By Delany Biko, Contrabandit.com
Historically, people involved in rap music have used hip-hop's distinction as a counter-culture to attack mainstream perspectives and politics. Of course, rap music has had its low times; but songs like NWA's "Fuck the Police”, Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" and Public Enemy's "Can't Truss It" have always been there to remind us that the evils of the American political economy are not to be taken lightly. But in the post 9/11 era, it seems that many involved in hip-hop have been unwilling to stand up to this problematic blind acceptance of the American government. But don't give up on hip-hop just yet. It seems that some folks are bubbling just below the surface who are willing to tell it like it is.
One such individual attacking this ever-present patriotism is Bay Area rap veteran Paris. Of course, Paris is no rookie to stirring up controversy. The "Original Black Panther of Hip-Hop" first burst on the scene in 1990 with his first album The Devil Made Me Do It. But it wasn't until he dropped "Bush Killa" off the 1993 critically acclaimed Sleeping with the Enemy that it became readily apparent that Paris was real with his anti-government message. But after dropping two more albums, Guerrilla Funk and Unleashed, Paris took a much-deserved hiatus from hip-hop to focus on the more practical side of community building: in this case, investment banking.
But with America once again being politically misdirected by a Bush, Paris has returned to drop his most controversial and jaw-dropping joint to date. His first single "What Would You Do?" off his new album Sonic Jihad, is a damning condemnation of Bush's involvement in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. While one may argue that this is just another paranoid attempt by a conspiracy theorist to gain some attention, Paris's polemical attack is more than just simple wordplay. His argument is so strongly laid out that Contrabandit.com had to get up with him to get further insight into the mind of this revolutionary. And oh yeah, for the politically timid, you might not be ready to read this interview.
Contrabandit.com: Man, you are coming with it with your new single. I’m sure a lot of industry people are afraid to touch this. What is your plan to get this to the masses?
Paris: See the thing is about people who are interested in profit they don't care what you do as long as it makes them money. I want to get enough anti-establishment buzz that people will have no other choice but to get interested in what I am trying to say. I’ve learned from the past that the record companies might be scared at first, but dollar chasers chase dollars, even if it is perceived as anti-establishment or anti-capitalist. My album isn't even halfway done and I got people from labels calling me trying to make deals.
CB: You are obviously politically aware, what would you describe as your political ideology?
P: I don't really claim any ism, because I dabble into everything. But I have always been closely aligned with the Panthers and of course, I used to be down with the Nation of Islam. Right now I am seeking out the truth through reading. But the thing is by paying attention to everything that is out there, my music is able to touch individuals throughout the world at different levels. From the release of this single, I’ve been in touch with folks from Pakistan, South Africa; worldwide man. And I don't even have distribution yet, but when you speak the truth you can cut through the bullshit that's out there in hip-hop now.
CB: Speaking of the political climate in hip-hop, a lot of people say that hip-hop is dead.
P: It is!
CB: But what can we do as consumers to save it?
P: See that's just it, as consumers we have been primed to buy into this materialistic bullshit. So we don't really have a whole lot of conscious MCs, I mean we have some. Everybody's trying to get into this popular music. So to me, it can't really be up to the consumers to change it, it has to be the MCs. It difficult though because even though the A&Rs are out there looking for new talent, it is the popular media, the big guys, the people behind the desks that say what people see on the videos. You know girls and cars. So it's up to the people making this music to make sure that the black community goes beyond this bling, bling shit.
CB: Even though hip-hop is fucked up, we are starting to see the so-called neo-soul movement start to gain some steam. What do you think about this, will this affect hip-hop?
P: The thing about consciousness is you can't fake it. Like Angie Stone, the song "Brother”, you can't fake it. However people are living their life, or whatever the contradictions are, good music transcends all that. Because here is the thing, folks like Michael Jackson or Prince, we all talk about them, but when they come out with good music that shit goes to the back because the music is good. And I’ve learned from that shit. Before I was just trying to bring albums out, but I’ve just about learned everything about the studio, and whatever comes to my head I can lay it down on the track. That's important because if I can lay down good music and combine it with the message I’ll be able to make my point.
CB: How did you come to this conclusion?
P: Trial and error. Today hip-hop is so materially orientated that a lot of rappers come out and if they don't blow it's over and they don't get the chance to improve and get better. But I’ve come through a whole lot, changing labels, starting my own shit, and by taking a break from the rap thing I’ve been able to take everything in.
CB: So why come back out now? It seems like the political climate right now makes it difficult for folks that are going to come out and use their music to attack the system. I mean you’ve got cats like Hammer and even Petey Pablo making these so-called patriotic songs. But you decided to go the other route, COINTELPRO's got to be watching you?
P: Man I’ve been on all those government lists before I even dropped this single. So I am not really worried about that. But the thing is I came out not as a response to the government's shit; those things have always been going on. But I came out now as a response to the response. I came out because hip-hop and the black community have been unable to say what the fuck is really going on right now. I am coming back out right now because hip-hop needs it. I didn't have to do this rap shit anymore. I’ve got my degree and I’ve been doing some investment banking. But, I am dedicated to my message and dedicated to stopping the oppression of people. When you know the truth you’ve got a responsibility.
CB: You’ve been warning about the Bush family for a while now. Do you feel that you anticipated this with your 1994 single, "Bush Killa.”
Yeah, I was warning about Bush, but I could have never anticipated this bullshit. No one could have expected the viciousness of these people. I mean let's just look at the way this guy was elected. A lot of folks out here thought before the last election that things we are all good; people were making money when the economy was booming. So when things got good everyone is interested in the preservation of capital. So what does the country do? They go ahead and elect the person they feel will protect their economic interests. So America goes ahead and puts G.W. in office. A couple of months in office the economy crashes and the World Trade Center fucking comes down. Come on man that shit isn't coincidental. But the thing is the world is bigger than these motherfuckers in office. Believe that.
CB: So what do you do when your 50 years old and hip-hop isn't really a realistic outlet for your political message. Are you going to go ahead and jump into politics?
P: That's funny man. Don't make me that old yet. But the thing is that I don't have any political aspirations. I mean I think we should vote, especially on the local level because our people died for that shit. But I am not trying to dilute my message for anyone. I don't want to be the puppet for anybody's financial backing.