WATCH: Siri Imani of Cincinnati music and activism collective Triiibe “shemixes” “Plug Walk”

With new lyrics, added melody from Triiibe's Aziza Love and a music video, Rich the Kid's drug-hustle veneration is transformed into an examination of artistic and civic priorities

In a just-released new track and music video, MC Siri Imani of the Cincinnati Hip Hop/Soul/activism collective Triiibe rewires the Rap hit “Plug Walk,” giving it new lyrics, energy and meaning in the first of a series of “shemixes." Imani — joined on the track by Triiibe vocalist Aziza Love — says “Plug Walk Shemix” is the first of seven such reconfigurations to be released.

In the case of the first “shemix,” the ingenious resurrection uses the skeleton of Rich the Kid’s “Plug Walk” to create something completely new, a commentary on the ways in which artists choose to wield the power of music. The artistic design of the project is incredibly creative and powerful, as Imani takes Rich the Kid’s own framework to directly address what is problematic about his veneration of potentially destructive behavior.

On the original “Plug Walk,” Rich the Kid evokes drug dealing, big cars, big money and Gucci shoes, kicking off with, “Plug walk — I don't even understand how the fuck my plug talk/Pick him up in a space coupe, I don't let my plug walk/New freak, had to cut my other lil' bitch off/50K, you could come and book a nigga for a plug walk.”

Built around the beat and minimalistic atmospherics of the original, Love augments “Plug Walk” with aching but gorgeous vocals and melodic ornamentation, which add a richer aesthetic to the track. Lyrically, Imani takes on the role Rich the Kid’s approach can play in keeping a community down. While she stresses “not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with” Rich the Kid’s testosterone swagger, from the opening salvo, it’s clear the script has been flipped for the “shemix.”

Immediately establishing her masterful skills and expanding the scope of power and influence, Imani opens with “You let your plug walk?/I bring my city to the council at my block talk.” She later stings back with, “You don’t care ’bout these children/’Cause they grow up and they listen/To all your raps about bitches, pimpin,’/The lean and the trickin’ ain’t even how you be livin,’ ” and “You got the sauce at what cost?/That’s why I say that you lost.”

With the accompanying video clip, Imani explores some of the same societal ills from a different angle, one touched on towards the end of the track. 

“The lyrics of the ‘Plug Walk Shemix’ speak to the way the youth perceive our lyrics, resulting in decisions they make later in life,” Imani says. “This video also speaks to how gentrification plays a huge role in this. The video is shot at Findlay Park (in Over-the-Rhine), on the side of (Vine Street) that doesn’t get nearly enough attention as the rest of the street.”

Part of Triiibe’s vast community outreach work includes providing food and clothing for the homeless and others in the area around Findlay Playground (and elsewhere). Joining Imani and Love in the video for “Plug Walk Shemix’ are people who’ve assisted those efforts, as well as those who’ve been on the receiving end.

“From elders to children, this past winter we watched the majority of them huddle around the grills at Findlay Park staying warm, rotating coats to take care of each other and even start small, barely controllable fires at this park,” Imani says “Over the course of three weeks we were able to give them what they needed to survive the season.”

According to Imani, one of people starting some of the fires for warmth asked, “If y’all can do this in weeks with barely any money, why couldn’t the city do the same for us?”

“It definitely gave me something to think about,” Imani says. “Why as a city (haven’t we) gotten behind these people when they’ve needed us? Yet we’re usually the first to condemn or sentence them for crimes that are usually birthed from their own survival. Not to justify any crimes, but there’s always two sides, ya know?”

Imani and Triiibe’s deeply thoughtful and imaginative approach is one of the more exciting things going on culturally in Cincinnati right now. And there’s much more to look forward to — besides six more shemixes, regular performances and their non-musical work in the community, a full-length recording project from Triiibe — III AM WHAT III AM — is due later this year. The group provided a sneak peek last month with the release of “Gossip” and its accompanying music video; check it out here.

Click here for more on Triiibe.