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T-Wayne and Stee of Pi Productions might not be the best-known production team in St. Louis at least not yet. But the duo is quietly starting to make a name for itself by collaborating with some of the Lou's biggest rap stars.
In fact, the pair is setting the bar rather high with its first national exposure: music for the song "Tired" on Nelly's November 22-released CD Sweat/ Suit, a combination of new songs and selected tunes from last year's separate albums Sweat and Suit.
"I went to the Hip-Hop Summit and got backstage and ran into him and gave him a CD and was like, 'Check it out,'" Wayne says, munching on a plate of hot-sauced wings at Blueberry Hill. "And he was like, 'Yeah, I'm gonna listen to it.' I didn't hear from him for, like, two weeks. So I figured, 'Eh, whatever.'
"He actually called him [motions to Stee], and he called me like, 'Man, somebody called, they didn't leave a name, I don't know who this is.' When he played the message, dude was like, 'Yeah, this is Nelly, one of y'all gave me some things...."
Stee, sitting beside Wayne and also munching wings, adds, "I listened again: 'This is your dirty, Nelly. I listened to your tracks, man, you got some hot hot stuff. I wanna get wit' you.' We called him back and he said he was interested in using a couple of tracks."
This coup tops off a year in which Chingy and Murphy Lee recorded to Pi tracks and Stee and Wayne released a compilation called The Next. Featuring appearances by Potzee, Ruka Puff, N'Dae and Southern Unity, the album spotlights Pi's calling card: raw, midnight-at-the-club street beats with decidedly pop-radio sensibilities that don't resort to overtired hooks.
While both men have strong musical backgrounds, Pi Productions the name symbolizes the synergy between the mathematical symbol's numerical value and the city's 314 area code formed just three years ago. Stee was at PD Waxx studios, while T-Wayne was working with Youngunz and the Heavywatez. The latter happened to hear a Stee-produced track brought to him by a business acquaintance and was seriously impressed.
"I was like, 'Well, who did these tracks?'" Wayne says. "I was like, 'You need to holla at him, 'cause the track is kinda hot!'"
After they met, the two men realized they lived around the corner from each other and started hanging out. Unfortunately, their creative momentum was hindered by a contractual snafu involving Stee and a record label that never quite got off the ground, a messy situation he remains bitter about to this day though he acknowledges a silver lining.
"The blessing in all that to me was I got to meet T-Wayne," he says. "I had not met anybody in St. Louis who was producing on that level at all. I don't necessarily know what it is, but when we got together and started doing tracks, it took both of our game to a level that at the time was competitive with everybody else in St. Louis that already got a deal."
Indeed, what distinguishes Pi Productions is its commitment to uniting the area's rap and hip-hop community and fostering an atmosphere of support and encouragement.
"If you ask any of the artists, one of the problems with St. Louis is we don't pull together," Wayne says. "There's no real, real heartfelt camaraderie. It's like everybody's vying for a position. It's more of a competitive nature.
"You go to a show a lot of times, you'll see after a certain group gets offstage, between that time and the next group coming up onstage, the audience that's in front of the stage has totally changed. Almost like, 'Well, I came here to see MC whoever, so when MC whatever get up there, I ain't listening to him 'cause that ain't who I came to see.'"
In fact, Wayne says that even beyond hooking up with a label (something he says is "coming"), Pi Productions' highest priority is raising the area music scene's profile to the level of Atlanta and Houston especially since Stee believes St. Louis, like those cities, "should have blown up a long time ago."
In the meantime, the pair continues to work on Puff's upcoming album and take on more clients. Anyone who wants to work with Pi Productions "Anyone that's real serious about what they're trying to do that's interested in purchasing tracks," says Wayne is encouraged to call 314-253-4004 or 314-707-8791 and inquire about collaborations.