Plies: Speech Is My Hammer

There is a fine line in the Hip-Hop world between being real and being too real. While some speculate about the abrasive commentary spewed out by certain MCs, others find it equally refreshing. Florida’s latest installment, Plies, continually straddles this line. The brash rapper’s debut, The Real Testament, is filled with examples of the tempering […]

There is a fine line in the Hip-Hop world between being real and being too real. While some speculate about the abrasive commentary spewed out by certain MCs, others find it equally refreshing. Florida’s latest installment, Plies, continually straddles this line. The brash rapper’s debut, The Real Testament, is filled with examples of the tempering of his sexually explicit tone with his politically charged tongue.With cracker this and ni**a that, at first glance Plies comes off as just another degenerate rapper of our generation; but beneath the surface one finds an affectionate, educated young man with a lot to say. listened as he exercised his freedom of speech and his keen interest in the plagues of his people—as he sees them.  Sex, race, celebrities and the judicial system are all connected in this intimate conversation with Florida’s new You’ve become increasingly popular over the past few months. How have you been dealing with your rapid success? Plies: I don’t know.  I tell people all the time, if you really knew what came with this music industry sh*t, I doubt as many people would f*ck with it. Personally, it’s good to know that people live and die by the words I put on a track, but it’s a double-edged sword, man.  Being from the culture that I’m from, I spend all my time trying to figure out how to protect what I worked so hard to get.  So for me, success is a funny thing.  It has its pros and it has its cons, but at the end of the day I feel like the risks I’m taking to become successful is worth the financial gain I’m receiving from it.  So besides the financial gain, it really wouldn’t be worth it to me. You got your start as more of a background player, working with artist development on the label you and your brother started (Big Gates Records). Do you prefer the limelight?Plies: For me, I never really knew the impact of music from a hands-on experience. I was always a fan of the music but I never loved an artist that much to where when I seen him, it made me cry or speechless. So to see people react the way in which they do, it makes me take what I do real serious, because I know that people are emotionally tied to [me]. So I always keep that in the back of my mind, and I’m glad I had the experience to go through this whole movement and see the real power of music.  That’s cool, but at the end of the day, I’m still a more laid back type person.  It’s just a crazy situation for millions of people to know who you are, but you don’t know who they are. I mean, for me, it ain’t enough money in the world that’s worth my freedom. And anytime you’re reaching millions of people through their living rooms, it kind of strips you of your freedom.  So on the flip side, I don’t really know… Your music is explicit, both sexually and politically. Do you think it becomes difficult to be taken seriously when you evoke those two extremes?Plies: That’s really the beauty and the key to my success. I mean, it’s what I call reality.  I don’t think I make sexually explicit music, from the terms of it being anything out of the ordinary.  I just think I put it to you more directly through my eyes and my experiences. But it’s the same thing on the political side; I try to keep it simple. I’m not as complex as other artists but I try to be as direct as I can in getting across whatever point I’m trying to deliver on that particular record.  I think any issue I’ve ever covered on any record I’ve ever did is a serious song.  I’m in a lane all by myself right now, and that is to have as big a female following as a male following.  Most cats either have one or the other.  I have the luxury and the blessing of having both, and that’s what makes my situation so unique right There has been some uprooted controversy around the use of the word ni**a. You use the words ni**a and cracker in your songs relentlessly. Talk to me about your view on the use of each of those words.Plies: Let me share with you something I seen and was able to critique and analyze a little bit. This is what gets me about the whole Hip-Hop perception. I tell people all the time, if you take the financial gain out of this sh*t, people wouldn’t give a f*ck about what a young, allegedly ignorant Black male was over here talkin’ about.  Like if you really cared about Hip-Hop and the culture, and how artists address women, what are you doing to rectify the situation besides placing blame on Hip-Hop? So for me to be in a situation where masses of people perceive me to be a successful artist, I still feel like you can’t strip me of something that’s been granted to me. My freedom of speech has been granted.  If I read a magazine or a website and someone is bashing me or giving their opinion about me, I’ve never been thin-skinned about that, because you’re entitled to your opinion.  You’ve been granted that.  I just have a problem when people want to give their opinion but don’t want to hear yours. