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Paris: Still Angry After All These Years


One look at the CD cover and you know there's something so right about this album: It's a picture of a jet plane headed straight for the White House! Paris, the (elder) 'Bush Killa' returns to take on junior with his new release, Sonic Jihad.

From the start, Paris proclaims "No justice, no motherfuckin’ peace" and proceeds to rail against the "war on terror" and its attendant reign of fear; the civil-liberties destroying "Patriot" Act; both the music industry and rappers who misdefine black manhood while denigrating black women; killer cops; and the whole damn fascist atmosphere that prevails in America today. And Paris does it with his trademark driving, hard-funk sound; uncompromising and thoughtful lyrics, delivered with a hoarse, deep-toned voice; and contributions from reggae artist Capleton and fellow-travelers Dead Prez, Kam and Public Enemy.

Paris, you may recall, is the Bay Area rapper who rode the black radical hip-hop wave in the early 1990s, drawing heavily from the legacies of the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam. His first album, The Devil Made Me Do It, turned heads with cuts like the title song, "Panther Power," "Break the Grip of Shame," "The Hate That Hate Made," and "Ebony."

Paris followed up with Sleeping With The Enemy, which scared Tommy Boy Records so that it bought out, rather than honor, its contract to distribute Paris's music. In 1992 the music industry was more comfortable with songs about blacks killing blacks than with songs about blacks killing cops and high-ranking imperialists. Paris’ Scarface label released Sleeping and "Bush Killa" amid controversy and acclaim, but those were his last commercial successes. For the past few years Paris, a formally educated rapper, has worked as an investment banker.

But music remained the 36-year-old's first love (and, apparently, racist, global imperialism his number one hate). In 2002, while the whole country was succumbing to war fever, Paris hooked up with old-school artist Davey D to produce "What Would You Do?" and distribute it on the Internet. The anti-war anthem is one of the most controversial – and best – songs on Sonic Jihad. Asking listeners "what would you do, if you knew all the things we knew," Paris accuses the Bush Administration of pulling a Hitleresque Reichstag Fire move by staging the attacks of 9-11.

Whether you agree or disagree with that assertion, there's very little else for an honest, progressive person to disagree with on this album. Paris sees little overall racial progress in a land where cops kill black people with impunity while more and more people of color are languishing behind bars. And he has no love for the endless slew of rappers ("black crackers") who peddle an infantile, misogynist version of blackness to the youth. And he definitely ain't down with the military. "AWOL," for example, follows the journey of one young man who enlists in the military to take advantage of the "opportunities" and perks it allegedly offers, only to find himself under fire while on a "peacekeeping" mission. The young protagonist learns too late that "they don't play when it comes to war, they get down, they get down.”

Sonic Jihad, released last October by Guerilla Funk Recordings, rocks nonstop. It's raw, hard, and political from beginning to end. While Paris admits, "all [his] records come the same" (i.e., they're about some serious shit), a few cuts stand out in this reviewer's mind. Most poignant is "AWOL", most provocative is "What Would You Do?" Most rousing is "Freedom" with its two versions, both featuring Dead Prez and one featuring Public Enemy. Most hopeful? "Lay Low" with its message that "ain't nothing easy in this world, the struggle makes the man" and the age-old certainty that "until we get peace, it'll be pain."

Hail the return of the Bush Killa. It's good to know that he didn't go the route of the Cop Killer, who now plays a cop on TV.

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