Paris - Safe Space Invader
Allow me to preface this review by saying Paris has a fairly large back catalog. From circa 1993 Guerilla Funk until 2015's Pistol Politics album, I am not well versed. A few quick listens, not an in-depth review. If you are interested in this type of hip hop, I recommend visiting that era of Paris's work. After a few listens, I will be looking at those releases more closely.
The latest, Safe Space Invader, is out, and it is as high-quality material as his debut The Devil Made Me Do It or Sleeping With The Enemy, which I have listened to more. Safe Space Invader opens with "Bang Bang." This song is smooth, angry, and has the west coast/bay area feel you may know from Paris already. Sleek and mean.
'Why Reconcile?' is a tense yet slick track with serious low end growls. It shifts into a groove like a march-like feel, and by the end, it's very P-Funk inspired.
It's as if someone who studied Bernie Worrell lent some keyboard playing to the mix - handclaps and bird sounds straight from Parliament's "Aqua Boogie."
Fluted out phrases with drum stomps (flute on this track and next). Very musical, very cool.
Next, track "Press On" is like many other songs on this album, smooth but angry. "Press On" features even more flute sounds than "Why Reconcile," which gives it that smooth 70's feel. Any naysayers saying Paris can't be musical can fuck off.
This is the most musical Paris LP I have heard to date.
Before this LP releases, Paris has "Baby Man Hands" and "Nobody Move" as singles. "Nobody Move," musically, is a better song, in my opinion. Here are a few reasons. The super low-end bass. Not quite as low as the kind that Too Short may have used, but seems lower than a bass guitar. Aside from menacing, pulsing, low end, other Scarface grooves that have the intensity of the first Paris LP The Devil Made Me Do It. DJ Scratching, a rare thing in the hip hop I hear lately.
Anyone who is using skillful scratching in 2020, I applaud.
A sample from the cult movie The Warriors. A secondary counter bass line that plays well with the main pulse. I don't know theory well enough, but it may descend chromatically. Paris disses Kanye and man buns. Paris targets the power structure and Trump. I can go on and on about "Nobody Move."
For an added visual effect, video link here. Not for the weak or MAGA types. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um1TySCK0Fc&list=RDUm1TySCK0Fc&index=1
"Nobody Move" is the best hip hop song I have heard in a long time.
To its credit, "Baby Man Hands" is a lyrical storm. The beat is an up beat R&B dance beat. It's urgent. There are vocal efforts and samples that are from Parliament-Funkadelic. Hard to mess that up. I should say for someone like Paris who has been in music this long, his P-Funk references are on point. Solid three minutes even of funk and bagging on Trump.
On "Chain Reaction," Ms. Monet lends guest vocals. This is one of the most R&B flavored songs on Safe Space Invader, yet it is of higher quality than 90 percent of tracks that try to meld hip hop and skillful, soulful singing together. Unsure if it was intentional, but the background vocals remind me of Brothers Johnson's "Strawberry Letter 23." Bass guitar line fits like peas and carrots.
"Return of the Vanguard" has fewer layers and is drum and bass-heavy. "Ancestors talk to 'em" could be a mantra or militant march chant. It's remarkable to me how danceable this and many of the tracks are on Safe Space Invader. Conversely, this doesn't mean that said beats take any of the blunt, menacing force from the songs. This is not like the mid 90's hip hop in which R&B was merged. Paris merges this with killer beats, intensity, and his message. It blends successfully and well.
"Turned the Key" features more G-Funk grooves and a guest T-K.A.S.H. (guest from 2015's Pistol Politics record). It sounds like it could be channeling Dr. Dre's The Chronic sounds. ("Lil Ghetto Boy," and others.)
"Walk Like a Panther" sounds muscular and strong, like how a panther moves. Spoken word and cascading downward bass and synth open this song. At this point in Safe Space Invader, Paris has not lyrically faltered. He doesn't the whole time.
Paris brings it on this one. In under three minutes, regardless if you speak English, you know this guy's not fucking around on the mic. He means business.
"Somethin' 'Bout the West Coast" closes down Safe Space Invader. The scratching and "ain't nobody looking out for us, but us" a strong opening. There are plucky strings and a guitar feedback drone giving some background noise. Although this is a strong piece by itself, I would have closed Safe Space Invader out with a more explosive or abrupt finale. This doesn't take away from the LP that much at all, just my preference. Paris is so smooth and intense throughout; I would have closed with a "Bang Bang" style song or "Return Of The Vanguard." That may be my only critique of Safe Space Invader.
I don't usually rate with numbers, but this time I'd say this is a 91 / 100