By Ramy, TheOG.net
Our homie Ramy sat down with one of rap most incendiary and thought-provoking artists, Paris, to share with you a piece of his mind and his music. With his debut album, The Devil Made Me Do It and the fiery single "Bush Killa," Paris made an explosive entrance onto the hip-hop scene with his highly political music and take-no-prisoners lyrical style. After falling out with his record label for having serious opinions and keeping it real, Paris went on to play the stockbroker game and parlay his investments into enough to start his own record label, Guerrilla Funk, on which he had complete creative control. Since then he has signed and worked with artists as diverse as The Coup, dead prez, Chuck D, Mobb Deep, and MC Ren and released the controversial album Sonic Jihad, which features the ominous image of a plane headed for the White House on its cover. With three classic albums under his belt, Paris is an unflinching hip-hop veteran and his music is top notch‹you won't want to miss this rare interview. Read on for the San Francisco/Bay Area rapper's views on working with Public Enemy, on the underground, "hyphy" music, and some other things.
TheOG: I wanted to talk about the albums that you've dropped, you've been in the game for like fifteen years now, since "Bush Killa", and "The Devil Made Me Do It". You have a reputation for being one of hip-hop's most politically conscious emcees. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit, first off, about the role you feel hip-hop should play politically.
Paris: Well hip-hop should not totally be political. I think that, right now, political voices in hip-hop are being stifled, and really my label, Guerrilla Funk, was set up so that artists such as myself and PE and Dead Prez among others could come out and provide some kind of a balance in hip-hop, which is now being presented as it's given to us by corporate interests.
TheOG: Do you consider yourself in some ways to be in opposition to the hip-hop that is promoted by corporate interests or music that is promoted by corporate interests?
Paris: I think it remains negative, in general, in focus, and as long as we as the artists and as people of color who create the music are not the ones who are responsible for a) getting selected b) what type of concepts get presented to us and c) the way that it's presented to us, then yeah, I guess I am in opposition to it. The material that you get from other sources is caustic to the community. And it doesn't represent a true balance and a true representation of what our culture is. Hip-hop artists now are picked to be able to endorse commodities really. And there's an inherent conflict of interest there because they're not proven on the street. Nine times out of ten they have questionable skills, and they are there specifically to serve corporate interests. And that's not [the right] kind of an attitude for me, cause I sell an x amount of units every time I drop, and I do just fine, and legions of people that are down with me, that feel the same. But for the record, that is the way that it is, right now. And that's a difficult pill to swallow for a lot of people who think they really do have a choice when they don't.
TheOG: As far as Sonic Jihad, what was the concept behind that? Do you feel basically that the situation hasn't changed, that we find ourselves in the same place that we found ourselves 10, 15 years ago?
Paris: Well I mean it's worse, now. Because people got wise to hip-hop, and because propaganda is used so strongly to mold people's perceptions of global events, so it's a different situation now. Back in the day, hip-hop spoke freely to the people, there was a lot more choice, and artists like myself didn't have anywhere near the amount of resistance that we have now, because of this political climate, and because of the consolidation of corporate interests in entertainment. So it's a different situation. The one thing that I'll say, is that when Sonic Jihad came out, it was in what, '03, which is just when people were starting to question everything. A completely different climate politically in the United States than it is now. It was a lot more constricted back then, and really you were painted, if you spoke out, with the brushstroke of being unpatriotic, out the gate, for any kind of dissent. Now there are a lot more people who are willing to entertain those kinds of notions because it's been proven time and time again that this administration is bulls**t.
TheOG: That's very true. So you're from the San Francisco Bay Area, right?
TheOG: Do you have any comments on the Bay Area hip-hop scene? It really seems to be flourishing right now.
Paris: Yeah, the Bay Area, it is, I mean we're gettin' 'em out of focus because of the hyphy movement, but the Bay Area scene‹
TheOG: The what movement?
Paris: Hyphy movement, it's a particular type of hip-hop that's comin' out of the Bay right now. Bay Area hip-hop is, always has been, and always will be bigger than just that. And, I don't want the focus to be solely on, that which is not value-added in the political realm. But, yeah man, Bay Area hip-hop is poppin' right now. You got, Keek da Sneak, and E-40 and all the usual suspects comin' out, with heaters lately. But you also have, you know, Guerilla Funk artists, and The Coup, and other people who represent the other side of the coin that are comin' out equally as strong, so you wanna be sure that everybody gets the amount of shine that their respective situation merits.
TheOG: I've heard that after your album was dropped from Tommy Boy, you used your degree in economics to become a stockbroker with some success.
