them.

Tammy: What went into getting the project distributed on the Streamwaze platform? Is that the only way that viewers can watch the documentary right now?

Play: That’s the way I wanted it for now. The owner of that streaming platform is Ron ‘Amera’ Lawrence, who is a former Bad Boy, Hitman Producer. He produced Notorious B.I.G “Hypnotize”, one of Jay-Z’s most street credited records “Where I’m From”, and he did the Lox “Money, Power, Respect” track. 

Streamwaze streaming platform was created to be available to up-and-coming filmmakers that might not catch a break with Netflix, Hulu, or anything else for the time being. For me, I wanted this to be a gift, I didn’t want it to be for sale. I also didn’t want any money to be between the experience of the documentary and the viewer. The great thing about doing it on Streamwaze.com was for it to be totally free to any and everyone to watch with no strings attached.

Tammy: “Bigger”, is an amazing show on BET Plus produced by Will Packer. You play the role of Julius, how did you get involved in the TV series?

Play: They reached out to me and wanted to know if I was interested in the part. Of course, they did the reading over zoom at the time because we were right in COVID, but it all worked out.

I’ve had the acting bug for a minute now, but I wasn’t interested in really going out full throttle to do a casting call. By no means am I saying that I’m better than anybody. It’s just, that’s not how serious I was about it. I’m living my bucket list now and thank God, it’s not based on any negative doctor’s report. 

I’ve been more than fortunate and blessed enough to still be alive, to make this journey. Some people approached me at one of the many movie heights of Kid ‘N Play about me considering doing things on my own. I would turn it down for the sake of loyalty to the friendship and the group. Now that we’ve grown, and are grown men experimenting with things that we’d like to do individually, I’d always been curious about the possibility of what things would be like acting on my own. 

Everything worked out, and the stars aligned. I was just so grateful for Robi Reed, the casting director, Felischa Marye the creator and showrunner, and of course Will Packer. We all had a good time, even with the COVID police around. To have a recurring role for as long as I am on is really humbling. I really appreciate the opportunity and I hope the viewers enjoy it.

Tammy: Pioneers such as both you and Kid have accomplished so much collectively, and individually. What keeps the friendship intact?

Play: Our friendship comes from a very organic and real place, there was no casting call for who’s going to be Kid and who’s going to be Play. This is us on and off-screen, off and on the microphone. We’re on the same page on what we aspire to do. We don’t have to think twice about what the other one thinks because we know each other well. 

You know, it’s funny, anytime we need to have that time to kind of take a break it’s not forced by anyone, it’s not inspired by any argument or anything like that. We just know, and we don’t even have to say it. We just know that it’s time to take a break, which doesn’t happen very often. 

He’s in LA, and I’m on the east coast so we got miles between us but I couldn’t think of anybody else to achieve what we’ve achieved together. I couldn’t even imagine who that other face, that name, or person would be other than Kid.

Tammy: Let’s talk about some of your iconic films, the “House Party” franchise and “Class Act” for sure. Why do you think these movies are still iconic to this day?

Play: They resonate with friendships. One of the things that’s very symbolic also with us is our kick step. I’ve been amazed at how long the staying power of that dance has been. When I have my intimate conversations with my manager, my lawyer, my accountant, and my agent, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ I say, how has this dance stood around so long? I’m like, okay, it’s time to retire to kick step or it’s going to come to an end. No! Because that’s the one dance out of hip hop dances, or any dance maybe, for the most part of its kind that it takes two people to do. All the other dances you can do by yourself. 

When you’re celebrating a marriage, celebrating a score in sports, or a major achievement, and you want to do a dance that involves the other person, you’re celebrating by doing the kick step. It’s just as symbolic as the movies.

The things we’ve done have resonated with many whether it’s by myself or with Kid. Kid also says the same thing. People always come up to him saying that our friendship and the representation of that, in better days or young days are remembered. People are still going through similar in their lives today.

Tammy: What was it like working with the Hudlin brothers?

Play: It was great! It was new territory for us. We had done so much in music touring. Every time we toured, it was time to do a movie. After the movie was done it would be time to tour. So the first time we did a movie, we went into it with the mentality that it would be like a long drawn-out music video. But no, movies are a different animal. It was a very priceless experience. The brilliance of Warrington and Reggie Hudlin, and the vision they had for the movie proven to be true. 

What a lot of people don’t realize in the movie, there’s not one time where it’s a mention of what city we’re in. They did that on purpose. They wanted subliminally, subconsciously for anybody to look at the movie, and it can be their home, or it could be their city. Reggie gave us the opportunity to say the lines in the script the way that Play or Kid would say it. That was very cool on his part as a director.