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m not violating any laws by voicing my opinion or using any terms that I feel fit to be used. So you’re saying you wouldn’t be offended if a White person called you a ni**a?Plies: Nah, it’s too many other important things going on in my life for me to be caught up in people’s perception of me. I realize who I am as a person. I personally feel like to use words such as ni**a or cracker, in the environment and culture I was raised in, is common. So I don’t feel like I’m doing anything outside of the ordinary. Others might feel that way I wanted to ask if you feel like being from the South has desensitized you to terms like that. Because I’m from DC, and terms like that may not be as accepted here, you know?Plies: Exactly. And I feel like that’s the beauty of being in such a diverse country. I actually had the opportunity and the pleasure to come to DC, and I did my first go-go set. I never identified what the term go-go meant, so to have the opportunity to perform with a whole go-go set was great.  And I realized that if you never venture out to other places to see what the world has to offer, you will never understand a lot of different cultures. I’ve been blessed, in my short time in this music business, to see that people live differently. That’s why I’m more thick-skinned when it comes to things like being attacked by a writer or being in the middle of some form of controversy.  The truth is always controversial, and for me, it’s never something I would ever speak on that I feel like I don’t have enough information about. That’s what’s up.  Nas, another advocate for outspokenness, has been the center of attention lately because of the title of his forthcoming album. How do you feel about that?Plies: Once again, I could never say that someone is wrong for that, because that freedom of speech has been granted to us. And the funny thing is, and what I’ve learned in this short period of time is, that when you become successful, people want you to live your lives how they would live theirs. I never fathomed that being right. If he has valid enough reason as to why he feels his album should be named [Ni**er] then I’m all for it. You seem to have a strong affinity for people in jail and a strong disdain for the law.  Does that derive from personal experiences or others around you?Plies: B oth, really.  I’ve had my brush-ins with the law in the past, and I have friends and family members who have been incarcerated.  It’s important to me because I’m faced with it all the time.  For me to have 15 to 20 people calling me a day that are currently locked up; that helps me deal with reality.  Me going on tour or doing a photo shoot for a magazine, that’s really secondary, because I talk to enough  people on a daily basis to understand that there is more important sh*t going on in the world. There aren’t too many people you’ll find within the African-American culture that don’t [know] or can’t tell you somebody in their family that’s currently locked up. So for me, I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to use my current situation to bring attention to that. So for someone like T.I., who is currently under speculation by law enforcement and facing serious charges, do you think there should be that same compassion or that he should be more cautious.Plies: That’s a two-sided thing as well, because when you become a celebrity there’s a lot of good you can do.  It’s not all bad. It’s just, once you are ever in a situation where people can dive on it and piggy back it, it’s gonna always be there. I mean, 99 percent of the conversations on the radio are about someone successful.  Like, you’re a disc jockey, so you can’t talk about your personal life and feel like people would be interested, so you have to spend all your time concerned about the successful people in the world.  And the crazy thing is that the successful people in the world aren’t concerned about you. I think one thing that hasn’t changed thus far is that being a successful Black person, that’s not all the way accepted by society. So you’re dealing with a touchy situation already, because you take the heat not only from corporate, but from your own peers.  And I feel like, it you can’t ever allow yourself to be numb to how people view you, you’re always going to be suspect to a situation that you probably can’t get yourself out of. Like, trying to impress people who really don’t give a f**k about you anyway, and trying to show them that you’re still street; I think if you can’t get past that, you’re going to eventually run into a dead end anyway. What do you think holds an artist back from being as bold and outspoken as you, and a handful of other Hip-Hop artists today, are?Plies: We aren’t at a point in society right now where it’s cool or accepted to be intelligent.  It’s sad, but it’s true.  Like, the more ignorant s**t you do, the more the streets consider you to be real. And I think anytime we’re living in a situation like that, that’s not a good situation.  Culturally, it’s not a good situation.  You have White America, and they’re raised to become successful, but it’s not like that with our people. You aren’t real unless you’ve been to jail 30 times.  To me, that means you aren’t very good at what you do; it shouldn’t mean that you’re real. But that’s the times that we’re living in right now. But there are certain people, like the Nas and David Banners and Commons of the world who don’t mind staying in their own lane and making real music that’s true to them. If I can’t deal with me and respect myself, I can’t ever expect someone else to respect me. I just want to be that dude that only [speaks] on sh*t that really matter’s to me, and that’s what I feel I’m doing with my music.