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Paris - Sonic Jihad ****

By Errol Nazareth,

The same morbid fascination that had me glued to the television set on Sept. 11, 2001, returned last week.

It wasn't because of the endless coverage of the second anniversary of the attacks or the recent videotape showing a sprightly Bin Laden in the hills.

On the eve of last week's anniversary, it was the hugely controversial cover of a new CD that had me riveted. Sonic Jihad (out Sept. 23) is the latest from Oakland-based rapper Paris and the cover features a jetliner about to slam into The White House.

The cover doesn't represent the sentiments expressed in the entire disc, but it does jive with one jam that sparked a firestorm of controversy when it was posted on the net last year (See Sample This, July 4, 2002).

Incidentally, I have to say that in 16 years of covering hip-hop I have never heard anyone tackle issues like racism, black-on-black violence, police brutality, the state of hip-hop and international politics with such a hallucinatory fervour. Paris is in a league of his own when it comes to expressing one's self in such an uncompromising and unapologetic fashion.

But, back to the track. It's called "What Would You Do?" and it features this line: "So, I'm a say it for the record we the ones that planned it / Ain't no other country took a part or had their hand in it / Just a way to keep you scared so you think you need 'em / Praising Bush while that killer takes away your freedom."

"People are now willing to entertain the point of view I've been expressing for a long time -- that the US government either made Sept. 11 happen or allowed it to happen -- because the war on terror has been a monumental failure," Paris says from his home. "The only thing that's changed since 9/11 is a reduction in civil liberties and murder of people of colour in countries that had nothing do with the attacks. There's still no Bin Laden, no Saddam and no weapons of mass destruction."

While I don't agree with Paris' belief that the US government orchestrated the terror attacks, I can't argue with his other points that are being echoed by people more prominent than Paris. In his opinion piece that appeared in Britain's Guardian on Sept. 6, Michael Meacher, Britain's environment minister from May 1997 to June 2003, wrote: "The 'global war on terrorism' has the hallmarks of a political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda -- the US goal of world hegemony, built around securing by force command over the oil supplies required to drive the whole project."

And here's what actor Tim Robbins told the National Press Club in Washington, DC last April: "Basic inalienable rights, due process and the sanctity of the home have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear. A unified American public has grown bitterly divided and a world population that had profound sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and distrustful, viewing us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue state."

Paris is heartened by the number of intellectuals and celebrities questioning the "war of terror," but feels their position is lacking.

"It's one thing to say our civil liberties are being reduced, but it's another thing to say the government was responsible for orchestrating the event," he says. "There are people insinuating that, but nobody's taking that extra step to connect the dots." If you're intrigued by Paris' position, visit his website where he narrates Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11, an engaging documentary examining the events of that day. (It screened at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.)

The doc begins with the line "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty," a quote from legendary journalist Edward R. Murrow that the Bush administration would do well to heed.

"Fuck it, I'm disloyal and I have dissent!" Paris says. "I don't hate America, but I hate a lot of what America practises and I hate America when it's not right.

"I'm disgusted by this administration's policies," he adds. "This motherfucker Bush is asking for an additional $87 billion on top of $79 billion [already appropriated for 2003] to fund the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq while people are having bake sales to get books for school. If that's not crooked, tell me what is?"

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