Paris...Holy War on Wax
By Bruce Banter and Eyecalone, Playahata.com
Playahata.com: A lot of people, younger teenagers especially, probably aren't all that familiar with Paris. They don't realize you are a veteran in hip-hop. In fact, we understand that your upcoming release, "Sonic Jihad", will be your 5th album. As a youth in hip-hop what artist or person inspired you to want to be an artist?
Paris: My hip-hop influences early on were Cool J, Rakim, and PE. My non-hip-hop influences were P-Funk, Stevie Wonder, Cameo and The Time.
Playahata.com: Your First album, "The Devil Made Me Do It," was released in 1990 on Tommy Boy Records, and it seemed that nothing could slow your rise to stardom, but you were derailed. What happened?
Paris: The corporate machine is what happened. Traditional conservative media outlets decided that they no longer wanted to embrace messages that were in opposition to their collective agenda.
Playahata.com: The NY Times did a write up on you April 3rd. In the Times piece, it says that you "left a distribution contract with Priority Records in1995 because [you] didn't want to take [your] music in a more 'gangsta' - and thus more commercial - direction". If that's the case then what exactly did Priority do openly and subtlety to try to foster this change in you and from what you could tell what was the reaction of other artists who were receiving this kind of pressure?
Paris: Well, as far as overt coercion, nothing really happened. There was simply an increased emphasis on negative shit, in addition to resistance and difficulty in getting approvals for everything from artwork to tour support. So we decided to go our separate ways.
Playahata.com: Was your battle with corporate censorship the reason you decided to release this album independently and through your website Guerrillafunk.com?
Paris: Absolutely. It's become more difficult than ever to be heard now, especially with media consolidation and what's become an obvious attempt to flood the market with bullshit and negativity. Besides, if the Dixie Chicks are feeling heat, what do you the reaction to "Sonic Jihad" will be? We have to control our own. We are at war.
Playahata.com: In light of the way record companies routinely rip off artists, do you think this could prove to be a better financial decision? And what promise do you think the Internet holds for freeing hip-hop from the grasp of corporations?
Paris: Well the internet is a useful tool, but as of yet it's not an end-all solution. Many people don't have access to it, and its importance is often overstated. Indeed, only 15% of the population of the planet have telephones, so to think that folks, in general, have computers w/high-speed access, etc. is a stretch. I still need traditional outlets and have secured distribution for the projects I have forthcoming.
Playahata.com: "Guerrilla" the way you spell it represents a 60's generation revolutionary term, referring to people who can live off the land or get busy in the trenches. What are you trying to convey by naming your website Guerrillafunk and what were your reasons for launching it?
Paris: It's a throwback to the entire mindset of exactly what you just mentioned. The name of the game is control. Control of information, control of hip-hop, our culture, media and how we’re represented and presented. Fuck this poison that we’re being fed. I’m doing my best to redefine black manhood for us.
Playahata.com: Also in that recent NY Times piece about you, they gave you some subtle props by calling you a "complex character," I guess that's their way of saying you are smart for a rapper. They go on to mention your website and its powerful proactive presentation of information on a wide variety of topics from politics to personal finance? That's a lot to have on your plate. What do you think has equipped you to take on these varying topics?
Paris: Well, I read a lot. Most folks don't. Too much reliance on electronic entertainment and spoon-fed media has most of us lethargic and in a constant state of blissful ignorance. Brainwashing has taken its toll on us in a major way, but I can see through it all. So, I do my best, especially since I’m educated--both formally and otherwise--in what I talk about. The white corporate elite wants nothing more than a consumer-minded working class that it can feed off of. I present an alternative to what we’re given.
Playahata.com: There's been a lot of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and thus a lot of negative coverage on the Church, so much so, that some priest stopped wearing their collars in public. Since the rap scene has changed into a modern-day minstrel show with popular acts (those getting the radio/video play), do you feel the need to distance yourself from the commercial rap scene or state to people what you are about? And what topics do you plan to tackle on your upcoming release?
Paris: I don't distance myself from us because I AM US. That's exactly what those calling the shots want--to marginalize people who speak directly to and with the people in an attempt to minimize the importance of what we have to say. I get down with us on a level that we can relate to because I don't put myself above anyone else. And to answer your question, on "Sonic Jihad" I cover the New World Order, the manmade origins of AIDS, military lies and propaganda, police brutality, the "War on Terror" and the embarrassing state that hip hop is currently in. Real talk...
Playahata.com: What rappers have been very supportive of you or do you have projects to work with musically in the future? I would like you to elaborate and give specific names if you can, because on CDs these days so many of these commercial rappers have 16 tracks and on 14 of the tracks they have guest appearances by every Tom, Dick, and Harry artist. However, it seems like groups/artists who rap about more meaningful things usually seem to be riding solo or have few guest appearances by others?
Paris: Sonic Jihad features Dead Prez, Public Enemy, and Kam -- all artists whose positions I agree with on many things.
Playahata.com: More on guest appearances. With so many people doing guest appearances I've occasionally noticed that people who you don't exactly expect to find on songs together are recording together and sometimes saying things on each other's albums that the other artist may not necessarily endorse. How much control would you try and exercise over the content of guest appearances on your album?
Paris: Well, I wouldn't control the content. I just know it makes sense to choose who I work with wisely and to always represent strength.
Playahata.com: Also, have any rappers or industry people attempted to distance themselves from you due to your political stances?
Paris: Other than labels, no.
Playahata.com: Rap magazines like The Source and XXL usually love controversial issues. You have been and are going to be embroiled in a lot of controversy regarding your music and album cover. Have any of these magazines contacted you to let you "kick some ballistics" or are they waiting for the mainstream press to start sweating you before they holla?
