|Next Project:||Da Realist (Out 12/16)|
|Twitter:||Plies on Twitter|
In the fast-paced, fickle world of hip hop, artists who live by the maxim, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” are apt to fall by the wayside and find themselves “out of sight, out of mind.” The true key to long-term success in today’s music industry is clearly to stay on one’s grind, stay relevant, and, above all, stay real, and no one knows this better than the ever-hustling Plies. It’s easy to forget that the Fort Myers emcee dropped his debut album, The Real Testament, just last year, since his sophomore effort, Definition of Real, followed only 10 months later.
Though no one could accuse the rapper of dragging his feet, he has nonetheless decided to pick up the pace, preparing another follow-up, Da Realist, to be released December 16th. With singles “Pants Hang Low” and “Put It on Ya” making an impact in the Booth and elsewhere, there is no question that, when the album drops, Plies will have listeners nationwide recognizing him as Da Realist emcee in the biz.
In an exclusive interview with our very own DJ “Z,” Plies steps inside the DJ Booth to talk about the ways in which his personal and familial struggles have influenced his growth as an artist, the key role he played in the popularization of the term “goon,” and the possibility of a fourth studio album reaching listeners’ ears by May of next year.
Listen to the Interview
Plies Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth for the second time this year is the realest thing in hip hop. Gearing up to drop his third studio album in less than a year and a half, please welcome Atlantic Records recording artist Plies – how you doin’?
Plies: I’m great. How are you doin’ on your end, man?
DJ Booth: I’m great, thank you for asking. Plies, last we spoke it was early June, several days before you released your gold-certified sophomore album, Definition of Real. Less than six months later, we’re on the phone again, so be real with me; are you just dropping albums so you can join me inside the DJ Booth for an interview?
Plies: It’s always great to be part of your situation, Z. I think it’s important to continue to work hard. I try to surround myself with positivity, I try to work as much as I relax, and, at the end of the day, I try to find ways to continue to make quality music.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. In our June interview, while referring to Definition you said, “I feel like, on a street level, this will probably be the best album of 2008, by far.” So, since the new album, Da Realist, will also have a 2008 release date, have you outdone your previous work?
Plies: Hands down. And I know a lot of artists always pitch that as their campaign, but for me, my sophomore album, I felt like it was me comin’ into my own, from an artist’s perspective. I had an opportunity to drop what a lot of people considered to to be two street classics, from The Real Testament on to Definition of Real. I just feel like this third album, it’s not a street classic, it’s a classic, period, from a production standpoint as well as just from me bein’ a little bit more comfortable with my craft. I feel when I listen to it from front to back, as well as the people around me who have checked it out, it’s hands-down a better-quality album all the way around the board. I’m real excited about what the streets tell me about it.
DJ Booth: You mentioned the word “campaign.” Speaking of campaigns, Barack Obama just ended his, and he will be our next President. Where were you on election night, and what does his stepping into the office of the President mean to the future of our country?
Plies: Actually, I was comin’ back from San Diego, I was doin’ radio on the West Coast, and we were goin’ back and forth, me and my staff, gettin’ the polls coming in through [various outlets], whether it was through our Blackberry or people just on the phone. I wasn’t actually in front of a TV to be able to witness it, but the impact was the same. I feel like we’re steppin’ into a changed environment, especially with the economy bein’ where it is currently, I think it’s definitely going to be a steep climb uphill. At the end of the day, man, I actually [saw] an athlete the other day who explained his opinion on the whole Obama situation, and it kind of made me agree with it, which is, from a culture standpoint, bein’ a mixed breed, he represents the United States of America. Having had an opportunity to experience somewhat both cultures, I think that’s a great thing, and that’s probably one of the greatest positivities.
DJ Booth: Plies, in your latest bio, you are quoted as saying, “Material-wise, I feel like I’m a part of a f*cked-up culture, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of content.” Do you feel Obama can fix this f*cked-up culture, and, if so, are you concerned at all that you might run out of material?
Plies: Not sure, in terms of the first part of the question, which is, “Can he fix it?” I think we’ll never know till it actually happens. Do I think it’ll become better? You know, I pray and hope, for the sake of my son and a lot of people that’s comin’ up. [For] our current, new generation, that’s kind of a lost generation, I wish change for them. But, at the same time, in terms of material or content, whether we come out of this funk or we continue to fight through it, it’s still going to allow me different areas and different material to talk about, so, no, I still can’t run out of material.
DJ Booth: On the cover of the new album, you are standing in front of a mirror. Plies, when you take a deep look into that mirror, what do you see?
Plies: Da Realist, hands down, in my opinion. I feel like I get a look at a person who stands for principles, a person that stands for values and morals. My principles and my morals are non-negotiable, and I feel that way about [how] I attack this business from, and it’s something that reflects who I am as a person. Like, that’s a confident individual that’s looking back at you on that album cover. I think it speaks volumes, I think it’s my best album cover. I’m always a consensus guy; I let people tell me what they feel is better musically, artwork-wise. I never allow myself to be too personal with my work, so according to the people who have ran across this particular album cover already, they feel that it’s my best album cover, and I tend to agree with ‘em.
DJ Booth: You seem pretty steadfast in what has gotten you to this point – has it been difficult to remain that way, and not let outside sources who are not directly in your camp influence your business?
Plies: I think any time that you’re surrounded by outside influences, it’s tough, but I just look at my situation somewhat different. I’ve always had a relationship [with] my brother, and we’ve always kind of spearheaded our own situation. So for me, I still believe in my support system, which is my brother, but, at the same time, I think I’ve grown, from the aspect of being a more polished individual in everyday activity, in life, and definitely from a creative standpoint.
