By Justin Melo, Raptalk.net
The Guerrilla Funk MC took time out of his busy schedule to speak to Raptalk.Net about his upcoming Acid Reflex album. Fans are sure to enjoy this interview and as we get really heavy into the album and discuss many of the lyrics, messages and statements Paris makes throughout the project. You know we had to get into the political race where Paris of course makes some very good points. This one is for the smart and conscious heads.... Enjoy!
RAPTALK.NET: We're here with Paris; start us off by letting everybody know how you are doing?
Everything is good man. How are you doing?
RAPTALK.NET: I am doing well, thanks for asking.
RAPTALK.NET: The new album Acid Reflex was scheduled to drop on September the 9th. It was pushed back to October 28. What was the reason for the delay?
It is dropping on the 28th of October. It was pushed back because in September, I had just got from Australia first of all; we've been on tour for the last month. A lot of these interviews ended up getting pushed back a little bit. The video is also still being wrapped up. There were a lot of unresolved elements that had to do with the promotion of this record that had to be put in place. It just made sense to push it back because the set up has to be cool.
RAPTALK.NET: Let our fans know what the meaning behind the title is, Acid Reflex.
Acid Reflex is my response to what's going on globally right now. It's a violent focus, socially aware reflex to what's happening internationally and within our communities. That's really what the title is.
RAPTALK.NET: The first single is "Don't Stop the Movement" and also is the opening track on the album. What made you decide to roll with this as the lead single and what about the track made you also decide to have it open the album up?
"Don't Stop the Movement" is a perfect sentiment for these times. It was an up-tempo track that sets the mood for a couple of things to follow on the record. It kind of has a vintage, retro throwback vibe to it. It fit perfectly.
RAPTALK.NET: Your answer plays perfectly into my next question. The track has a real old school feeling to it. How is that you've been able to maintain such a consistent sound throughout your career and still remain relevant?
I appreciate the sentiment. Staying true to what I do. I think when people look to me for the music I make, they look to me for a very specific sound. They look for socially relevant content. They look for music that is consistent along the same vein of what they've come to expect - rarely do you get surprises from me. I pretty much stay in my lane when it comes to what I do when I make Paris records. The music is almost always funk and rock inspired hip-hop and the words always reflect the times. I always reflect the need for continuing the fight for social justice and for wanting to see us do better.
RAPTALK.NET: Rarely do we get surprises from Paris, but I think your one of the few artists out there that has a fan base who doesn't want or need any surprises. You give them what they expect of you. It's always creative and unique in its own way.
Thank you, I appreciate it. There's no worse feeling than taking another artist's project that you love and followed there entire career, getting home and they go off on a tangent that is so far removed what you expect that the project falls flat for you. Of course everybody wants to grow and as an artist you want to grow and do different things and experiment with different sounds and techniques - you wouldn't be an artist if you didn't want to grow - but never lose sight of what people are into you for. I always keep that in the back of my mind. For the people who have followed me my entire career, and dig what I do - I mean I'm almost four million records deep independently - I have to recognize the fact that they expect certain things of me when I make records. I always keep that in the back of my mind. I always keep that in mind.
RAPTALK.NET: The second track on the album is entitled "So what" and you show off your storytelling skills on this one. Tell us how you come up with the concepts for your music and do you feel like today's hip-hop artists lack such story telling abilities?
Not necessarily. Plenty artists tell better stories than me, honestly (laughs). Again, I wanted to create music that has this ongoing thread of consciousness throughout it. It could be a kind of story telling song like on "So what" which showcases different scenarios in our community and the pressure that a lot of people feel within the context of our community. It could be something that is just an up-tempo, feel good song like "Don't Stop the Movement." There are different approaches to getting to the same place - and that place that I'm trying to get to, is to make life affirming music that people can feel good about and I won't be ashamed of in a few years. I can say I did my part. There are hella people in the game that can't say that. There are tons of folks that make music who will look back on their careers in a few years and wonder what the hell they were doing. The shit that they talk about is stuff they'll call into question when they get a little older or wiser - they'll look back on it. A lot of things are going on not only in hip-hop, but in entertainment in general that people will look back on and wonder what the hell they were doing.
