Second Time Around

By J.H. Tompkins, SF Bay Guardian

Looking for travel info? A fresh take on tired scriptures? Keep stepping, you won't find it here. The Devil Made Me Do It comes at you courtesy of one of hip-hop's original and most important outlaws - a stateside, modern version of Ivan, Jimmy Cliff's rudeboy in The Harder They Come. Paris surfaced in 1990, influenced by the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and Public Enemy and ready to face-off with the racist power structure, mano a mano.

The Bay Area-based UC Davis grad had a way with razor-sharp, airtight rhymes that he'd deliver in a grim, menacing voice-over simple driving beats that grabbed you without getting in the way. My favorite moment comes at the beginning of "Panther Power," which he kicks off with a few words from Black Panther Party chair Bobby Seale: "We're gonna say to this whole damn government, 'Stick 'em up motherfucker, this is a holdup; we've come for what's ours.' "

Paris was angry, outspoken, and knew what he was talking about, and the results were at times stunning (if there were any doubts the Panthers would've been rappers back in the day, this album puts them to rest). Paris was 21 and ready to take out anyone who got in the way, and his perspective grew richer and more complex with time; he was too smart and talented to be dismissed, then or now, although God knows a lot of folks tried to declare him DOA. His most recent album, 2003's Sonic Jihad, is great, and along with Devil, Paris has also reissued 1993's Sleeping with the Enemy (with the controversial "Bush Killa") and 1994's Guerrilla Funk. Although Paris can cook up a powerful groove, the beats he comes up with rarely surprise you, which means his albums sometimes feel relentlessly grim. Still, his ability to cut through the political bullshit and expose what's really going on in the world is state-of-the-art. Paris won't go out of style until the last racist is pushing daisies - and (to quote another one-of-a-kind artist) "that's a mighty long time."

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