Verbal Warfare: An Interview With The Bay Area's Paris
By JR, San Francisco Bay View
Although Paris was not a member of the Black Panther Party, he is called the "Black Panther of hip-hop." So I thought that we could look at how the legacy of doing for ourselves and defending ourselves as a community has been translated into hip-hop.
Paris is an OG on the hip-hop scene who was around during hip-hop's first Black Power Movement with the likes of the Poor Righteous Teachers, 2 Pac, Ice Cube, Public Enemy and X Clan. He has returned with his new album, "Sonic Jihad," and his new info-intensive website, guerrillafunk.com, that holds a lot of political editorials as well as a digital store, where you can find some of Paris’ previous work.
Recently Paris has also done some narration on a documentary shot by the Guerrilla News Network called "Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9-11." A preview of the film can be viewed on guerrillafunk.com.
He has also been featured on Fox News and on KMEL, among other white stations, because of the fact that his cover art has sparked alarm among Amerikkklan-patriotic folks. I’m not going to tell you too much about that; you have to see it for yourself.
“Sonic Jihad" is a historic album in the sense that it is the first time that Black revolutionary rhyme-sayers from across the Western Hemisphere have been heard on the same album. LA's Kam, Jamaica's Capelton, NY's Public Enemy and dead prez all teamed up with Frisco's Paris on "Sonic Jihad," making it a monumental project just in that respect.
The relevancy of the lyrics couldn't have come at a better time, amidst this current hip-hop era of partying, bullshitting, blinging and killing ourselves and our own. If we are smart enough to look at what Paris is doing, he is offering us some hope, a revolutionary way out, if we can internalize some of the ideas that he is spittin'.
With a Nazi president and governor leading a country that has never in history valued Black life, we’d better grab hold of any information that we can use to educate ourselves and work ourselves out of this current local, national and global situation because we can't expect anyone else to step up to the plate until you and I do first. Check out Paris in part 1…
JR: Paris, you’ve been spittin' politically relevant lyrics for over a decade, why?
Paris: Because of the times. You’re right, I have been doing this for a while now, and I love it. I live it. Early hip-hop was influential to me and affected me in a way that made me want to participate in the game and make a difference. I always wanted to do music that had something to say, and early hip-hop nurtured that, so I recognize the impact music has on us.
That's why I take the message so seriously. I’ve seen the effects of the positive and the negative, and shit is serious. Back when I started, it was normal to hear positivity in our music - now it's usually just the opposite.
I keep comin’ with it because there's no balance in the game anymore. I’m in it to provide balance. White folks control hip-hop now, and they’re the ones who determine who gets mass exposure. They dictate our culture to us because, in our communities, life imitates art.
There's more to us than pimpin’, more to us than bangin’ and dope - but you wouldn't know that watching BET. Or listenin’ to the radio. I bang on the SYSTEM and take aim at those who oppress us, instead of aiming at us. I know our enemies’ agenda and who they are - and my enemy does NOT look like me.
We’re all in this together. It's just that most of us aren't up on the way things really are. We’re not up on why conditions exist the way they do in our communities - we just deal with it. I wanna make music that makes us focus on real issues that affect us, instead of music that diverts our attention from real issues that need to be dealt with.
JR: What do you think that the Black community needs to do to take better advantage of the technology and information age?
Paris: We have to stop treating knowledge like it's a disease. Somewhere along the line, it became cool to be dumb - especially among the youth.
For the record, there ain't SHIT cool about being dumb. When you don't know things, you allow yourself to go for whatever somebody else is trying to pull. The more you know - about anything - the better equipped you’ll be to not only deal with whatever drama is goin’ on in everyday life but to make your own way goin’ forward.
Understand that America doesn't want us to be smart. We’re expected and encouraged to know nothing, to live in poverty, engage in violence and act as a working-class of consumers - and to be content with it.
What we have to do is buck the system and become focused by learning all that we can. This includes reading as much as possible - especially on the internet - and learning skills so that we can fight back the constraints society places on us.
Read and learn - that's real talk. The worst thing anybody can call you in life is ignorant. Don't be a victim of the system, mash on the system.
JR: What is your reaction to Arnold being Cali's next governor?
Paris: Fuck Arnold; he's not relevant. It's his team of folks who are relevant. He's a figurehead who was used to get into office because it's a fact that the stupid-ass public is in love with a celebrity. We overlook all shortcomings when faced with a celebrity, and it's sad. He was easy to get in.
Now we have a governor with a team that represents the same oppressive, exclusionary lawmaker mindset as the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress. The same folks who brought us Prop 209, Prop 187 and tried to bring Prop 54 are going to have another go at further wreckin’ Cali and raping the economy and its people for the sake of the corporate elite.
JR: Now that you have had a few weeks to think about the ramifications, what do you think about the outcome of the case of the Oakland holice known as the Oakland Riders?
Paris: It's always the same story with pigs, so it comes as no surprise, really. They occupy our communities and abuse us constantly. Nothing seems to change.
All I can say at this point is DO NOT hesitate to protect yourself if you are faced with brutality. Fuck these cowards; they’re easy to find. The same pigs make rounds in the same places in our communities all of the time, so they have as much exposure as we do.
Be cool and respectful of those who are cool and respectful of you. Remember, some of them are human too. But DO NOT allow yourself to become a victim of some pig with a God complex.
And DO NOT put yourself in unnecessary situations that bring about the involvement of the police. They are the biggest gang out there, with the most heat out there, and they will win if confronted one-on-one.
Don't let your ego get you an ass-beating, or worse. Live to fight another day, and choose your battles wisely.
Think! If you and your folks are out at 2 a.m. hangin’ around, standin’ on the corner or posted up in a parked car somewhere, chances are you’re gonna get sweated - or even killed. Consider the consequences of even the simplest things before you get into something.
JR: What motivated the cover art and the lyrics on "Sonic Jihad”?
Paris: Oppressive conditions in our communities and illegal war against people of color globally for the sake of rich white folks motivated the project.
JR: How has the white mainstream media responded?
Paris: Just as I thought they would - with selective outrage. They complain about this imagery but remain silent when records come out every day that are endorsed by white corporations that degrade black people - records with lyrics and imagery of black-on-black violence, drug use and degrading messages of our women. You know, there's no outrage there.
But let me mash on them, and all of a sudden there's cause for alarm. Of course, it's racist to the core. They don't object to illegal wars or racial and economic inequality. They don't object to unjust social conditions and these raggedy-ass schools. And they definitely don't object to the negativity that their parent-corporations endorse, like this garbage on tv.
But they wanna holla about real conversation from somebody using hip-hop to reach us. I’m tellin’ you, this is serious. It's no game.