With just a quick glance over the forty records included in the rap/hip-hop chart, courtesy of the defunct Gavin Report radio trade magazine from the week of July 5th 1991, it's evident that this period in the still growing urban music genre was a truly incredible time in hip-hop history with so many soon-to-be classics being recorded and released! These include singles and album tracks, all very popular to this day 24 years later, from such legendary, influential hip-hop acts as De La Soul, Gang Starr, KMD (featuring a young MF Doom), Leaders of The New School, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, EPMD, Main Source, and Brand Nubian. Also included are such hip-hop legends as Big Daddy Kane, Chubb Rock, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, Ice T, Rodney O & Joe Cooley, Naughty By Nature, 3rd Bass, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Ice Cube protege/female rapper Yo-Yo and the late great NJ producer/rapper Tony D to name but some.
Never one to back down or shy aware from controversy, outspoken veteran Bay Area rapper Paris continues to stay true to both his revolutionary rap style and his core political beliefs. The controversial artist, who famously got dropped by his record label over political content early on in his career and has since stayed true to his often unpopular convictions, announced that September 11, 2015 will be the release date of his newest politically charged hip-hop album, Pistol Politics.
9/11 and what it symbolizes has been a topic close to Paris's heart since the history-changing 2001 event, and one that he has openly questioned in his music, being among the few hip-hop artists to label 9/11 an inside job. On his 2003 album Sonic Jihad, which showed on its original cover art a plane crashing into the Pentagon, he featured the "truth" music track "What Would You Do" (see video below) that addressed his theories on 9/11 as well as the Illuminati's agenda, asking listeners "Would you stand up for truth? Or would you turn away too? And then what if you saw All of the things that's wrong?"
Another funk-fueled production, the album (his eighth album since his 1990 debut The Devil Made Me Do It) was first announced seven months ago with the release of the single and video for the album track "Night of the Long Knives" that addresses police brutality, racism, and other issues (video below). It is being described by the artist as both a condemnation of society's ills and a celebration of its virtues, emphasizing themes promoting unity, progression, and community upliftment, and a "musical statement of solidarity" with a wide range of guest collaborators that include Chuck D, George Clinton, E-40, WC, Kam, Tha Eastsidaz, Dead Prez, T-K.A.S.H., and The Conscious Daughters that is "a much needed united front against oppression and institutional racism in an age almost devoid of meaningful commentary in urban entertainment."
Paris "Night of the Long Knives" (2014)
It seems like longtime outspoken Bay Area political hip-hop artist Paris always shows up at key moments in America's socio-political timeline. Last time we heard from Paris was right before the presidential election six years ago at the end of two terms of George W Bush whose father he had written/recorded the controversial song about ("Bush Killa") that back in the early 90's had gotten him kicked off the Time Warner controlled Tommy Boy Records. That last time was when he released 2008's Acid Reflex and talked to me at that time (read Paris 2008 Amoeblog interview here) in which he had lots to say about the state of America. This time, right as the country is in upheaval in reaction to police officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown / Ferguson killing not being indicted by a grand jury, Paris returns with a no-holds-barred statement on the current state of the US as "police state" in which he views police brutality against minorities as the "increasing acceptance of black death" with the first single and video "Night of the Long Knives" (above) culled from his forthcoming album, Pistol Politics.
With that in mind, however, kindly allow me briefly add to the conversational clutter concerning mod, as its evolution is tied closely to that of the minet. