Timely & True - The Motivation Of Paris
By Max Sidman, Mesh Magazine
Most MCs get into the rap game for the love of wordplay combined with a serious and sadly stereotypical jonze for material achievement. That's obviously not the case for Paris. This East Bay native, record label owner, and veteran MC and producer is known for his outspoken contempt for the increasingly failing health of the American government. His catalog of releases, including 2003's Sonic Jihad, are all scathing attacks on society and government that are increasingly falling under the rule of corporate overseers at the expense of the people. His first big hit was a song called "Bush Killa," from Sleeping With the Enemy (1992), and the cover of Sonic Jihad features an image of an airplane flying directly towards the White House. It would be easy to assume that politics was and still is Paris' main motivation.
"Believe or not, I'm not really into politics," corrects the thoughtful rhyme-smith. "Politics is one of many means to an end. I just believe that we should be involved in the process as opposed to ignoring it out of frustration. By no means do I believe that it's the end-all solution, but when I see things that I believe need to be spoken on and I don't see many other people effectively doing it, I step up to the plate and say what I got to say. A record like Sonic Jihad, I believe, is timely, and a lot of other people believe it is also."
Paris was a student of the rap music old school, the "golden era" of hip-hop when the game was alive with fresh and honest interpretations of life and strife on the streets, a time when rappers pulled few punches, which made it exciting and infectious.
"I remember that I had an instant love affair with hip-hop when I heard it. It's a hard thing for a lot of people to understand now because most music sucks and hip-hop was a completely different animal back then. When I was first exposed to it, there were many different facets to it, and many different directions it was going in, so it actually was engaging and it was artistic and it was something that I wanted to be a part of. That's difficult to convey to people now, people who grew up listening to KMEL," laments Paris, who says that it was his love for rap music rather than a penchant for political commentary that initially spurred his drive to be an MC and a producer. "You know, the entire era back then, for the most part, nurtured that, and not only in me but in anybody who was interested in doing it‹it nurtured and encouraged you to be passionate about what you did, even if what you did was not something serious, even you weren't tackling serious subjects like politics and social commentary, even if you were a party group or a group that had a lot of comedic influences. It still encouraged you to be the best that you could be. Nowadays, that's not the case. Now it seems like the main motivating factor for artists is financial, but don't believe the shit you see on Cribs."
Obviously, the passing of the golden era has not only left the visible majority of the rap nation bereft of inventive, interesting music but also bereft of the values that were once at hip-hop's core: honesty, truth, reality, and freshness. Paris, through his Guerilla Funk Recordings label and Web page, is working to return those ideals to the game, and that mission is evident in his words, both on disc and in person.
"Rap back then was new, it was fresh, it was exciting. People were still buying music because they were into it," remembers Paris. "Now, with the proliferation of online file sharing and the ability to buy bootlegs pretty much anywhere, music sales have been hurt, but they haven't been hurt for the reasons that people think they're hurt, or for the reasons that are given to us as to why they've been hurt. They've been hurt because most music is bullshit, and the listener no longer respects it. The plan that I have, and have always had, with my music and all the Guerilla Funk releases is to take the high road in the pursuit of quality music and entertainment products that stand the test of time, and at the same time make ourselves readily available to supporters and endear ourselves to the listening audience by being true and being honest and representing what's right. That's an anomaly in this business right now, but there are a hell of a lot of people out there who feel the way we feel."