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Paris: Rap's Most Controversial Emcee

By Jessica Koslow, New York Press

Paris is no stranger to controversy. So it's no surprise that his latest single "What Would You Do?"- an anti-establishment anthem that indicts the Bush administration for orchestrating and profiting from the events of 9/11- is creating quite a buzz in his backyard, the Bay Area. The politically charged mic controller uses his music to rage righteous warfare against everything he sees as faulty. Warfare he couldn't wage punching a clock as an investment banker, which he's been for the past four years. Maybe you heard about the militant MC in 1990 when the video for the title track from his debut, The Devil Made Me Do It was banned from MTV. Or two years later, when his inflammatory single "Bush Killa" from his second CD, Sleeping With The Enemy prompted his label, Tommy Boy to release him. Paris put out his album independently through his label, Scarface. "At the time [1992], there was a presidential election," the California(sic) - born intellectual explains. "Time Warner, which owned Tommy Boy, was already under fire from Ice-T's "Cop Killer" and that made everything else fall under greater scrutiny. I was distressed at first because my first album sold 300,000 units and I had a good set up for my second. But getting let go and putting out my own CD was a blessing in disguise."

Fast forward to 2002. Paris is self-producing his fifth radical manifesto, Sonic Jihad, which is set for a mid-summer release And the past four years - his previous album is 1998's Unleashed - including 9/11, have given him lots to talk about. "There's been a drastic reduction in rights as a result of the passage of the Patriot Act," he points out. "You see it in increased police presence, you see a rapid expansion in government policy and power. A lot of the things that the government used to do in secret, they don't have to anymore because it's legalized. The Patriot Act in effect makes it common knowledge that the government now can do basically whatever it wants to do. This war on terrorism will be synonymous with the war on drugs, which is the same thing as a war on oppressed people. This is detrimental to the hip-hop generation because we are the ones that are called to enlist in the arm services. It affects us because we are the ones that have an adverse relationship with the police. We are the ones that are victims of police brutality and oppressed people tend to be the ones who speak out against things. And even when this war on terrorism is over, very rarely is legislation that's been passed in a hurry ever revoked. It's scary times that we live under now.

Like Public Enemy, who he just collaborated with on "Give the Peeps What They Need" for PE's upcoming album, Revolverlution (July 23), Paris is always fighting the power, even behind a desk. "I went to school for investment banking," reveals the highly motivated musico. He earned a degree in economics from the University of California-Davis. "I went to work in banking because I wanted to learn more about what people complain about. I utilize it from a Robin Hood point of view. I am of the mindset that revolution will be economic rather than an actual toppling of the system. You use the tools that you have available to you. Anybody that's a true soldier will make themselves adaptable to any situation." After college, Paris joined the Nation of Islam and when he felt he had outgrown it, he continued soaking up alternate sources of information and media. Today, he still feels his journey to enlightenment is not yet complete. "It's an ongoing realization that you really just don't know anything. I'm never satisfied with what I do know. You can never be complacent. I always want to know more."

As the author of "Bush Killa," many fans ask if there's a "Bush Killa Part II" in the works - or maybe a "Dubya Killa." But Paris is undecided. "'Bush Killa' was a revenge fantasy to kill the president," he says. "It was my way to get my point across. But in retrospect, the fantasy diminished the importance of my point because it was all posturing. 'What Would You Do' is by far scarier. There's no implied violence, no glorification of guns and violence, just undiluted facts. Just raw truth. 'Coffee, Donuts & Death' and 'Bush Killa' got the most fire from Sleeping With The Enemy. But by the same token, songs about respecting and protecting black women like 'Assata's Song' were overlooked. I'm trying not to fall into that trap again."

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