Paris: That goes back to my first record. My first record was The Devil Made Me Do It, and then I had my second record which is Sleeping with the Enemy, which had "Bush Killa" on it, and there was a fallout with Warner Music because they were Tommy Boy's parent company, and they prevented me from putting that record out, and so I took the settlement money that I got, from Tommy Boy and from Warner Music and started my own situation. Which at the time was Scarface Records, and I put Sleeping With The Enemy out on my own, which led to my signing and distribution arrangement with Priority Records at the time, which is like in '93, and then Guerilla Funk came out through them. And then, it was around that time when I began to switch gears. So it was probably more aroundŠ I mean I was fully in the market in '96. And then the proceeds from that, enabled me to be able to fund Guerilla Funk, and do things the way that I want to do them, and become value-added to hip-hop in a way that I know is necessary.
TheOG: So, what kind of projects can we expect from you then in the future, in terms of bringing value-added to hip-hop as mainstream and an underground means of political expression?
Paris: I definitely, I dig the term underground, because it gives a perception of authenticity. But really it is intended to be mainstream, the releases that we put forth. I mean, we have underground acts that are presented in a mainstream fashion. That's the idea. And so, we have the Public Enemy album that just came out this past Tuesday, March 7. And an album called, Paris Presents: Hard Truth Soldiers Vol. 1, which showcases a lot of the forthcoming talent that's on Guerilla Funk and really provides artists, in hip-hop, and some R&B a springboard for being heard, with voices of dissent, in this environment that all too often doesn't let them be heard. That's why Guerilla Funk was created. And then on March 21st, T-K.A.S.H.'s album comes out, right. T-K.A.S.H. is an offshoot of The Coup, out here in the Bay Area, and he'll be with his solo debut, entitled Turf War Syndrome, and you can read all about that on guerillafunk.com. And then, in addition, Kam's album is forthcoming, and the Stickman solo project, from Dead Prez, is forthcoming.
TheOG: These are all on your label?
Paris: Yeah, exactly. It's all Guerilla Funk releases. Hard Truth Soldiers Vol. 2, some proposed collaborations with Erykah Badu, I mean, there's a lot of stuff that's in the works. It's just a matter of putting our burners on, to realize.
TheOG: That's really great, man. Just a couple more questions, then we can wrap it up. What's it like working with Public Enemy, cause they're definitely some of the all-time greats.
Paris: Well, I mean, it's a unique situation for me, because I came up on them. My direction that I took in hip-hop, and a lot of my political leanings, resulted from them being a catalyst for me, wanting to know about myself, and wanting to express a voice of resistance. So, when I approached Chuck, in late 2003, early 2004 about doing a Public Enemy project and producing and releasing it on Guerilla Funk he gave me the go-ahead, and he said that the only thing he would ask of me is that I do all the music and I write everything.
TheOG: You produce your own beats.
Paris: Right, that's right. And I wrote all the lyrics, the overwhelming majority of the lyrics on this project, and it was really for time considerations, cause I already had two full-length Public Enemy albums that were scheduled for release, and that's actually why Rebirth of a Nation was delayed until March 7th, cause it was initially supposed to come out last August, but they had album that came out before that called New Whirl Odor, and I had to let that run its course. Public Enemy is definitely one of the all-time hip-hop greats, and an icon, definitely an icon in the annals of the history of hip-hop. So it's necessary for me to get down with them. It's a good look for them, it's a good look for Guerilla Funk, and it was apparent that it made sense.
TheOG: You've definitely left your mark too. I mean you've moved something like 4 million albums, is that what it is?
Paris: Yeah. It's been a pretty good amount. If I can get to five, that'd be it. (laughs) Yeah, it's cool. Yeah, it's been a long, interesting journey, because I've not really been the beneficiary of being down with any major label ever, even with Tommy Boy, they were independent status when I got with them. Now to be in the driver seat, to be able to do it all on my ownŠ it's rewarding, to say the least, and it'll be interesting to see how things go moving forward.
TheOG: One last question for you, man. Are there any artists you see yourself working with in the future or who you would really like to work with?
Paris: I mean I'm pretty much reaching out to everyone that I would like to get down with. I enjoy everybody, don't, for whatever reason, think that I don't enjoy stuff that's not political, 'cause I really do. And, I appreciate any art that feels like art. That feels like it took time to create and cultivate and that people put their best foot forward on. So I'm pretty much an open book in terms of getting down with people, but I will never down with people on their level, they gotta get down with me on my level. Like the Hard Truth Soldiers compilation, there are a lot of gangsta rap artists that are on there that are talking about anti-war themes. Well, I'm comfortable in that environment, but I can't come and get down on your record and spit about shootin' some niggas, and f**kin' some nuns, or whatever they talk about, you know? It got to be something that makes sense to me. But yeah, I definitely do appreciate hip-hop when it is pure and honest.
TheOG: Well, thanks a lot man. It's been real, thanks for talking to us.
Paris: Right on, man. I appreciate it.