RAPTALK.NET: Especially artists who just follow trends.
Yeah - or reality show hosts (laughs).
RAPTALK.NET: (laughs) No doubt about that. On that track, you rap "these streets can only say so much until they say so what." Explain to us the power and meaning behind that statement?
It's pretty self evident. We can only take so much out before we just give up and before we throw caution to the wind and say that the consequences don't matter when you're under the economic violence that most of us are in our communities. Most people in general are under an economical constraint that is more severe than they've ever known right now in this environment in America. America is harder right now to survive in than it's ever been for a lot of people. Many people that I know are saying this is the worst economic time that they've ever experienced. After a certain amount of time of constantly making concessions and constantly trying to balance all the difficulties that life throws at you - there's a certain breaking point that people reach where they just no longer care about the ramifications of doing dirt, you no longer care about your credit rating, you no longer care about the impact that your actions have on your loved ones when your under constant pressure. That's kind of the tone of that song is intended to reflect.
RAPTALK.NET: OK. As soon as you hear "Blap That Ass Up" the message is clear. Explain to our readers what that message is and let us know what your thoughts are on many recent police brutality stories such as the murder of Sean Bell?
Well "Blap That Ass Up" is another chapter in my ongoing commentary against police brutality. From "Coffee, Donuts and Death" to "Black and Blues" and the "Bring It To Ya" on the Guerilla Funk album to "Blap That Ass Up" on Acid Reflex, there's always commentary on police brutality. I keep doing it because the problem is persistent. You look at Sean Bell, Rodney King and all of these incidents of police brutality that exist and many of them have never gone reported. It's necessary to keep commenting on it. It's become more and more apparent that this occupying force that exists within the black community in America is in full effect. It is becoming less and less tolerant of black people.
RAPTALK.NET: I like that right there. The next track is "The Trap." On this one, you spit game regarding the lifestyle in the trap otherwise known as the ghetto is. What advice would you give to any young children out there who have turned to selling drugs?
There are probably a lot more kids that don't. To me, it's very cut and dry in terms of what we need to do as people and what young people need to do as a whole - and that is really as clichÃ© as it sounds, staying in school and finishing that up and following through to get a higher education. The success level of people who do that - the statistics are as clear as night and day - the more education that you get and the more knowledgeable that you become about what's going on in life and how to navigate it, the better off you will be. It's clear and simple. Hip-Hop is not going to save you - it's not going to get you out of your condition. Sports more often than not is not going to get you out of your condition - and hustling isn't going to get you out of your condition. When people realize that the success rate for folks that get educated is much higher and their chances of success are much higher than trying to rap or ball your way out of their condition, they'll be a lot better off.
RAPTALK.NET: I think a lot kids fail to realize really how few jobs there are in Hip-Hop and sports.
Exactly and that's the point that I'm making. Millions of people want to do what I do for a living. Even I realize that I have a plan B that is in full effect too. I have a college degree and have been active in the financial markets for years. I have a separate income that has been able to supplement what I do in Hip-Hop. I can honestly say that if I was starting in hip-hop right now, I wouldn't do it. I am fortunate because I am an independent artist and have sold a bunch of records, but I was set up by other people first. You have to realize that when I first came on the scene, I was signed to Tommy Boy, and I've been an artist on Priority. I've always been the beneficiary of somebody else's money to set me up - especially when I first started. If I was trying to do it out the gate right now in this environment where way too many people are trying to do what I do, I probably wouldn't do it - especially with music being made available for free. The internet, although making it possible for me to reach a lot of people, is also a great killer of the commerce of art because everything is made available for free. It's becoming much more difficult to survive as an independent in this market.
