By Matt Conley, southcoast247.com
With nearly two decades of ferocious and politically-charged lyrics, controversial album artwork, and thought-provoking statements about the state of the U.S., Paris' career has been a constant mission to bring social awareness to the unaware. Paris burst onto the rap scene with the 1990 title track "The Devil Made Me Do it". He was soon banned from MTV and gained a reputation for taking albums too far. His words were deemed dangerous, but like N.W.A. and Public Enemy, he was committed to producing music that went against the grain of the government and would face an uphill battle getting records financed and released. Paris even went as far as releasing the song "Bush Killa," which featured graphic lyrics about killing the President of the United States. In 2003 Paris mounted even more controversy for the cover art of "Sonic Jihad": a plane heading directly toward the White House.
Paris recently took some time to discuss his career and latest album, "Acid Reflex", with 247. Set to hit stores later this year, he still won't shy away from topics like terrorism, police brutality, poverty, and government greed.
247: Paris, you will certainly go down as one of the most controversial artists in music history, perhaps most notably for being banned on MTV and releasing a song called "Bush Killa" that included artwork of you hiding around the corner from President Bush with a gun. How do you feel looking back at those things now?
Paris: Perhaps I should take that as a compliment. Thank you. I feel fortunate to have been and to continue to be, in a position that allows me a voice in this propaganda-filled environment. The SWTE controversy only came about as a result of fact that people responded to the sentiment - the fact was that so many people were disgusted by what was going on that they felt inclined to gravitate towards an artist that spoke for them. The same thing with "Sonic Jihad" (which featured a) cover with the plane heading toward the White House and the name-checking of those responsible for global terror were messages that many, many people can relate to. I feel proud to have been a voice for so many who are often voiceless.
247: Do you think American audiences are more responsive to controversial music with strong social messages than they were in the 1990s?
Paris: I think Americans are coming around, and we can thank the current administration and the hard economic times it has ushered in for that. There was a time when the propaganda on Fox News and other major outlets provided a false sense of security to many, but that time is up. They can't put lipstick on a pig. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that they can say anymore that changes the actual circumstance of people living here. It's like they're telling us the sky is redâ€¦but we know better.
247: You've made some bold statements in your last few albums that America was involved with the planning of the terrorist attacks. How much involvement do you think the U.S. government had in the World Trade Center attacks?
Paris: All you have to do is follow the money. Look at who benefited from it all. Look at the response to 9/11, not the actual events, and look at it in historical context. It's happened before, in other countries, and under other tyrants. And look at the increase in power and reduction in civil liberties. It's not hard to see the truth.
247: What do you think the most important social issue is in America today?
Paris: It depends on your community. In the black community, it's violence, incarceration, and education. Violence and incarceration are out of control and they're decimating entire generations. Same with education. And popular culture does not emphasize its importance, so things just continue in a hazardous cycle.
247: How do you think music can play a role in correcting the wrongs of our nation? Furthermore, what would you encourage listeners to do with the knowledge they have accumulated from your lyrics?
Paris: I know how music affected me growing up...Curtis Mayfield, Marvin, Earth Wind and Fire, P-Funk. Not only was the music the shit, but the messages were life-affirming. Music made you feel good about yourself and spoke to upward mobility and improving our condition. Now we have the exact opposite. That's why I swim upstream and do what I do, even in the face of adversity. I wouldn't have it any other way.
247: You have worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop history. What was your most important collaboration with another artist(s) been and why?
Paris: My most important collaboration was with George Clinton. He is one of my all-time favorite artists and is directly responsible for my musical direction and love for the art.
247: The Black Panthers greatly influenced your political stance and certainly are mentioned a lot in your music. How are ideas formed decades ago still so relevant in today's society?
Paris: The Panthers were about doing for self and self-respect. We are coming up lacking in the self-respect department in our communities because our behavior oftentimes is so self-destructive. The Panthers were also visually arresting and imposing as a united force. Their core influence is still badly needed today.
247: You have done your fair share of producing. Which do you prefer more, rapping or producing, and why?
Paris: Both. I dig rapping because I get my points across, but I also love production because it allows me to stretch out creatively.
247: "Acid Reflex," your latest album from Guerrilla Funk, is in stores soon. How different is this album from your previous releases and what can listeners expect from it?
Paris: All of my albums are a snapshot in time. "Acid Reflex" is speaking to the times now, in an environment where life is cheap, the government is out of control, and times are hard as hell. It's like an energy drink for your soul. Be sure to hit us up at guerrillafunk.com.
247: On behalf of southcoast247.com, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Best of luck, Paris. Peace.