By Brenda Nelson-Strauss, BlackGrooves.org
One of the most politically charged rappers to emerge in the 1990s, Paris is perhaps best known for his militant albums The Devil Made Me Do It and Sleeping with the Enemy. The latter album, originally scheduled for release prior to the 1992 election (but withheld by the label), featured the incendiary track “Bush Killa,” aimed at the incumbent, President George H.W. Bush. Now, prior to what may be the most contentious election in US history amidst a pandemic and social unrest, the Bay Area rapper returns with Safe Space Invader. Released on Paris’ own Guerilla Funk label, there is no one to hold him back and nothing is off-limits.
In a November 15, 2016 op-ed for Vice magazine, “A Racist White House Doesn’t Surprise Black People,” Paris posed the question, “Why is it still surprising when America does something despicable?” He went on to say, “Things have to get worse before they get any better. Time will tell whether or not the Trump administration is as damaging as many fear it will be. Either way, I’m prepared.” Well, time has run out, and the verdict is in. Paris unleashes his scathing rebuke of the current occupant of the White House on “Baby Man Hands.” Casting Trump as “just the average pro-white simpleton, f**k boy birthright made out of privilege,” Paris lashes out on the hook: “baby man hand bitch, baby man hands with the grift, baby man hands with the ban on the Muslim, baby man hands takin’ parents from kids.”
Another album highlight, “Nobody Move,” uses animation in the style of noted Black Panther Party artist Emory Douglas, drawing parallels between the social unrest and authoritarianism of the 1960s and 2020s. In a recent Twitter post, Paris stated, “The look, feel, and relevance of the Black Panthers’ spirit holds more weight now than they ever have, a perfect fit to combat the vicious racism and political tribalism we’re experiencing in 2020 America under Trump.” On the hard hitting track, “Walk Like a Panther,” he rages at the younger generation of rappers who avoid socially conscious topics and implores them to rise to the occasion, to “stand up and answer.”
On Safe Space Invader, Paris once again serves as a force of resistance, challenging those who may attempt to retreat from ideas and perspectives that are at odds with their own worldview. Furthermore, he hammers the point that there are no safe spaces when you are Black in America – not from a global pandemic, not from police brutality, not from economic hardship and oppression, and not from the explosive racism incited by the White House. Thirty years after his debut album, Paris remains true to the cause.