Writer Dye is a concept mixtape that Dallas emcee Playdough first delivered to his fans in 2010. The idea behind the project is to take lyrics from some popular music, usually from the chorus, and to use them as starting points for subject matter to make entirely new songs. After delivering the excellent original album Hotdoggin’ last winter, he’s back again with another round of Writer Dye for his fans, this time taking on the likes of Coldplay, Modest Mouse, Queen, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, and others.

The concept behind Writer Dye can be a little tricky to explain to someone who’s not familiar with it, just because there’s not a common reference point to compare it to. Plenty of producers have given themselves the challenge of reinterpreting another artist’s works into a hip hop context, but an emcee using rock lyrics in this fashion doesn’t have an obvious precedent. In some cases, the tribute is very obvious and the production helps the listener along, such as Playdough’s work on “King of Queens.”” In the case of this song, he works with producer Grandriggity and DJ Sean P, who do a brilliant job of cutting up Queen’s “Princes of the Universe” from the movie Highlander. Playdough then uses the platform to rap the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” over the beat. On paper, it might not seem that revolutionary, and it’s not the most challenging piece of Writer Dye, but the more I listen to it, the more I think it works. It could be that the beat is just that good, but Playdough’s delivery of the lyrics works surprisingly well here. More typical of the project, though, is a track like “Mouse’s Modesty.” If you heard this song in a vacuum, without knowing the title of the song or where it was from, you might not ever make the connection that the song was inspired by Modest Mouse’s “Float On.” At this point, the question becomes, “How does a song like that hold up on it’s own?” The answer is, “Very well.” Produced by For Beat’s Sake, the song has the feel of a mid-‘90s East Coast track, and it really allows Playdough to shine as a lyricist and performer. I think my personal favorite song on this album is “From a DigablePlanet,” featuring Von Pea. It presents the best Writer Dye has to offer, taking it’s main theme from an under-appreciated track from one of my favorite groups of all time, and re-imagines it with a new grittier feel, thanks to some great soulful production from GrandRiggity and some great verses from Playdough and Von Pea. “Where I’m From” is not the toughest theme in the world, but that also means that it takes an extra effort from these emcees to not just reiterate clich├ęs.

Writer Dye: Deux or Dye is one of the most interesting concept-driven mixtapes you’ll come across this year. It works to different degrees of success depending on how Playdough chooses to interpret his own theme and which style you as a listener will prefer. He gives you a lot to choose from, though, and Playdough is a talented enough that he’s able to make it all come together.