RAPTALK.NET: That's very honest of you to admit you wouldn't be doing it today if you were a new artist trying to break in.
Well it depends on what your motivation is. I love music and I love hip-hop when it's done right. I probably would do it, but I would not do it on the level that I'm doing it now. I just did a deal with Universal for Guerrilla Funk so we're distributed globally. We have different licenses in different countries for specific markets. I don't know if I could achieve that doing it if I was just starting. It's easy for me to say, "OK I got this new Paris record, let's ship it and ship X amount of units based on my previous sales and based on the fact that I have a name," but if I was brand new and coming out the gate trying to do it, the odds would be almost insurmountable.
RAPTALK.NET: Congratulations on the Universal deal.
Right on, I appreciate it, thank you.
RAPTALK.NET: No problem. On "Get fired up" you spit "what you know about the radio and fake ass clowns with the same ten songs every CD in town." Explain to us what your thoughts on current hip-hop stations and how they operate?
(Laughs) that's right. Current hip-hop radio stations are the ones that play hip-hop music and give it to the people; it seems they're a dying breed. What is keeping hip-hop stations alive are College communities. As far as commercial radio with the acceptance of hip-hop and specifically the underground; anything that is not major labels, it's non-existent. When you touch down in these different markets nationwide and you hear the same ten songs over and over again - by artists that often can't perform live and aren't tried and true within underground circles, it all becomes kind of a farce.
RAPTALK.NET: As for the part regarding "fake ass clowns with the same ten songs every CD in town" do you feel as if most hip-hop songs sound the same right now and there is a lack of creativity? What are your thoughts on that?
That problem has been existing and that has been the case. I've said it before - hip-hop is kept artificially young and artificially dumb by gatekeepers who want to promote a certain agenda and want to make the music as homogenized as possible so that it appeals to the greatest amount of people. We know that the more you try to appeal to everybody, the less you appeal to anybody. It is not that often that artists are allowed to grow and mature in hip-hop and bring their respective support groups along with them. That's why the shelf life of artists is a couple of years and couple of albums at best. When you make this kind of teenage-centric music that only talks about simple shit, there's nothing in it for the listening audience once they grow out of that particular phase. If the only thing that is allowed to filter through to the masses on a commercial level is music that talks about simple shit like "wait til' you see my dick" and simple shit like that, then the music all suffers, the art suffers and there's nothing in it for the fan bases of these artists once they grow out of that immaturity.
RAPTALK.NET: and by gatekeepers I imagine you mean label executives?
Label executives, radio programmers, and a lot of times retail outlets because the amount of shelf space being afforded to CDs is sinking. Retail chains keep disappearing. Retailers at this point are Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Itunes. Back in the day, we had Tower Records and the Warehouse, Music Land, Sam Goody and all of these places that were specific to music no longer exist. The climate is different and when you look to get your music at these retailers such as Best Buy or Target, they usually just carry the top titles; so independent music suffers. When you go to Target and they only carry material that is on the Top 200 billboard chart, many artists aren't afforded the ability to be available on a retail level like that. A lot of people are regulated to the digital - only domain which is oversaturated.
RAPTALK.NET: You do see a lot of artists going independent right now.
A lot of artists are independent right now but what does that mean? The thing with being independent is that we're in an environment now where people have to search out material that they like and that material that they consider to be above the rest and it didn't used to be that way. It's kind of a sad state where people have to put a lot of effort into getting what they want. You don't want to have to work at entertainment (laughs). Entertainment is supposed to be this notion where you can have a good time by putting a record on and just doing your thing. If you have to search for the record and put work into it - a lot of people don't know where to go. You could fish around on itunes I suppose indefinitely. It's the equivalent of buying your groceries online. There used to be a company that allowed you to buy your groceries online and they'd deliver it to your house. That's cool if you knew exactly what you wanted. But there's nothing like going in the store and seeing what you want associated with being in the store. Impulse buys is what got a lot of people over the hump back in the day. You would go in the record store and you would see Vinyl that you didn't know what was about. I can't tell you back in the day how much Def Jam shit I bought just because it said Def Jam on it; back when I could rely on Def Jam to give me what I wanted musically. Anything that Def Jam on it 12 inches, I copped all that shit back in the day because I knew that I could rely on that for the quality that I was looking for; I knew they were bringing me the latest shit that I wanted to hear. I'm not afforded that option anymore. When I touch down somewhere, the shelf space is so limited that there are only a handful of records and most of them aren't hip-hop.
