Producer Jeremy Harding hit pay dirt with the infectious Playground rhythm in 1997. Released on Harding’s 2Hard Productions label, the beat shone the spotlight on several unknown acts including Mr Vegas, Lexxus (now Mr Lexx), Dutty Cup Crew, and Kid Kurrupt.
The Playground rhythm gave Harding his first hit on the Billboard charts. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Harding recalled how the idea for the beat came about.
“My background in production at the time was based in hip hop. I was living and studying in Canada before returning home to Jamaica. I was deejaying on radio and in nightclubs while producing local, Canadian hip hop acts. Even though I was a trained musician, guitarist and a graduate of the Jamaica School of Music (known today as Edna Manley College), I had also learned the art of sampling sounds from vinyl records and pitching them across the keyboard, as well as chopping up sections of music and re-pitching and playing them in a different order,” he said.
“So the idea was, why not try and apply the same principle but make a dancehall record instead? So, I got bits and pieces from a couple jazz and hip hop records, spread the chops across the keyboard, and replayed my own original melody lines and basslines. The version of the ‘riddim’ that I used to record all the songs has a sample from an instrumental called Section by The Roots. I had to share publishing credits and everything, but it was worth it,” he continued.
Recording and production of Playground took place at Harding’s 2 Hard studio in Jacks Hill, St Andrew.
“If I remember correctly, the first artiste to voice on it was Mad Cobra with a song called Pet and Pamper. As far as the project was concerned, at the time, the last artiste I believe was Mr Vegas, who was an unknown singer at the time and being mentored by Don Yute. He introduced Mr Vegas to me, and at the time the riddim was so full already, but he managed to convince me to record him anyway. That song was Hands in the Air (Nike Air) and it was his breakout hit record that jump-started his career. However, after the initial release when the riddim started gathering momentum in the clubs like Mirage and Cactus, Beenie Man had heard the songs juggling in the street and found his way to my studio one morning declaring that he had: “Come for the riddim. So, I recorded one more song after the officially released batch, and that was Who Am I (Sim Simma), and the rest as they say is history,” said Harding.
The songs on the Playground were released commercially on 45 rpm in the summer of 1997. In addition to Who Am I (Sim Simma), by Beenie Man, Hands in the Air (Nike Air) by Mr Vegas and Pet and Pamper (Mad Cobra), they were Slip Through Your Fingers (Swade), Infiltrate (Sean Paul), Fade Away (Lexxus), Strong Performer (Spragga Benz), Scream (General B), Work Dem (Merciless), Trendsetter (Kid Kurrupt) and Stick Up (Dutty Cup Crew, featuring Looga Man and Mossy Kid).
Source: Two decades of Playground