Tammy: Can we be on the lookout for another “House Party” film or is there anything else currently in the works with you and Kid?

Play: I never say never, but right now, for those who love “House Party” LeBron James is coming out with the “House Party” reboot. So hopefully everybody will enjoy that. As for me, I’m very much into what I’ve learned along the way such as cinematography. “And iDanced” is a production of that and I’ll see where other things lead. I’m living my bucket list and enjoying the fruits of my labor right now.

Tammy: We love the music. We love the films. We love the swag, and we just love you Play. What for you are some memorable moments in your career?

Play: There’s quite a bit. Getting this documentary done was a major achievement seven years in the making. This right here is really a combination of so many things in my life that kind of came into that and other future things that I have in store in the near and future. 

Meeting who we’ve met is a major achievement. I’m a big admirer of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Meeting them and Maurice White when I did was crazy. Knowing and having a friendship with Michael Jordan too.

In regards to my fashion and designing endeavors, I friended Dapper Dan. There are so many people that I have admired and found it so amazing to know, it’s just humbling. I remember having lunch not too long ago with Suzanne de Passe, (famous for Motown, Berry Gordy’s right-hand person).

We were having lunch to kill the time and she says “Play pass me a menu.” I felt as the Lord gave me this brief, but still impactful, out-of-body experience. I was like, Yo, I’m sitting here having lunch with Suzanne de Passe. I don’t take things like that for granted. I said it out loud. I told her what I was feeling. She was like “shut up Play and pass me the menu”. Also, being a friend to Big Daddy Kane and kicking it with him is always memorable. We’ve known each other forever.

Tammy: Women played a major part in Hip Hop and Dance. From your era how influential do you think women were to the culture from the dance perspective?

Play: A lot of women were dancing with legends like Whitney Houston, Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the list goes on. They got the job because of skills, they didn’t get the job because of over sexuality.

No one knew what they really looked like because those women were wearing oversized baggy clothes in that era. It wasn’t until the holiday or industry parties that people would give that those girls that danced with us and others would put on the little black dress. And we’re like whoa, where did that shape come from? 

The fact that many weren’t trained professional dancers they were teaching the professionals new things. It was a really interesting time in regards to hip hop, the rawness, what the streets were doing, and what women brought to the table. 

Tammy: What do you think is the current state of the music industry? What’s missing and what do you like?

Play: I’m so immersed, such a nerd, and into technology, cameras, lenses, and the latest devices. I’m usually watching reviews and tutorials. When I do surface and see what’s going on, there’s a lot of me usually saying “who was that?” or “they did what?” 

I can appreciate the creativity, and the courage. From what I’ve seen with some artists I just would hope for more diversity. So to speak for me, when artists would come on the radio like when Heavy D came on, you knew that was Heavy D, or when Arrested Development or Public Enemy came on, you knew that was them. Everyone had a sound and identity.

I find that now when I listen or I have the opportunity to listen, I sometimes don’t know when one artist began and the other one stopped. I can’t tell or maybe I’m not listening hard enough. I don’t see or can’t hear the individuality the way I knew hip hop at one time.

Tammy: We are still in unprecedented times with the pandemic though things are starting to get back on track. There’s a lot of people who aspire to become a documentarian, comedian, actor, writer, music artist, and everything that you have accomplished within your iconic career. They may not have the resources or the connections. What would you say to them?

Play: Don’t give up! Kid and I persevered through so much that felt like forever. Looking back at it, it was not a very long period compared to the time when we made it, but you can’t give up. What I would also say is be sure about what you’re doing it for. If you’re not doing it for the right reasons, or something that’s really in your heart, it’s not going to be a very pleasurable trip.

You’re going to go through tough times, you’re going to go through rejection, you’re going to go through something to the point where you may give up. Then two or three days later, you’re back at it again.

If it’s for women or for materialistic things which there is nothing really wrong with that but in regards to the fact that really won’t hold water when it’s all said and done. You’re going to hit a season where you’ll need that realness, trueness, and dedication to the craft to help you persevere. If you don’t have that, it will be tormenting and it’s not going to be a feel-good experience. So know what your agenda and your motives are.

Keep up-to-date with Christopher “Play” Martin, by visiting www.ChristopherMartin.tv or connecting on Instagram @the_playgroundz, and for more information on the documentary please visit www.andidanced.com.

Photo Credits: @GlobalFloPics / Ricardo Flo 

Tammy Reese

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