Paris: Well, we’ll see. I don't control them, but hopefully, they’ll understand that, as major media sources that are influential to the community, they should allow the same amount of coverage to artists that have content in their material. Who knows, though, especially in this environment. Anything goes.
Playahata.com: Boots Riley from the Coup also had controversial artwork on his album cover. He had a skyscraper exploding just before 9/11. Eleven websites began running anti-Boots Riley & the Coup campaigns ranging from political interest such as townhall.com to financial interest such as capitalismmagazine.com Due to record label/public pressure he eventually changed the cover artwork and there was no fallout. Nobody (well at least publicly) thought he sold out because he changed the cover, however you refuse to change your cover artwork. Are you ready for the backlash and complaints and why do you feel the album cover art is important?
Sonic Jihad LP CoverParis: I could give a fuck, really. People need to be complaining and doing something about this out of control, non-elected killing machine that's terrorizing the planet--not rap records. But, by the same token, I know that they know how influential rap is, and that's why they hate on it. But keep in mind, most people who bitch about it wouldn't buy it anyway. Townhall.com? Please. I KNOW they don't want none. Especially Armstrong Williams--his ass is still sore from the last time we debated on Sonia Live on CNN several years ago. People and organizations in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, anyway. NONE of their self-righteous posturings hold up under scrutiny. But they all keep on because they have comfort in numbers--numbers that result from the propaganda that everyone buys into. Lies are now being exposed to the point where people are choosing to believe what the WANT to believe, not necessarily the truth. So a lot of times the division line falls along racial and class lines.
Playahata.com: As censored as the ideas the mainstream media allows us to be exposed to are, you were able to get a small feature in the times recently and I understand you also did Countdown to Iraq w/Lester Holt on MSNBC a short time before Bush delivered his State of the Union address back in January. Do you think you would have been able to get recognized by either with a more mundane album cover?
Paris: No. I make material and art that's intended to get that ass and make folks notice.
Playahata.com: Unfortunately I found out late and didn't see the program. What was the experience of doing the MSNBC show like? Were you allowed to make your points? And how were you treated when the cameras were off?
Paris: Well, I can't speak on Lester because he was pretty indifferent. He asked the standard questions that I expected, and I’m sure he has never heard any of my material. I’m also certain that he doesn't script the questions he asks in interviews. So, yeah, I was surprised at the initial exposure, but there's never enough time to talk about what's needed in a situation like that. And the camera crew showed nothing but love for what I had to say from our satellite location.
Playahata.com: Conservative talk show hosts Bill O'Reilly has recently been spending a lot of time attacking rappers on his show, The O'Reilly Factor. What do you think of pundits like him?
Paris: They only pick on the indefensible, so it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Of course, they exercise selective moral outrage. A rapper comes out with a record about raping his mom and they object. Well, shit, who wouldn't? I object to that bullshit too, but I don't necessarily blame the artists. Most of these motherfuckas don't know too much about anything, and a lot of them--often grown men--talk about shit that a 12-year old would be concerned with. My beef with conservative pundits is that they don't openly criticize things that matter, like corporate endorsement of the entertainment poison that afflicts us, or our out-of-control government and it's racist genocidal policies. I’ve never seen Bill get on rappers for endorsing black-on-black crime, or get on Fox (his parent company) for the negativity and immoral shit they put forth as entertainment (“Cops," "Paradise Hotel," etc.).
Playahata.com: Back to the music, this new album seems to be like a rebirth of sorts in terms of getting back on many people's hip-hop radar. Once again your prominence seems to be colliding with a Bush being in the White House. Is this a coincidence? And with all the things going on, in terms of the attack on Iraq and repression of Dissent in the U.S., do you think this is a product of a Bush being in the White House or does it speak to a larger issue?
Paris: Bush's dizzy ass is now a liability for the interests he represents. He's simply too much of an incompetent fuck-up. Believe, this situation is much larger than him, and the objective of the conservative corporate elite is and always has been the preservation and expansion of the status quo and their position in it. So really, the fact that he's in office is just part of the larger picture.
Playahata.com: I'm pretty sure you heard about it, especially since you're from the Bay Area, but police recently opened fire on peaceful, legal, anti-war protesters with rubber bullets, and other "non-lethal" weapons in Oakland. There also was a mass arrest of legal anti-war protesters in New York. What do you think is the significance of these events?
Paris: The battle lines are being drawn, and the notion that police presence in our communities is not for our benefit is becoming clearer and clearer to many.
Playahata.com: Let me go out of character for a second and turn into a Stan for a minute and ask you to plug the release date of your new upcoming album Sonic Jihad. When, where and how can people get it? Do you have any plans to tour nationally or perform internationally?
Paris: The official in-store release date is September 23, but I will probably make it available to my online subscriber base sooner. Shipments of the first single, "Field Nigga Boogie," go out next week to DJs and college radio. And, yes, I will be touring worldwide to support it.
Playahata.com: I know you've probably answered this kind of question a million times, but you know we got to ask it. What do you say to people who call the message "anti-American" or accuse you of being a "conspiracy theorist"?
Paris: It's more anti-American to fall in line with the party line than it is to question the motives of our bloodthirsty dictatorship, and the biggest conspiracy of all is on your TV 24/7.
Playahata.com: Any closing words for our audience?
Paris: Embrace independent thought and look beyond the surface of what you’re given as information every day. Become internet savvy and learn the truth about what's going on around you. If you get all of your info from TV and the newspaper then you’re ill-informed. If you need assistance in finding alternate sources of information, then please visit me and subscribe to www.guerrillafunk.com.