Paris’ Top 5 “The Cipher” Q&A Gems

By Shawn Setaro,


[The legendary rapper, producer, and songwriter Paris recently sat down with hip-hop personality and correspondent Shawn Setaro on his popular “The Cipher” podcast. Listen to the full interview and check out five gems the Black Panther of rap dropped during the Q&A.]

On performing at arena-size venues, which he started doing almost immediately after signing his record deal out of college:

“An arena is pretty impersonal. You’re not making eye contact with anybody. It’s just a sea of people and it’s easier to concentrate on my craft, for me anyway.”

On the diversity in the early years of the Bay Area hip-hop scene:

“I was the first guy out of San Francisco signed to a major. The interesting thing about that time is that everybody was coming from a different avenue. Too $hort was doing pimp rap. Digital Underground was doing cartoonish stuff that was funk-based. I was doing political stuff. Hammer was doing dance-rap. It was just a greater degree of diversity in the offerings of the music back then. It was a pretty intense time for artistic expression.”

On his experiences when he first joined the Nation of Islam:

“When you come into a newfound knowledge of self, a lot of times you parrot what you’ve heard. A lot of times, somebody would ask me a question, and I’d simply answer it verbatim based on something that I had heard or read. That a lot of times occurs when you’re brand new to something. A lot of people I know in the Nation now are critical thinkers and can discern the truth from the falsehood.”

On writing songs for the radio:

“From a very early point, I knew I didn’t want to make songs that had sixty-bar verses and didn’t have hooks and didn’t have an engaging soundscape. So I paid attention to the formatting of songs on the radio, as opposed to the formatting of hip-hop releases. I always knew that I wanted to have that handful of releases that absolutely were by the book so that I wouldn’t be excluded from airplay, in the event I was able to get some.”

On why his subject matter hasn’t changed over the years:

“The overwhelming majority of the sentiments expressed on [Paris’ 1990 debut album] The Devil Made Me Do It are still applicable today, 25 years later. There’s still police brutality, there’s still income inequality, there’s still racial discord. All of these things still exist. For people to say that I’ve been saying the same thing for years – well, yeah.”

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