“For me to have two certified gold albums, coming from The Real Testament to Definition of Real, I feel more than excited,” he says. “I think for me to be in the current space that I’m in, to be so relevant and still pushing forward with my third project is something that speaks volumes of my hustle.” And his hustle has paid off. Since his debut, Plies has racked up two #1 Billboard singles (2007’s RIAA platinum “Shawty” and this year’s RIAA gold “Bust It Baby Part 2”), as well as top 5 (2007’s RIAA gold “Hypnotized”) and top 10 (“Please Excuse My Hands”) hits. Even more impressive were the first-week sales numbers of Definition of Real: in just seven short days, Plies pushed over 214,000 copies of his second album, making his first-week numbers the highest in the history of his label, Slip-N-Slide Records.
Plies is set to build upon his current success with Da REAList, and if the album’s first single, “Put It On Ya,” is any indication, the Southern rapper is poised to pick up right where he left off. Featuring the silky R&B vocals of newcomer Chris J. (the first artist signed to Plies’ Big Gates record label), “Put it On Ya” once again places Plies at the top of the pop charts and in the hearts of his female fan base, thanks to his flirtatious lyrics and infectious melodies. “I don’t think there’s been a situation in a while where a street ni**a has had this many devoted female supporters,” says Plies.
When it comes to supplying the streets and female listeners, there is no one better than Plies. While “Put It On Ya” is burning up Top 40 radio, Plies’ “Heard of Me” has become an underground favorite. On the hard-as-nails track, the rapper takes shots at the industry for overlooking his many accomplishments, rapping, “May never see me on the cover of a magazine/’Cause I ain’t willin’ to kiss ass to be seen,” in his distinct Southern drawl. “It’s a record some people may call rebellious, but it defines my current state and how I feel about my position from a music aspect,” says Plies. “It’s one of my most favorites that I ever done.” The slow-thumping “All Black” is sure to be another street anthem; the murderous track finds Plies exploring the mind of a killer who dons an all-black outfit to conceal his identity.
Perhaps Plies’ strongest quality though, is his ability to speak on the ills of his beloved community. On 2007’s “100 Years” he addressed the inequalities of the judicial system, then on “Somebody (Loves You)” from The Definition of Real, Plies offered support to not only his incarcerated brothers and sisters, but for the young kids in the street who lack the proper guidance. This time out, Plies offers “Pants Hang Low,” a Mannie Fresh-produced track, in which the rapper defends his right to wear his jeans below the waistline. All across the country, local laws are being passed which ban saggy pants, and while the law may seem insignificant to some, Plies sees the bigger picture. “’Pants Hang Low’ is a statement record from a cultural standpoint. It means a lot to me because I understand who I am speaking for,” says Plies. “I’m smart enough to understand that the rule was passed to give law enforcement a pass to get up on a ni**a. You get up on a ni**a and now it ain’t about his pants no more, now he got weed in his pocket or he got dope on him or he got a pistol on him. Now that situation goes from a minute situation to a huge situation.”
When you combine Plies’ pop-appeal with his unwavering street credibility and then add his socio-political stance, you get the realest artist in rap. “I think you can falsify selling dope, I think you can falsify being a killer, but you can’t falsify being real, because it’s too many principles that come with that term,” he says. So on every album he releases, Plies works the term “real” into its title. “Any project that I put out will definitely have real incorporated into the title in some shape, form, or fashion,” he says. Da REAList is no different. “It’s not like I woke up one morning and said let me name my album Da REAList. I think that was a title that was given to me from the streets.” Keeping in tradition, on his third album Plies is not utilizing a single rap feature, choosing to give his fans an uncompromised look. “I just personally feel like I’ve always been a dude that can stand on my own,” he says. “To accomplish what I’ve accomplished, in a climate that has been the worst climate in hip-hop’s history, and to not feel like I had to lean on another proven individual and get that stamp of approval, it reflects who I am as a person.”
Plies also plans to release a number of underground videos for much of the album, another trend that he started with his debut in 2007. In addition to videos for “Heard of Me” and “Pants Hang Low,” he will be shooting a video for the album cut, “Family Straight” a heartfelt song about providing for loved ones. On the song’s hook he raps, “Last ten years momma been workin’ twice a day/Grandma on a kidney machine, she done lost all the weight/My auntie got AIDS, she startin’ to lose her faith Before ya take me God, help me get my family straight.” The lyrics may be Plies’ most poignant to date, even if the track isn’t his most popular. “That’s a record that doesn’t stand a chance at radio, because the majority, they never care about the minority problems; they’re gonna forever be our problems,” says Plies.
Still, for all of the work that he does inside of the studio, it’s the work that Plies does outside of the studio that is most impressive. Through his various charitable efforts, like The Somebody Loves You Scholarship Fund, which provides financial help to college students with incarcerated parents, or The Under My Wing Program, which lends support to misguided youths, Plies ensures that his legacy isn’t merely musical. “It’s important for me to find ways to be supportive, especially toward the people that need me the most,” he says.
With three albums in 16 months, Plies shows no signs of slowing down; he’s already planning to release his fourth, as-yet-untitled album in April 2009. “Now you see everybody coming right back out. I’m not saying I’m the reason for that, but ni**as wasn’t doin’ it before I started doin' it,” he says. “Material-wise, I feel like I’m part of a fucked-up culture, so I don’t think I’ll ever run out of content.” What’s realer than that?