Paris Burning

By Errol Nazareth, The Toronto Sun

Go ahead, tell Paris his single "Bush Killa" is indefensible.

Then stand back as the rapper shoots off a list of statistics - courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau - documenting Bush's record on civil rights, education and housing.

"Bush's policies of treachery against black people," Paris feels, amount to a secret war against black America.

But is this fantasy song about the assassination of Bush okay use of artistic expression?

"It's not an actual assassination attempt and it's not meant to incite black youth," Paris maintains. "It's a character assassination and people need to realize that."

I think they should get as upset at why the record was made as they are at why it exists," the Oakland-based artist says. Bush's record is far scarier than mine could ever be."

Confrontational, provocative and disturbing, Paris' new record, Sleeping With The Enemy, is an intense follow-up to his 1990 debut, The Devil Made Me Do It. Fusing focused rage and radical black politics with jarring music, Paris has detonated the hardest hip-hop disc this year.

"The only language (the U.S.) understands is violence, and unfortunately the only time people will take notice of you is when you act violently," Paris says. "I've chosen to be violent only in my record. And people should be glad I vent my anger in my music, as opposed to going out: and murdering people."

A resident of the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, Paris' work has always been informed by the militant group's ideology and imagery.

"I agreed with their notion that black people need to do for ourselves, look out for one another and defend ourselves," Paris says. "The problems that afflicted us then have increased ten-fold today."

Bound to get lost in the debates Sleeping is set to spark is Paris' strong critique of the African American community. He decries drug abuse, "black on black violence and the lack of respect for women and life" in "Thinka 'Bout It" and "The Days of Old."

"All of the blame can't be placed on others, 'cause there's a lot of irresponsibility in our community," Paris says. "I'd be doing a major disservice to my people if I refused to comment on that."

Paris describes Assata's Song, a beautiful R n' B/hip-hop jam that addresses a burning Issue:

"It's an emergency call for respect for women" but specifically for black women," he says. "I met Assata Shakur (a former Black Panther) when I visited Cuba. To me, she's the embodiment of a strong, black woman."

So why does he deliberately design his music to be incendiary?

"The entire idea of good art is to move you emotionally," Paris says. You're in bad shape if you make a record and it doesn't move anybody.

"The intention is to spark discussion between people."

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