following interview with recording artist Paris was edited
by Hip Hop historian, journalist, deejay and community activist
Davey D, and appeared on his website,
in late August. Bruce Banter and Eyecalone, of Playahata.com,
conducted the interview. Davey D provided the introduction.
hails from the San Francisco Bay Area and was catapulted onto
the national scene in 1990 with his hit single “The Devil Made
Me Do It” and album of the same name. Since then his uncompromising
stance on political issues and biting social commentary have
both aided and hindered his quest to bring solid music and
messages to the masses. When his second album, “Sleeping With
The Enemy,” was ready for release in 1992, Paris was dropped
from now-defunct Tommy Boy Records and distributor Time Warner
when they discovered it's incendiary content – content which
included fantasy revenge killings of then-President Bush and
racist police officers. Rather than buckle under pressure,
he released the LP himself on his newly formed Scarface Records
to major sales and national acclaim. Paris originally adopted
imagery and ideologies from the Black Panther Party and the
Nation of Islam. His worldview and outlook expanded and matured
as time passed, all the while releasing material and undertaking
five world tours and countless performances both alone and
with other notable acts.
Paris signed a
major artist and distribution deal with Priority Records
for himself and Scarface Records in 1993 and released his "Guerrilla
Funk" LP. Paris and Priority formally severed their
business relationship due to creative differences in 1995.
In 1997 Paris signed a one-off deal with now-defunct Whirling
Records (distributed by Rykodisc), for the release of his
4th LP "Unleashed". Released in limited numbers,
the LP went largely unnoticed due to lack of focus and funding.
In 2002, Paris released his internet-only anti-establishment
anthem - the single entitled, “What Would You Do?” in protest
of the US Government’s current policies and lies.
Paris says though he's been off the rap radar for a minute,
he never left the studio. “I've been making music and writing all this time,” says the rapper
whose been working as an investment banker for the past four years, “but more
or less as a hobby. I have a serious love for all music in general. The current
political climate is ripe for discussion and dissection right now. People need
an alternative in popular media to popular media.” Enter Guerrilla Funk Recordings,
the latest label venture from Paris. With a new label and forth coming LP, "Sonic
Jihad", Paris will soon return to the game to bring back a serious voice
of reason in hip-hop.
We recently caught up with Paris who took time out of his
busy schedule to talk with Playahata.com's Bruce Banter and
Eyecalone. We figured we'd have
Bruce and Eyecalone holler at him before the Department of Homeland Security
Paris – Holy War
lot of people, younger teenagers especially, probably aren't
all that familiar with Paris. They don't realize you are
a veteran in hip-hop. In fact we understand that your upcoming
Jihad", will be your 5th album. As a youth in hip-hop,
what artist or person inspired you to want to be an artist?
hip-hop influences early on were Cool J, Rakim and PE. My non
hip-hop influences were P-Funk, Stevie Wonder, Cameo and The
First album, "The Devil Made Me Do
It," was released in 1990 on Tommy Boy Records, and it seemed
that nothing could slow your rise to stardom, but you were derailed.
Paris: The corporate machine is what happened. Traditional conservative
media outlets decided that they no longer wanted to embrace messages
that were in opposition to their collective agenda.
NY Times did a write up on you April 3rd. In the Times piece it
says that you "left a distribution contract
with Priority Records in1995 because [you] didn't want to take [your]
music in a more 'gangsta' - and thus more commercial – direction." If
that's the case then what exactly did Priority do openly and subtlety
to try to foster this change in you and from what you could tell
what was the reaction of other artists who were receiving this
kind of pressure?
Paris: Well, as far as an overt coercion, nothing really happened.
There was simply an increased emphasis on negative @#%$, in addition
to resistance and difficulty in getting approvals for everything from
artwork to tour support. So we decided to go our separate ways.
Playahata.com: Was your battle with corporate censorship the
reason you decided to release this album independently and through
your website Guerrillafunk.com?
It’s become more difficult than ever to be heard now, especially
with media consolidation and what’s become an obvious attempt
to flood the market with bullshit and negativity. Besides, if
the Dixie Chicks are feeling heat, what do you think the reaction
to “Sonic Jihad” will be? We have to control our own. We
are at war.
