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One of the saddest things about hip hop is that violence still sells.  The rapper Plies is a perfect example.  In case you don’t know about Plies, he is the really short brother who looks like he’s out of a 1920s minstrel show: gold chains on his neck, with a grill across his teeth and tattoos all over his entire body.  He prides himself on being a “goon,” even though Jamie Foxx claims that he’s not quite as bold as he pretends to be.  To make matters worse, I have reason to believe that Plies is actually educated (he spent some time on a college campus), which is a tragedy within itself.  It’s one thing to be ignorant because you don’t know any better; it’s another thing when a smart brother pretends to be stupid.

In 2006, no one knew anything about Plies.  He’d not been out that long and he didn’t have many hits.  But one incident put him on the map.  During a concert in 2006, reports allege that after Plies turned off his microphone, a fight ensued and some people got shot.

Tory Denard Carnegie and Ronnell Lawrence Lavatte, two of Washington’s security guards, pulled out guns and began to use them.  Billy Dee Williams, Michael Lamar Daymon, Edwin Devasco Faircloth, Steve Ruben Jean-Jacques and Dorian Shannel Johnson were all victims of the shooting, being hit in various parts of their bodies.  Along with their attorney, Christopher Chestnut out of Florida, the group is suing Plies, whose real name is Algernod Lanier Washington (That’s quite a name for a “goon,” don’t you think?  Sort of like Robbie Van Winkle and Marshall Mathers).

Plies pleaded no contest to possession of a concealed firearm and didn’t serve any time in prison.  It’s interesting how the big guy always gets out of trouble, while the entourage takes the heat and packs it too.  According to court documents, both of the security guards pleaded no contest to criminal charges and were sent to prison.   Chestnut, the group’s attorney, alleges that Plies is also liable for the activities of his entourage, and that his record label and night club should be liable as well.   Chestnut further argues that Plies should have known that guns were not allowed in the club and that his employees had them.

The point in talking about this case, which is still in court and was filed last year, is to notice how the shooting boosted Plies and his “rep” in the hip hop industry.  According to those familiar with the case, Plies signed a new record deal and gained a great deal of popularity after the shooting.  I find it a bit odd that real life violence can strengthen the fantasized persona that many rappers seem to embrace.  The idea that black male incarceration and murder has been marketed to corporate America should probably concern all of us.

I don’t hate Plies, even when I make fun of him.  In fact, his song, “Plenty Money,” is one of the nicer songs I’ve heard all year.  But in this song, Plies sticks to his job of playing on all of the negative stereotypes of black men, consisting of murder, prison and financial irresponsibility.  I am hopeful that perhaps one day, Plies and other artists who’ve gone to school and become intelligent human beings can stop being afraid of being smart.  By being ignorant and violent in your behavior, you’re not representing what black men are all about.

boyce_watkins-head-78Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  For more information, please visit

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