Plies: The New Testament

In 2006, Plies had a potential hit on his hands with the original version of “I Wanna Love You.” After being arrested last summer for being connected with a club shooting (his entourage allegedly opened fire on the crowd who came to see him perform; it’s a long story), the label opted to officially give the record to Snoop Dogg and Akon, leaving Plies to pay his bail and start over. A year later, he’s resurfaced with “Akon Lite” (a.k.a. T-Pain) for “Shawty” and seems to be back on track after his last attempt was derailed.Fans of pre-crunk, Southern Hip-Hop are the most likely to latch onto The New Testament (Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic). While there are a few radio-ready club songs (“Shawty” or “I Am the Club”) most of the album is dark and hostile, similar to earlier work from No Limit. For the most part, the production is less glossy than recent Southern releases and doesn’t rely on overly complex concepts or fancy effects. Even the more upbeat songs like “Friday” or “Money Straight” are still a welcome nod to kind of rawness that once brought people to Cash Money albums.The downside to his throwback style, though, is that Plies suffers from the same lack of depth that eventually drove those Cash Money and No Limit artists to want to start branching out and exploring different approaches. While he certainly has the attitude down, he resorts to lashing out at the same nonspecific enemies as any other rapper of his sort (haters, the system and white people). On “100 Years,” Plies is full of complaints but low on insight, and while he’d tell you that his lyrics or “for the streets,” the best street rappers find ways to put their problems in a context that makes them seem both unique and universal at the same time. Plies, on the other hand, is just another dude talking about how the haters don’t wanna see him shine.While rough around the edges, The New Testament actually does have an appeal due to its nostalgic style, but like most trips down memory lane, that appeal is limited. Plies is on the edge of representing something that’s been lost over the last few years, but it isn’t something we need back so desperately that a mediocre version of it will accomplish much.