Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The World Is What It Is

This is truly a strange time for Hip Hop. In the interest of full disclosure, I decided to check this album out thanks to an endorsement from Noz, but beyond posting one of the worst songs on the album he never spoke on it, so. Plies is one of those blatantly, unapologetically silly ringtone rappers you and your boys use as a piƱata when you’re not on guard writing on the internet, being objective and open minded.

Plies, which first of all might be the worst rap name I’ve ever heard, doesn’t really flow so much as he shouts in drawl. It’s this nasal, whiny bray delivered excruciatingly slow in simplistic couplets that suggest it’s meant for mass consumption. And most of the Plies songs you’ve ever heard are that bad. On The Realist, Plies third album in 17 months, there are several songs so laughably bad they confirm every worst fear and suspicion you had coming in. These songs are about women and Plies status as a sexual deity. Plies is also one of these guys who considers rap a hustle, who Peter Rosenberg eloquently lashed out against the other day. Plies stands by rap as a profession, and actually on the defiant, gorgeous “Heard Of Me” boasts about his ringtone sales as he bashes the major labels trying to jerk him. Tribe, the Lox and more traditionalist outfits have been bemoaning the major label system for years, do we fault Plies for beating it?

Plies is from East Dunbar Florida, a place that from Brooklyn certainly evokes an exotic mixture of hood and country I remember best from the awesome Year of the Bull, a documentary about an outside linebacker on a High School football team in Liberty City, Miami. On “Co-Defendant”, a song all about how paranoid and unfriendly Plies is because he doesn’t want so called friends to end up becoming the song’s title, he displays the area in which he truly excels as an MC. It’s all very straight forward, personal detail concerning how he’ll chill with people but won’t bring them to his crib, he won’t fuck with overly friendly people, generally an anti-social anthem. The point is you’ve bought weed off at least one guy like this, and whether or not Plies has gone through what that guy has you come away from this song feeling like you understand his paranoia a little better.

Beyond his roots and his place on Slip-N-Slide Records, you can really feel the presence of Trick Daddy on Plies music. He just might be Trick’s spiritual heir, with the word “goon” replacing “thug” and technical virtuosity being replaced with raw emotional power. In some ways on songs like “Family Straight” his lack of technical prowess works to his advantage. Without crafty delivery or clever punchlines dressing up his content, the song comes across as a charged, distraught relation of some very personal problems. In other words, the simple delivery suggests honesty and straightforwardness, which for me is a completely new way to earn authenticity.

2nd Chance - Plies
But what really snapped my mind in half and made me want to sit down and write a post about fucking Plies is when he attacks a subject close to my heart that I’ve almost never heard mentioned in Hip Hop and he addresses at length: Institutional Racism. Plies apparently has a brother and some boys doing serious time, and as a result dedicates a few songs to their plight. There’s a real heartfelt, bittersweet sadness to “Gotta Be”. While the song is dedicated to those who’ve managed to avoid getting knocked, the implication in the production and delivery is there are many who haven’t. My favorite song, the one I’m posting and am most convinced will sell you is “2nd Chance”. Plies talks about disproportionate sentences, the unfairness of a system in which money goes a long way towards determining how much time you serve, and the most affecting moment in which he imagines being up on the bench with a gavel, sentencing a judge’s child and wishing the judge could understand how it felt. Plies has a fairly laughable style and is prone to making you wince with his braggadocio and threats. He makes awful love songs and if you happen to be on an above ground train around three o’clock in the afternoon you’ll almost definitely hear his voice if a middle school boy or girl receives a phone call. But on “2nd Chance” his helpless frustration is tangible, and he’s absolutely right.


tray said...

He just might be Trick’s spiritual heir, with the word “goon” replacing “thug” and technical virtuosity being replaced with raw emotional power...

Trick actually had both. Plies kinda-sorta has the one. "Institutional Racism" may or may not be what it's cracked up to be in some circles, but that's not the point, I'll listen to a Cynthia McKinney anthem if it's good. The point is that, even when he's rapping about things that he cares deeply about, he still really, really can't rap, and not in a Kanye/Puff/Pete Rock/Prodigy getting hit in the head with a boulder sometime before Infamy came out kind of way where their flow's awkward but there's something endearing about them all the same, more in this obnoxious slur every consonant, put the same stress on the same syllable in each line, unbearably suck sort of way. As far as I can see, Rich Boy offers the same exact benefits to a much greater extent (not only is he super-sincere and passionate about the same shit, see 'Let's Get This Paper,' he makes his points in a much more intelligent way) with similar drawbacks to a substantially lesser extent (his flow's bad and his accent's grating, but not nearly as bad or grating). So I don't see the point in bothering with Plies. At all.

Abe Beame said...

I don't understand your comment in reference to Institutional Racism. Plies definitely has a few go to cadences, and I acknowledge the weaknesses in his flow as well as this album, but for me the strong points win out. It's enjoyable and at times thought provoking. Maybe I'm guilty of lavishing undue praise but I really like being surprised by music and this album pleasantly surprised me.

tray said...

Oh, I'm not sure that I buy into institutional racism, that's what I'm saying. But like I say, that's not my problem with 2nd Chance, it's that he says things like "the system fucked up, it ain't sturdy." I did kinda enjoy "Gotta Be" though, but that was probably the only song on the album I knda-sorta liked.