NO PUSSYFOOTING AROUND
There are rappers who choose their words as carefully as they’d choose their last meals. And then there’s Plies. When the Fort Myers, Fla., native has something to say, odds are he’ll tell it to you straight—no chaser. Take, for instance, this oh-so-romantic line from his T-Pain–assisted breakout single “Shawty”: “I don’t fuck on the first night/’Cause after
I beat ya, baby, I’m liable to fuck up ya whole life.”
Granted, he’s no Romeo. But in hip-hop, honesty is usually the best policy, and it’s also Plies’ living creed. It’s this candor that’s helped the rookie gain the loyal, and growing, fan base that copped 96,000 copies of his Big Gates/Slip-N-Slide/Atlantic Records debut, The Real Testament, during its first week of release this past August. “I tell the truth,” says Plies. “I was never the dude that was tryna push you about street cred and stripes. I done been through it. I’ma give you my life. I’ma give you my issues. I’ma let you make your own decisions.” It wasn’t Plies’ original intention to be a rapper. Born Algernod Lanier Washington, raised by a single mom in Fort Myers’ Michigan Court Projects, he transitioned from the streets to the music industry on the business side. Employed by his older brother, Big Gates, who’d formed an independent label, Big Gates Records, in 2001, Plies worked behind the scenes before he wrote, and then voiced, the hook for a song (“Tell Dem Krackers Dat”) originally created for one of the label’s artists. When the song hit in 2003, carrying the first-time rapper’s name beyond local borders, he saw the moneymaking potential in performance and started working on material for himself. Mixtapes like 100% Real Nigga and 36 Ounces led to a 2004 deal with Miami-based Slip-N-Slide. Two years later, he thought he’d caught his first break after recording a verse on an Akon track—only to have his contribution cut after he was arrested for his involvement in a shoot-out at a
concert in Gainesville. (Two members of Plies’ entourage are facing attempted murder charges.) Snoop Dogg wound up replacing him on the final version of the song, which would go on to become a No. 1 pop hit: “I Wanna Love You.”
Plies seems to have recovered nicely, though. He knows why the streets embrace him and why it looks like the rest of the world might soon follow suit. “I try to give you stuff that I feel like we all can relate to,” he says. “Both the male side and the female side relate to. And the honestness of it.”
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