RAPTALK.NET: That track ("Get fired up") has many quotables. Another favorite of mine is "what you know about these rappers on "Cribs" at night, shooting pool with no motherfucking books in sight." Do you feel that the hip-hop genre as a whole lacks knowledge right now? How important do you think it is that hip-hop has important, knowledgeable messages in its music?
(Laughs) man that's it - (begins rapping) "what you know about these rappers on "Cribs" at night, shooting pool with no motherfucking books in sight." It gets no plainer than that. A lot of people don't realize that what you see on "Cribs" is not real in any way. A lot of the houses that you see featured on there are rented. Pretty much across the board, you can expect to see a "Scarface" poster, a pool table and a garage full of unnecessary shit. Those are the concepts that remain constant in all of these "Cribs" episodes. You never see any books. You never see anything that represents real life or reality. You see a refrigerator full of liquor or some shit. It's so cookie cutter in the approach to presenting what we are taught to believe and how we are supposed to act. It would be laughable if it wasn't sad because it's so influential on so many people. Some say look beyond the surface and all issues are smoke and mirrors and none of it is real and all of it is entertainment that is force-fed to us in a particular way to reflect what gatekeepers believe the black community is suppose to be about.
RAPTALK.NET: George Clinton appears on the album - tell us about how that collaboration came about, who else features on the album and who is featured on the production end?
I produced the album in its entirety. The other feature on the record is Chuck D of Public Enemy. George Clinton came about because I am working on a funk project that is intended to emulate the production techniques of Parliament. I grew up on P-Funk and that is my all-time favorite musical act, ever. I got a homeboy at Def Jam that put me in contact with George (Clinton) and I flew him out to San Francisco and we hit it off instantly. It came full circle to me - even more so than the Public Enemy project that I produced. Dealing with George (Clinton) was so surreal because here was this man that is solely responsible for my interest in music period, let alone the creative direction that I've decided to take. It was difficult to comprehend that we were getting down because I grew up on those classic albums; all the Funkadelic shit was all flashing before my eyes. When I had him up here, he was digging the musical direction I was going in.
RAPTALK.NET: On "True" you rap "I'm a threat â€˜cause mainstream rejection didn't spook me, rappers tried to make me switch and couldn't move me." Do you think rappers are too quick to conform to what's hot and what the current trends are?
I think that's more evident in the pool of producers that people pick from than it is the shit that they talk about. That's the direction I see music go in. For a long time now, you've had a hand full of producers that are doing everybody. It started in R&B a while ago when Teddy Riley was doing everybody. Those same trends have become reflective in hip-hop. Now you have a hand full of hip-hop producers that do most of the music you hear on the radio and it suffers because certain trends develop that other people follow because they feel like they need to adopt these same techniques to be heard and to be relevant in the game - like this T-Pain talk box thing that I hear on everybody's record now. That's not necessary man. It dates you and makes all this material sound similar. I don't need to hear Mariah Carey sing through the T-Pain talk box.
RAPTALK.NET: I interviewed an artist the other day that said when T-Pain did it, was creative and agreed that is now just getting out of hand.
