By Damon Muhammad, The Final Call
Long gone, it seems, are the days when hip hop music was expressive of the constant struggles that face the Black community. The voices of consciousness that were once so prevalent in the culture have been reduced to a whisper amidst the seemingly senseless music that appears to do nothing more than promote a variety of products and trends. There are a handful of soldiers in this war of the worlds who continue to cry out for freedom, justice, and equality. Among those who continue to fight on the side of truth is a brother by the name of Paris.
The San Francisco Bay area lyricist made his debut in 1990 with the release of the single, "The Devil Made Me Do It" and an album of the same title. In 1992, Paris was released from the now-defunct Tommy Boy Records, which was distributed by Time Warner, just prior to the release of his sophomore effort "Sleeping With The Enemy."
He later released the LP on his Scarface Records, a label he formed. He released his "Guerilla Funk" LP in 1993 through an artist and distribution deal with Priority Records. "Unleashed," his 4th LP, was released with disappointing sales on the now-defunct Whirling Records. His latest, "Sonic Jihad," is released and distributed through his newly-formed Guerilla Funk Recordings and the website www.guerillafunk.com. This truly is underground hip hop.
The title "Sonic Jihad" is thought-provoking, in and of itself. "As a Muslim, I am aware of the meaning of the term 'jihad' and its implications for both the inner strength (greater jihad) and for resolution of external conduct," Paris said in an interview when asked about the reason for the title.
"Break The Grip Of Shame" from Paris's debut LP, The Devil Made Me Do It. The album also offers songs such as "Ain't No Love," featuring Los Angeles recording artist KAM; "Lay Low" and "You Know My Name" which express disdain for materialism, sexism and pseudo-gangster images promoted in the popular hip hop music today.
"Major White corporations have embraced the worst elements of our music and our culture and now inundate our communities with negative imagery and messages to sell us their products. They dictate the tastes of the street and consequently our culture because life imitates art in our communities," the artist says.
The song entitled, "AWOL" is a tale of a young Black man who joined the armed forces only to be awakened by the realities of military life and warfare. It begins with this brother being seduced by a televised commercial promising adventure, money for college and an opportunity to see the world. After a grueling, monotonous experience in basic training, this story ends with the brother returning home in a wheelchair as a result of a paralyzing injury acquired in a battle on foreign soil. Many are "fooled by the misconception that the only other viable ways for young people of color to make money are sports, rap, and dope," Paris adds.
Another song, "Agents of Repression," takes a dialogue segment from the 1996 movie, The Long Kiss Goodnight: "You're telling me that you're going to fake some terrorist thing just to scare some money out of Congress? Well, unfortunately, I have no idea how to fake killing 4,000 people so we're just going to have to do it for real. We'll blame it on the Muslims naturally ... then I'll get my funding."
This track leaves you wondering how much knowledge and/or involvement did the United States government has concerning the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001.
The privilege of ownership of the record label through which he has released this LP affords him the freedom of expressions that many artists don't have, including the graphic images he uses for the CD jacket, as well as the website.
"What always amazes me about the art, though, is that some people act as though it's extremely offensive to their sensibilities when I direct aggression towards those who oppress us, but (they) remain silent when entertainment is released every day that glorifies Black-on-Black violence, pimp culture, the degradation of our women and drug use."
He continued, "Since hip hop is now a global phenomenon, I treat it very carefully because I know the magnitude of its influence. The one thing that I cannot control, however, is retail's acceptance of the products I release."
A global phenomenon, indeed. Paris plans to begin touring in late January with scheduled performances in select major U.S. cities and countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and parts of the African continent.
From the intro "Ave Bushani," an eerie track that reminds you of a horror movie, to "Spilt Milk" which features reggae artist Capelton, this project is filled with the anger that is derived from the 449 years of injustice and cruel treatment we have experienced since we landed on the shores of this nation as captives in the holds of ships.
In addition to the appearances of KAM and Capelton, the LP also features the lyrical freedom soldiers Public Enemy and Dead Prez. The language may be a bit explicit, but if you can look past the manner in which he expresses his views and listen to the message of this brother, you will definitely benefit from knowing that hip hop is still on the frontlines in this struggle for freedom.