By Ray Garraty, Dusted
After five years of silence, Paris returns with an album which promises to invade your safe space. Even if it does so for half an hour, it leaves you undisturbed with a bad conscience at best.
Since 1994, political hip hop has been pretty much dead. The Watts riots gave birth to the last species of that breed: Ice Cube’s Predator, Kam’s Neva Again and Paris’ own Guerilla Funk. After that, rap, like any other music genre (and not only music, all life around), became depoliticized. A few “conscious” rap albums were too much focused on individual growth to be really political. Paris himself dropped a new CD every five or six years but he was just a single soldier unable to lead a meaningful battle.
Safe Space Invader mostly repeats what Paris did in 1992 with Sleeping With the Enemy. The latter was slated for release before the 1992 presidential election, but two controversial singles caused a delay. Killing presidents and cops on wax was off limit then, but that was what Paris did in his songs. Safe Space Invader also was released before the elections, but instead of controversy it caused an ignorant silence. Hardly anybody gave it a listen. This time Paris doesn’t kill presidents and cops but merely asks to throw them in jail. He still keeps a militaristic posture, still brings Black Panthers’ wisdom to his songs, still holds anti-white position. It may sound too radical, yet the overall problem with the album is that it’s not radical enough.
Taken as a political message, Safe Space Invader is a mess. “Baby Man Hands,” his anti-Trump tirade, doesn’t differ much from an op-ed in a liberal newspaper. (Paris even falls for Russia-gate here). On some other tracks, his rhetoric is very close to Republican. If he calls for arms, he follows with a plea for peace. Paris always saw through the people in power to the structures of power. On “Something ‘Bout the West Coast” he’s lashing out at “woke and enlightened muthafuckas,” that is, banks, politicians and police. Basically, everyone — and no one.
Paris demands a militaristic approach to taking power. He stands against hashtag activism and peaceful activism. On one of the best songs on the album, Paris raps on the hook “Fuck your views, fuck your likes, walk like a panther.” This is hypocritical at least in two aspects. Firstly, before his album release Paris plunged into social media to promote Safe Space Invader, getting likes and reposts. Secondly, a lot of his hooks are just sung hashtags.
The most contradictory aspect of this album is that it offers (not quite) revolutionary sloganeering instead of revolution. It’s not even that the songs are of a “feel good” faux radical variety. They are biting and angry a lot of times. It’s that Paris begins with a cry for radical action, only a little bit later to add: “But let’s hear my song first, maybe that’ll be enough for you.” Paris invades your safe space only to stay there comfortably with you.