Playahata.com: In light of the way record companies routinely
rip off artists, do you think this could prove to be a better financial
decision? And what promise do you think the Internet holds for freeing
hip-hop from the grasp of corporations?
the Internet is a useful tool, but as of yet it’s
not an end-all solution. Many people don’t have access to it,
and its importance is often overstated. Indeed, only 15% of the
of the planet have telephones, so to think that folks in general
have computers w/high-speed access, etc. is a stretch. I still
outlets, and have secured distribution for the projects I have
Playahata.com: "Guerrilla" the
way you spell it represents a 60's generation revolutionary term,
referring to people who can live
off the land or get busy in the trenches. What are you trying
to convey by naming your website Guerrillafunk and what were
your reasons for
Paris: It’s a throwback to the entire mindset of exactly what
you just mentioned. The name of the game is control. Control of information,
control of hip-hop, our culture, media and how we’re represented and
presented. @#%$ this poison that we’re being fed. I’m doing my
best to redefine black manhood for us.
in that recent NY Times piece about you, they gave you some subtle
props by calling you a "complex character.” I
guess that's their way of saying you are smart for a rapper.
They go on to mention your website and its powerful proactive
of information on a wide variety of topics from politics to personal
finance. That's a lot to have on your plate. What do you think
has equipped you to take on these varying topics?
I read a lot. Most folks don’t. Too much reliance
on electronic entertainment and spoon-fed media has most of us lethargic
and in a constant state of blissful ignorance. Brainwashing has taken
its toll on us in a major way, but I can see through it all. So, I
do my best, especially since I’m educated – both formally and otherwise – in
what I talk about. The white corporate elite wants nothing more than
a consumer-minded working class that it can feed off of. I present
an alternative to what we’re given.
been a lot of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and thus a lot
of negative coverage on the Church, so much so, that some priests
stopped wearing their collars in public. Since the rap scene
has changed into a modern day minstrel show with popular acts
(those getting the radio/video play), do you feel the need to
distance yourself from the commercial rap scene or state to people
what you are about? And what topics do you plan to tackle on
your upcoming release?
distance myself from us because I am us.
That’s exactly what those calling the shots want – to marginalize people
who speak directly to and with the people in an attempt to minimize
the importance of what we have to say. I get down with us on a level
that we can relate to because I don’t put myself above anyone else.
And to answer your question, on “Sonic Jihad” I cover the New World
Order, the manmade origins of AIDS, military lies and propaganda, police
brutality, the “War on Terror” and the embarrassing state that
hip hop is currently in. Real talk...
Playahata.com: What rappers have been very supportive of you
or do you have projects to work with musically in the future? I would
like you to elaborate and give specific names if you can, because on
CDs these days so many of these commercial rappers have 16 tracks and
on 14 of the tracks they have guest appearances by every Tom, Dick,
and Harry artist. However, it seems like groups/artists who rap about
more meaningful things usually seem to be riding solo or have few guest
appearances by others?
Jihad features Dead Prez, Public Enemy and Kam – all
artists whose positions I agree with on many things.
on guest appearances. With so many people doing guest appearances
I've occasionally noticed that people who you
don't exactly expect to find on songs together are recording
together and sometimes saying things on each other’s albums that
the other artist may not necessarily endorse. How much control
would you try and exercise
over the content of a guest appearances on your album?
I wouldn’t control the content. I just know it
makes sense to choose who I work with wisely and to always represent
Playahata.com: Also, have any rappers or industry people attempted
to distance themselves from you due to your political stances?
Paris: Other than labels, no.
magazines like The Source and XXL usually love controversial
issues. You obviously have been and are going to
be embroiled in a lot of controversy regarding your music and
album cover. Have any of these magazines contacted you to let
some ballistics" or are they waiting for the mainstream
press to start sweating you before they holla?
we’ll see. I don’t control them, but hopefully
they’ll understand that, as major media sources that are influential
to the community, they should allow the same amount of coverage
to artists that actually have content in their material. Who
especially in this environment? Anything goes.
Riley from the Coup also had controversial artwork on his album
cover. He had a skyscraper exploding just prior
to 9/11. Eleven websites began running anti-Boots Riley & the
Coup campaigns ranging from political interests such as townhall.com
financial interests such as capitalismmagazine.com. Due to record
label/public pressure he eventually changed the cover artwork,
and there was no
fallout. Nobody (well, at least publicly) thought he sold out
because he changed the cover, however you refuse to change your
Are you ready for the backlash and complaints and why do you
feel the album cover art is important?
Paris: I could give a @#%$, really. People
need to be complaining and doing something about this out of
killing machine that’s terrorizing the planet – not rap records. But,
by the same token, I know that they know how influential rap is, and
that’s why they hate on it. But keep in mind, most people who bitch
about it wouldn’t buy it anyway. Townhall.com? Please. I know they
don’t want none. Especially Armstrong Williams – his ass is still sore
from the last time we debated on Sonia Live on CNN several years ago.