That's the point that I'm making. You have people that can sing. I don't even know if Mariah did it, I'm just throwing that name out there. That effect is a pitch corrector for people that can't sing; that's supposed to get you in tune. The more gurgling and shit you hear, the more out of tune these people are singing. There are people that don't need that that can make music that won't irritate you; when I hear that now, I'm irritated because I've heard it too much. It's something that people are utilizing as a crutch. I understand staying in your lane and wanting to be safe but what it boils down to is, what do you work for? Are you doing the art because you want to move people? Are you doing the art for yourself? Are you doing art for other people? Are you doing art because you have something that you want to say or are you just going along for the ride? That's what it boils down to. I could make gangster rap records or party music all day long; whatever at the time was in vogue. I could have made those records all day. It's second nature for me to make music at this point - I've been doing it for so long. If I wanted to chase trends and take the easy way out and make music just for the sake of making music, I could have sold even more records and gone even further in my career than taking the stance that I take. It's swimming upstream in this environment where it seems that people want to lose themselves in music, and it amazes me when I hear people say that I'm capitalizing on misery with records like Acid Reflex, Sonic Jihad or "Bush Killer." Some say that I am capitalizing on revolutionary thought with these themes that I talk about. Like there's some huge financial windfall by doing what I do. (Laughs) I'm choosing the hardest route to take when it comes to making music. When people say that, I just look at them like they don't know what the fuck they're talking about.
RAPTALK.NET: That would be an incorrect accusation to direct at you.
I got it a lot with Sonic Jihad. People said I was capitalizing on the 9/11 tragedy and all this shit. I had a lot of people say that to me - especially with the album cover of the airplane going into the white house. I got questioned for it and accused of just trying to make a quick buck. Nobody has made a bigger or quicker buck than the US government when it comes to 9/11 especially with it being a self-inflected wound. I point to that fact; nobody has profited more off of tragedy than the US government.
RAPTALK.NET: You're speaking on the government right now. It's clear that you are a very intelligent individual who knows what's up politically. How do you feel about the upcoming election? Who are you supporting and why?
I am supporting Barack Obama from a distance.
RAPTALK.NET: From a distance? Interesting.
I say from a distance because, as a black man, of course I'm excited about the prospect of somebody black being at the helm for a change. But change for the sake of change? I've never been on that page. I know that Barack (Obama) is inspirational to many people and has gotten many people of color involved in the process and has been inspirational to a lot of young people. I can't discount the fact that, that is important. But in terms of some of the things he's said lately - oil drilling, the willingness to allow the troops to stay later, the unwavering endorsement of Israel - those things - none of that shit sits well with me. What I'm hoping for out of Barack Obama is that he's saying these things simply to get in office and once he gets in, he'll do right by us. That might be naive, but I'm holding out hope that he'll further the cause for social justice. If he really does have the activist background that people keep saying he does - I haven't done enough research on him to really know - then I'm hoping he does the right thing. One thing that concerns me about him is the fact that everybody co-signed for him immediately. All of these Washington insiders began riding behind him and he became the kind of democratic golden boy; that is cause for concern from me. These people are really about maintaining a status quo, and for them to get behind him and endorse him whole-heartedly is cause for concern. Other things play in to this here that are equally important to me. Seeing a person of color at the top for a change and seeing the impact that has on us globally and seeing somebody that smart and eloquent and having the ability for analytical thought, well, all that is important. The test is how America's racism effects what is going on. There is no reason for Barack Obama to lose in this environment where housing is fucked up and education is fucked up and gas prices are hella high and the economy is upside down - everything is the worst that it's been in recent memory for a lot of people. There's no reason for him to be tied with John McCain right now, there's no other reason than racism. The test now is, is America going to allow its racism to trump its current economic condition? We'll see.
RAPTALK.NET: I like that right there and want to end the interview on that note. Do you have any last words for the fans before I let you go?
Demand more for your entertainment. Come by and visit www.guerillafunk.com and become a part of a community that represents a break from the norm in music, and thank you for the continued support. I appreciate y'all - it's all good! Log onto www.raptalk.net!