By People Staff, People Magazine
Rap music reaches new heights of political invective on Paris’s jolting debut recording. His deep, rich voice trembling with apparent rage, he sometimes seems to be gasping for air as he calls for revolution in the style of his role models the Black Panthers. He spits out strings of rhyming accusations, covering everything from police brutality to what he sees as hypocrisy in middle-class blacks: “Go to school, maybe join a frat/…Made a little money, now your skin ain’t black.”
Whatever you think of his politics, it’s hard to deny that Paris boosts his message with unique, sleek music. A buzzing synthesizer bass melody underlies many tracks, adding a primal beast-on-the-hunt quality. This is most explicit in “On the Prowl,” an instrumental number that mixes a big cat’s roar with blaring sirens.
Paris also teases listeners with a raw contradiction, giving an alluring dance beat to “This Is a Test” and adding lyrics that berate rappers who create vapid dance music.
Paris (real name, more or less: O. Jackson) produced, wrote and performs all of his new songs, with effects by deejay Mad Mike. While his University of California, Davis, degree is in economics, Paris, 23, seems like a history teacher. He weaves speeches by black leaders into his songs, and his liner notes discuss Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and other figures (Martin Luther King Jr. is noticeably absent).
Paris is too serious to succeed at the clever wordplay many rappers rely on. But by blending a fascinating beat into a message delivered with a frightening snarl, he keeps himself on the showbiz side of the line that divides pop music and polemics. (Tommy Boy/Scarface)