Yesterday (Oct 28th), with exactly one week to go before the most crucial presidential election in recent American history and at a time when the nation is in its worst economic state in many long decades, emcee Paris' new album Acid Reflex (Guerrilla Funk - Fontana - Universal) arrived in Amoeba Music and other stores across this troubled nation.
For the ever-politically outspoken Bay Area hip-hop artist, whose two-decade long career has been a series of confrontations with the establishment, the timing seems perfect to unleash this lyrically charged new album, the latest in a series of incendiary releases that include the post 9/11 Sonic Jihad and the 1992 album Sleeping With The Enemy, featuring the highly controversial song "Bush Killa" which resulted in him getting him booted off the Warner Brothers distributed Tommy Boy Records at the time.
The new Paris album, Acid Reflex, which tackles just about every issue and problem facing America today, is not only (in my opinion) the best, most lyrically engaging album of this year, but it is also one that harks back to a forgotten time in hip-hop when the genre was rich with high-profile artists who used the medium as a platform for social and political debate. I recently sat down with Paris to talk about the state of hip-hop today & his history as an artist, his label Guerrilla Funk, the economy, next week's election, and other issues addressed in the new album Acid Reflex, including the current trend in America of scapegoating immigrants. Here's what he had to say.
SCAPEGOATING OF IMMIGRANTS:
"That (scapegoating of immigrants) is reinforced by certain news outlets like FOX News. Lou Dobbs, for example, that seems to be all he talks about now. And when it's constantly reinforced to you in the media....You know they say a lie told often enough becomes the truth. Well, that's what we're seeing. And we're completely missing the point that everybody is here as an immigrant and white people here are the ultimate illegal immigrants because this land was stolen. But it's an uncomfortable truth that a lot of people don't want to face and when economic times get hard people look for scapegoats and we're seeing that unfold before our eyes now......But I do think that people are starting to get more and more disillusioned with the propaganda that they get inundated with everyday."
THE STATE OF HIP-HOP AND THE GOAL OF GUERRILLA FUNK:
"We battle to counteract the movement to keep hip-hop artificially young and artificially dumb. You don't have to be a fool. You don't have to be on Cribs. You don't have to be arrested all the time. You don't have to get shot multiple times. You don't have to do all of these things to get credibility in the street. It's all about being responsible. It's all about knowing what's going on around you and its all about adapting accordingly and looking out for the community and basically living life by example."
HISTORY OF HOW HE GOT STARTED IN HIP-HOP
"I was going to school up there (UC Davis) and was a DJ on KDVS and recording on weekends, and I was working towards my degree. And right before I graduated I got my deal with Tommy Boy and the first record that came out was "Break The Grip of Shame" back in late '89 and then "The Devil Made Me Do It" the single came out in April that year. And I graduated in June. So when I graduated "The Devil Made Me Do It" was in the Top Ten, so I pretty much had a job. Getting out of college everybody is pretty much tripping off 'What am I going to do when I finish studying?' And it didn't really seem at the time to have anything to do with what I went to school for because I went to school and I graduated in economics but come that November The Devil Made Me Do It album dropped and it took off and it sold a gang of records up front. And I ended going off on tour and I've been doing it for the most part ever since."
BUSH, OBAMA, AND HIS CHOICE FOR PRESIDENT
"Barack Obama's ascendancy can be directly attributed to George Bush's mistakes....If I had to make a choice right now and the choice was viable I would have to say Cynthia McKinney (the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States). I was actually a part of her reelection campaign to Congress. I did all of her audio for her commercials for the 2005 run. If there is any candidate that reflects my progressive beliefs, it's her. But just in terms of somebody who has the actual ability to win and will still serve to inspire many many young people and people of color, Barack Obama is it to the fullest. Yes, he says things that I disagree with: his positions on Israel, and on off-shore drilling, and on not bringing the troops home immediately.
There are some things that we have differences on, but overall I am proud of him...I've got my progressive hat and I've got my black man hat. I want to see him do it. I want to see somebody finally break that ceiling and get over the hump. And it will be interesting to see what interactions we have with other countries in the world. We have no credit with other countries now thanks to the silver spoon boy."
BUSH, THE ECONOMY & THE $7 BILLION BAILOUT:
"It's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Don't get it twisted: the economy is in a very bad shape right now and most of it is directly attributable to George Bush's policy. Honestly when you spend a trillion dollars on the war then, you know, it's got to come from somewhere...That is a lot of money. Very few people realize just how much money that is. It is beyond the grasp or comprehension of a lot of people. If you take seven hundred billion dollars ($7,000,000,000,000.00) and you write it out that's twelve zeros and that's a lot of money.
That's a lot of dough! And it has to come from somewhere. And it always comes from the people who can least afford to give it. So you always see education suffering. You always see social programs across the board suffering. The Bush administration practices smash-and-grab politics at the expense, even, of the GOP. And I think a lot of them were Johnny-come-latelys and didn't realize that. And by standing by him no matter what they came to basically meant shooting themselves in the foot come reelection time. And so it's gonna be a bloodbath for the GOP this year."
RUSSELL SIMMONS AND DEF JAM:
"Def Jam is like a wasted opportunity to me very much in the way that BET is a wasted opportunity. It is something that is a direct conduit to peoples of color, extremely influential everywhere but choose to always consistently take the low road. And what really had him (Russell Simmons) in my sights was not so much the music they put out as much as it was his endorsement of the diamond companies."
RELIGION AS HUSTLE:
"Look at the kind of businesses that exist within the urban communities: check cashing places, liquor stores everywhere, churches. There's a huge hustle in organized religion that feeds off of us and that feeds off of ignorance too. Regardless of what your religious beliefs are, you have to recognize that organized religion is a big business and it hustles people more often than not. The song 'The Hustle' on the new album talks about this; about how people are taken advantage of."