By Billy Jam, Amoeba Music
Longtime Bay Area hip-hop artist Paris, who headlines Slim's tonight (1/2) on a bill with Equipto and Locksmith, has always stayed 100% true to his political beliefs and never shied away from controversy. The outspoken revolutionary rapper, who famously got dropped by Tommy Boy Records over his outspoken content back in the early '90s, has not softened up one bit. He continues to speak out against the injustices he sees around him, even three decades into his career. Ample proof of this can be found on his latest release, Pistol Politics, which he strategically released on September 11th, 2015. 9/11 is not just a date bound to attract the public's attention but one that symbolizes a topic close to the artist's heart.
Ever since the history-changing September 11, 2001 event, Paris has utilized his music as a platform to question 9/11, calling it an inside job. The cover art for his album Sonic Jihad, released two years after 9/11, showed a plane crashing into the Pentagon. Meanwhile, its tracks featured such "truth music" tracks as "What Would You Do" that addressed the artist's theories on 9/11 as well as the Illuminati's agenda.
Fast forward to Pistol Politics, which is the artist's eighth album since his 1990 debut The Devil Made Me Do It and his first solo studio album since 2008's Acid Reflex. Pistol Politics addresses a myriad of political and social issues including police brutality, oppression, and institutional racism. Its 27 funk-fueled tracks are structured to be both a condemnation of society's ills and a celebration of its virtues, emphasizing themes of unity, progression, and community in what the artist calls a "musical statement of solidarity." On the album, he is joined by an array of guests including Chuck D, George Clinton, E-40, WC, Kam, Tha Eastsidaz, Dead Prez, T-K.A.S.H., and The Conscious Daughters.
I caught up with Paris to interview him for the Amoeblog about his latest album, his political beliefs, and his three-decade strong career.
Amoeblog: You have always been so outspoken through your music, even sacrificing opportunities to do so. Why have you continually chosen this often tougher path?
Paris: To me, if you are not speaking on something you're passionate about [then] you are wasting your voice. And I've been passionate about several things; progressive ideals, social justice, police brutality, and education are among the things I've touched on in my music. These are topics that for whatever reason, and everybody has their theories, have not been more readily available in hip-hop and other forms of music. And I'm able to do it, so I do do it. I'm able to drive my own engine by having my own label. Guerrilla Funk [record label] was formed out of necessity after 9/11 when avenues for dissent and anything that was in opposition to the status quo was not encouraged. It started as a kind of vehicle for like-minded artists to be heard so I started reaching out to artists that used to get shine at majors or had a lot of independent success but were finding difficulty in having their music heard. So I hit up Public Enemy. I hit up Dead Prez, and Immortal Technique, and I hit up The Coup.
Amoeblog: Knowing how vocal you are on the new album about police misconduct during all the protests related to Black Lives Matter, did you participate in any of them?
Paris: No, I don't get down with protests. I think that there's a certain degree of futility involved with that, and I don't believe in interacting with the police unnecessarily. But to each their own as I know that voices need to be heard but I also recognize that there is a kind of a cyclical nature to those protests; whether it be this white-hot outrage for a minute after someone gets brutalized and it's this kind of contained release, and then it dies down until the next episode. But I think that these most recent events have had a positive effect in awakening younger people more so than any for years. Seeing it [police brutality] as blatantly as it has been in recent times and seeing the response of the judicial system and how tainted that is, and seeing it in your face the way it has been in your face, has been eye-opening for a lot of folks. I put "The Knight of The Long Knives" video out, which was the first single from Pistol Politics, as a kind of a chronicle of police brutality and the notable victims of it that have either been beat or murdered by the police and I can't add people fast enough with so many new victims, and that's the sad state of things. And the same with "Buck, Buck, Pass" that is the second video/single off the album; it's about gun violence in general and I can't add people fast enough because there is so much of it including all these mass shootings.
Amoeblog: What do you make of some of the Republican presidential hopefuls - most notably Donald Trump?
Paris: You have to realize that nothing holds weight with the public more than celebrity. That's the only thing we care about; celebrity and sports. And the larger the celebrity the more success they will have in whatever their respective endeavor is. You know if Kim Kardashian ran she'd get all the votes. I read an article that said she's more qualified to run the country than Trump is because she's never been bankrupt.
Amoeblog: With the next presidential election; does it matter who wins?
Paris: No. Well from a Supreme Court standpoint, maybe. But outside of that, no. I'll go with the Dems over the GOP simply for that; because the Supreme Court does make decisions that do affect people. But outside of that, no it doesn't make a difference.
Amoeblog: You have George Clinton on the new album and so much of your entire back catalog is funk-driven. So is it safe to say that George Clinton and P-Funk have been a big influence on you musically?
Paris: Oh yeah. The release of Parliament-Funkadelic records, I remember even been at T's Wauzi back in the day. I remember being there and showing up on the music [release] day for the "Aqua Boogie" single and things like that. I remember these like snapshots in time. And it affected it me, so yeah.
Amoeblog: You have produced a lot of great music, your music, and even put out beat records for other producers and DJs. And you've always stayed with producing as well as rapping. Why?
Paris: Well it's because I didn't want to be at the mercy of anybody else. I know a lot of MCs that wait, a lot of rappers that have to wait for production from other producers. Or else have a very clear idea in their mind of how they want to sound but don't know how to realize it. So from early on I pretty much decided that I wanted to create the soundscapes that I want. And I have done that through trial and error.
Amoeblog: As a producer, you've done a lot of work with The Conscious Daughters whose music you released on your label. So do you have a lot of outtakes of The Conscious Daughters featuring the late great Special One?
Paris: Oh yeah I do and not just them, but with a ton of people including Dead Prez and Public Enemy and a lot of folks. So I could release music for a while which is all-new music. And I hope to be more prolific moving forward. Because my last album, Acid Reflex, came out back in 2008. That's several lifetimes ago in hip-hop.
Amoeblog: How did you come to choose the collaborators that appear on Pistol Politics?
Paris: Well there's a particular degree of aggression that I want to have conveyed on my project that only certain acts can do. And only certain voices can deliver and have it credible. And that's what resonates with me.