DJ Booth: Plies, the first single off the new project is the Mannie Fresh-produced “Pants Hang Low.” I’d like to discuss the last four lines of the first verse. They go, “Just a hood n*gga with a lot of swag, shawty/ Who I hang with the most, prob’ my forty/ Been labeled a goon, that’s what the hood call me/ Stay in the hood till I die homie, that’s regardless.” So, two questions. First, how do you define the swagger that you possess?
Plies: It’s just me, at the end of the day. Once again, I don’t really follow new styles in hip hop, I don’t really get caught up in none of that sh*t. I’m super in tune to being as normal as I can [be]. I got certain fetishes that are a part of my makeup, which I’m probably into more than most, but for the most part I think I remind people of someone they either grew up with, or someone that’s part of the family.
DJ Booth: Has the industry become oversaturated by the popularity of the term and the phrase “swagger?”
Plies: I don’t know, man. I think that’s a charisma thing, something that’s always been around. It’s definitely a part of minority culture – regardless of whether we were in better financial state of not, we always cared about our image. That was probably the most important thing, actually, growin’ up. But I don’t know. I think people tend to dive on top of things that successful people are able to create, in terms of terminology. I think I have a similar situation with “goon.” Someone may have been the inventor of that actual term, but if you went back, from my mixtape days up till now, I can definitely tell you, nobody was talkin’ about “goon” until I actually started talkin’ about it. I feel like those things are things that are created independent of the person who actually creates them; a lot of people try to follow suit with them.
DJ Booth: You’re parlaying these questions perfectly for me. I was just going to ask, as you continue to grow as an artist, an image is something that you need to be conscious about – can you foresee a time when being labeled as a goon might actually hurt the future of your career?
Plies: I’m not actually concerned about it, because I think I represent the people from day one I set forth tryin’ to represent. If anyone else understands my situation, in the midst of my journey, I think that’s cool as well. I feel like there’s definitely people in suburban America that are goin’ through their own share of personal struggle, and I make music for the person that understands life. I make a particular type of music that I like to call “reality music,” that if you’re goin’ through a struggle, regardless of where you’re from, regardless of what region of the country you live in, I think it helps you, and it provides you with therapy, especially for the three or four minutes that you have an opportunity to listen to that particular record. I’m just thankful, for one, to have people gravitate towards my situation as much as they do, and the most important thing out of all this is that you walk away with something from my music. It ain’t just me puttin’ a lot of works together and bein’ creative and clever. I think you actually walk away with something any time you purchase a Plies album.
DJ Booth: Certainly. You used the word “reality,” and, after all, that encompasses the word “real,” so it’s definitely fitting for you. There’s an album cut called “Family Straight” I’d like to talk about. In it, you discuss the troubling times that your family has gone through – your grandmother’s kidney disease, your aunt getting the AIDS virus. Personally, I know all too well the effects that a family member’s health can have on you; my mother battles MS. If you don’t mind sharing, what has your situation at home taught you the most?
Plies: It just reintroduces you to yourself. I think that’s the biggest thing that I learned from all of it, is that I think sometimes we lose touch with who we are until we’re faced with an adverse situation, whether it’s a family member dying or it’s someone being diagnosed with a particular illness. I think the only thing [it] does is reintroduce you to who you are, and makes you reevaluate yourself. For me, I think that’s the most important thing that I got out of all this.
DJ Booth: I heard rumblings that you were hopeful for an April ‘09 release for a fourth album; is this true?
Plies: There’s some truth to it. I actually have another album that’s already done and in the can, but we expect so many big things from this particular album right here that I think a May situation is more realistic than an April situation.
DJ Booth: Okay. Do you already have a title picked out for this potential fourth album?
Plies: Actually, I have three concepts right now that I”m actually goin’ back and forth with, with me and my brother, but we’ll probably name the title Thanksgiving weekend. We’re probably about a week away from actually solidifying that name.
DJ Booth: Okay. If I had to guess, would I guess correctly if I said that the word “real” would be in the title?
Plies: Z, you’re a smart man.
DJ Booth: Thank you; I’m picking up quickly, I know. Just to play devil’s advocate, in dropping four albums in less than two years, is there any potential your always-growing fanbase might get burnt out with so much Plies material in such a short amount of time?
Plies: I think if I was just being clever with words, yeah, but I’m givin’ you something that helps you in the midst of your troubles and your pain. From the way I look at it, if you’re sick, you need medicine, and I think my music provides you that.
DJ Booth: Well, after all, the music industry is sort of ill right now, so if you can provide that for them, all the better everyone else will be. Plies, last question: after digesting all that you have accomplished thus far, where do you believe that your career is headed in 2009 and beyond?
Plies: Well, I never question God, so whether I have to start all over again or I rise to the top of this industry, I’m willing to accept that he’s the way. I don’t allow myself to think too far ahead, just because I know how important right now is. For me, regardless of where it takes me within the next 12 months or within the next 60 months, I’m more than comfortable in bein’ able to deal with it. I’m one person. I feel like I could do something else and still be successful.
DJ Booth: Well, listen: I wish you nothing but the best of luck. Give everybody, Plies, a website or a MySpace page, so they can find out more about the brand new album dropping on December 16th, Da Realist.
Plies: You can go to my MySpace page, at myspace.com/plies. There’s a pliesworld.com page. It’s right around holiday time, the 16th, and [Da Realist] is a great stocking-stuffer, from what people have told me. People are gonna be really surprised that I [made it so far], and I still have great quality music.
DJ Booth: Well, I think Plies will be celebrating the holidays with quite a few families. Again, thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, my friend.
Plies: Hey, Z, thank you. I appreciate it, bro.