People and organizations in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,
anyway. None of
their self-righteous posturing holds up under scrutiny. But they
all keep on because they have comfort in numbers – numbers that
result from the propaganda that everyone buys into. Lies are
now being exposed
to the point where people are basically choosing to believe what
the want to
believe, not necessarily the truth. So a lot of times the division
line falls along racial and class lines.
Playahata.com: As censored as the ideas the mainstream media
allows us to be exposed to are, you were able to get a small feature
in the Times recently and I understand you also did Countdown to Iraq
w/Lester Holt on MSNBC a short time before Bush delivered his State
of the Union address back in January. Do you think you would have been
able to get recognized by either with a more mundane album cover?
I make material and art that’s intended to get that
ass and make folks notice.
Playahata.com: Unfortunately I found out late and didn't see
the program. What was the experience of doing the MSNBC show like?
Were you allowed to make your points? And how were you treated when
the cameras were off?
I can’t really speak on Lester because he was pretty
indifferent. He asked the standard questions that I expected, and I’m
sure he has never heard any of my material. I’m also certain that he
doesn’t script the questions he asks in interviews. So, yeah, I was
surprised at the initial exposure, but there’s never enough time to
talk about what’s needed in a situation like that. And the camera
crew showed nothing but love for what I had to say from our satellite
Playahata.com: Conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly has
recently been spending a lot of time attacking rappers on his show,
The O'Reilly Factor. What do you think of pundits like him?
only pick on the indefensible, so it’s like shooting
fish in a barrel. Of course, they exercise selective moral outrage.
A rapper comes out with a record about raping his mom and they object.
Well, @#%$, who wouldn’t? I object to that bullshit too, but I don’t
necessarily blame the artists. Most of these mother@#$%s don’t know
too much about anything, and a lot of them – often grown men – talk
about @#%$ that a 12-year old would be concerned with. My beef with
conservative pundits is that they don’t openly criticize things that
really matter, like corporate endorsement of the entertainment poison
that afflicts us, or our out-of-control government and it’s racist,
genocidal policies. I’ve never seen Bill get on rappers for endorsing
black-on-black crime, or get on Fox (his parent company) for the negativity
and immoral @#%$ they put forth as entertainment (“Cops,” “Paradise
to the music, this new album seems to be like a rebirth of sorts
in terms of getting back on many people's hip-hop radar. Once
again your prominence seems to be colliding with a Bush being
in the White House. Is this a coincidence? And with all the things
going on, in terms of the attack on Iraq and repression of dissent
in the U.S., do you think this is a product of a Bush being in
the White House or does it speak to a larger issue?
dizzy ass is now a liability for the interests he represents. He’s
simply too much of an incompetent @#%$-up. Believe, this situation
is much larger than him, and the objective of the conservative corporate
elite is and always has been the preservation and expansion of the
status quo and their position in it. So really, the fact that he’s
in office is just part of the larger picture.
pretty sure you heard about it, especially since you're from
the Bay Area, but police recently opened fire on peaceful, legal,
protesters with rubber bullets, and other "non-lethal" weapons
in Oakland. There also was a mass arrest of legal anti-war protesters
in New York. What do you think is the significance of these events?
battle lines are being drawn, and the notion that police presence in
our communities is not for our own benefit is becoming clearer and
clearer to many.
me go out of character for a second and turn into a Stan for a minute
and ask you to plug the release date of your new upcoming album Sonic
Jihad. When, where and how can people get it? Do you have any plans
to tour nationally or perform internationally?
official in-store release date is September 23, but I will probably
make it available to my online subscriber base sooner. Shipments
of the first single, “Field Nigga Boogie,” go out next week to
DJs and college radio. And, yes, I will be touring worldwide
to support it.
know you've probably answered this kind of question a million
times, but you know we got to ask it. What do you say to people
who call your message "anti-American" or accuse you
of being a "conspiracy theorist"?
more anti-American to fall in line with the party line than it
is to question the motives of our bloodthirsty dictatorship, and
the biggest conspiracy of all is on your TV 24/7.
closing words for our audience?
independent thought and look beyond the surface of what you’re given
as information everyday. Become Internet savvy and learn the truth
about what’s really going on around you. If you get all of your info
from TV and the newspaper then you’re ill-informed. If you need assistance
in finding alternate sources of information, then please visit me and
subscribe at www.guerrillafunk.com.