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Burning Bush

Errol Nazareth, Eye Magazine

Those who posit that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks aren't wasting time downloading a hip-hop jam that endorses their belief. "What Would You Do?" comes courtesy of Paris, a rapper who set off a firestorm of protest in the early '90s for "Bush Killa" and "Coffee, Donuts, and Death," songs that imagined the assassination of George Bush Sr. and a police officer. The incendiary "What Would You Do?" -- which you are now free to download at before it appears on Paris' upcoming Guerilla Funk release, Sonic Jihad -- leaves no room for interpretation. Its author, known for his radical black politics, explicitly states that his government organized that day of terror.

"Sonic Jihad is my concept of raging righteous warfare against injustice," Paris says from his pad in Oakland, California. "It is the ultimate sonic assault. I talk about politics, racial politics, the media, the armed forces and the bullshit state of rap. Just look at the garbage you see all day long on Bamboozled Entertainment Television (BET) and MTV: nothing but drug references, the prostitution of our women and escapist dance music. These dumb niggas keep saying it and these racist crackas keep endorsing it."

Paris' blistering criticism of hip-hop got us talking about a paragraph in "Fight the Power," the definitive piece on Public Enemy that recently appeared at Salon. "So, sadly, there will probably never be another 'Fight the Power,'" Laura K. Warrell writes. "A song so rich with meaning, so smart and defiant, couldn't reach today's listeners, their senses numbed by too many years of schlock. Arguably, hip-hop itself is dead."

"Hip-hop has been dead for most of us for a while," Paris says. "But I still hold out hope for those of us who are conscious, because we'll continue to push the limits. Songs like 'Bush Killa' and 'What Would You Do?' will never see the light of day on these white-bread, generic, corporatized media monopolies that we call commercial radio, so why not take it all the way?"

It's distressing that while governments move swiftly to keep a closer watch on us, and white columnists at The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Sun argue that racial profiling is a good idea and call Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations "terrorist countries," the best that all these blinged-out rappers can cough up is yet another video of a woman in a bubble bath.

While I don't agree with Paris' Sept. 11 theory, I'm glad there are artists who would rather "shout at the devil than rollover with our asses in the air."

On its forthcoming CD, Revolverlution, Public Enemy takes several swipes at the circus that hip-hop has become. Here's a memorable line from "Get Your Shit Together" that makes reference to the altered New York City skyline and the infantile war of words between Jay-Z and Nas: "City's smile's missing two front teeth, but some of y'all still talkin' about beef."

The track is anti-war, but it isn't the lyrical bomb that is "What Would You Do?" However, Chuck D says the notion that his government staged 9/11 is enjoying currency.

"I'm hearing that all over the place," Chuck says from his home in Atlanta. "The more you think you know, the less you know. Right now, I don't know what to think."

He is convinced, though, that his president is an ass. "I ain't calling for no assassination, I'm just saying who voted for that asshole of your nation?" goes a lyric from the cheekily titled "Son of a Bush."

"I was basically addressing all the stuff he did in Texas and how he cheated to get to the White House," Chuck says. "It's like, 'Let us not forget the Bush-shit that you did.' He came from a murdering machine, which is the state of Texas. I don't give him credit like Paris does for being wickedly wise. He's just wickedly dumb. It's not another 'Bush Killa.' This cat's killing himself. Every time he opens his mouth, he kills himself."

Paris isn't so kind.

"God bless Chuck," he says. "And he's right, Bush is not wickedly smart, but folks around him are and that's the scary part. He can play the good-ol'-dumb-cowboy-makes-good routine and people buy that bullshit. While Baby Bush may be killing himself every time he speaks, the reality is that his vicious ass kills other people when he opens his mouth.

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