By Matthew Alley, Blackgrooves.org
Pistol Politics, the newest release from Paris, continues the San Francisco Bay rapper’s socially-conscious stance that often borders on provocative. Even though the album’s soundscape pulls strongly from the classic G-Funk era, Paris uses this sprawling 27-song double album to update his treatment of some of the perennial themes in his work—gun violence, police brutality, and systemic issues that lead to the difficulties of black urban life—in order to speak to the political climate of the United States in 2015.
While many black artists have released efforts that express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement this year, Paris takes his political expression one step further than others who obliquely reference the movement do, choosing instead to provide an insightful examination of some of the root causes and systemic issues that have become a persistent part of political discourse in the United States. “Night of the Long Knives” takes the highly publicized killings of black citizens by police officers as a point of departure for Paris’s continued critique of the system, featuring a video that —in the rapper’s provocative style—contains images of fantasy street shootouts between armed black citizens and police. These sequences appear to propose a militant solution (couched in the rhetoric of self-defense) to a problem that, in Paris’s estimation, is not being solved due to his contention that “The only language America speaks is violence.”
Paris continues these themes on “Buck, Buck, Pass,” a song that charts a gun’s life from the assembly line through its inevitable use as an instrument of death and destruction. In this song, he highlights elements of the failed system–a mix of racism, profiteering, and political posturing–that enables these weapons to be used so freely. He illustrates this point my name-checking NRA chairman Wayne LaPierre from the gun’s perspective, declaring “You better hope we don’t come for ya,” in a delicious bit of poetic irony. He also offers a forceful critique of the Obama administration’s policies on “Change We Can Believe In” from the perspective of a member of the disaffected black community who voted for the current president, noting that “They hate him ‘cause he’s black; we hate him ‘cause he’s wrong.” A “Redux” version of Paris’s 2009 “Martial Law” is included as well, featuring dead prez and Kam. He pulls other themes from the zeitgeist as a means to illustrate his political vision, quoting Jeff Daniel’s now-famous monologue from HBO’s The Newsroom on “The Greatest,” and referencing classic soul music with a sample of Marvin Gaye’s socially- conscious “What’s Going On” on “Pop’s Groove.”
Musically, this album predominantly pulls from the G-Funk tradition, with fat bass lines and the sound of sirens pervading the album. However, the production seems beside the point at times, as Paris’s true calling seems to always have been his role as a socially-conscious militant, with his activist speech simply taking the form of rap music. The production is solid, but ultimately is less remarkable than the ideological work that the rapper does with his lyrics. Pistol Politics is a powerful radical left indictment of the American social and political system. This album begs to be carefully heard and slowly digested.