[Editor’s Note (11/6/08): I AM NOT PLIES, AND I DO NOT KNOW PLIES]
I must have missed this memo because I’m sure I would have written this post a few weeks earlier. However, better late than never.
I really laughed out loud when my internet friend Trini Uppity, who about five minutes ago told me that Algernod Lanier Washington, better known as Plies had a scholarship for kids who’s parents were in jail. I was like, wow, that’s the epitome of negritude, and that it really was some Fried Chicken and Watermelon nonsense. And then in the time it took me to press “Publish” on the previous post on Usain Bolt and walk around to restore circulation that I realised that Plies was doing what most conscious people in the hip hop culture criticize for more of the rap artist to do. And it’s definitely doing something that those outside of our community criticize hip hoppers for not doing.
The organization’s first effort will be the “Somebody Loves You” Scholarship Fund 2008 (named after the song “Somebody (Loves You) “from his current album), which is designed specifically for students attending an accredited college or university, who have a parent(s) that is presently incarcerated and who is financially disadvantaged. The scholarship is open to students who are currently enrolled or who will be entering school this fall. Two scholarships will be awarded to one male and one female in the amount of $5000 each.
According to a published Senate report in September of 2000, as many as 70 percent of children of incarcerated parents will become involved with the criminal justice system unless effective intervention strategies are set in place. Big Gates and Plies Power Of Visions, Inc. hopes to inspire and encourage these at-risk youth to break the cycle of incarceration. Co-founder Plies comments, “We want to provide those who have been and continue to be affected by the negative impacts of the prison system with a sense of hope, and to let them know that they are not forgotten. No matter what adversities one may face in life, one thing remains true – and that is that somebody loves you.” Source: http://www.hiphoplinguistics.com/news/2008/08/rapper-plies-creates-non-profit-organization-and-scholarship-fund
For the sole reason Plies, who is the epitome of gangsta hip hop, I can’t give him the coveted Uppity Award, but since I Ain’t Hatin’ on him doing what he do, I created a new category. I would much rather accentuate the positive aspects of his nature that include this scholarship foundation than continue ad nauseum about the quality of his lyrics–we already know where he stands on that.
But I do encourage my readers to wrestle with the tension of the two. I don’t have an answer, but I still think we’re in the conversation phase of this battle. I don’t think the black community has done a good enough job of engaging the elders and the hip hop generation and now what I’ve simply dubbed the Soulja Boy Generation (1990 and forward) in a three way conversation that acknowledges that compromises need to be made on all three fronts.
Personally, I do think that Soulja Boy’s “Crank Dat” was the eulogy for what we officially categorized as hip hop, I mean there is no level of social critique in any of the singles (I didn’t buy the CD, so I will stand to be corrected if I need to be). Clearly Soulja Boy et. al. are just going for radio play time and single status. But, moreover, making sure that their beats are ringtone friendly.
Have we really devolved into creating music just so it sounds good when your cell phone rings? But that’s a whole ‘nother post more pointed at the cell phone companies, distributors and ad companies.
The consciousness, whatever it was, that the original hip hop generation had was something that I think that the Soulja Boy generation could learn from. By the same token the original hip hop generation (c. 1965-c. 1985) were the ones that initially began to glorify violence and the misogyny of women. The elders just need to realise that as Otis Moss III has said that they are 45s operating in an .mp3 world–the same music (or message) can be transmitted, but you’ve got to find a new way of doing it.
But it seems nowadays that it’s all about swag–how you carry yourself and how you portray yourself is about the only currency you have. Don’t get me wrong, the level of confidence or swag that I see in the artists that consider themselves hip hop (both rap, hardcore rap and r&b), I think some of the swag is misplaced. I think if they understood somethings differently, perhaps something that the elders should have done a better job of passing down, then their swag would be portrayed in a different way.
Such as Plies, perhaps.
What is your take on the current state of hip hop? Not some Cousin Jeff surface feelings, but deep down in your gut feelings. I think we’re quickly approaching a state of emergency as to just how out of bounds blacks in this country are with regards to my generation and younger towards hip hop culture. What do you think our next step should be–are we even on the first step?
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Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL