As of yesterday, I absolutely hated Plies. There probably wasn’t a single rapper alive for whom I held less scorn, mostly because I had to listen to him (and his awful singles) almost every time I turned on my radio. Frankly, I couldn’t understand why someone with such an obnoxious voice and such tired concepts merited so much exposure, especially at the expense of the many talented rappers out here in the Bay. But then someone suggested I check out this song.
“Gotta Be” should be required listening for anyone who thinks we live in a “post-racial” society. Much like The Wire, the song depicts a legal system unfairly stacked against poor communities of color, many of which lack even the basic foundations of a legitimate economy. When young men turn to selling drugs as a means of economic advancement, they find themselves targeted relentlessly by a system previously content to ignore their very existence, not to mention their social and economic needs. The “war on drugs,” then, is really a war on the poor, and to those on the defensive it understandably appears to have a racial component. In “Gotta Be” Plies salutes those who manage to beat “the crackers,” whether by getting paroled, beating trial, or shaking the cops in a high-speed chase. It’s an eye-opening record, one which illuminates both the flaws in our legal system and the effect of economic abandonment on minority communities. For Plies, police activity in the hood is little more than a form of legalized racial oppression, and the sad thing is that he’s got a point.
That said, this is still unlistenable.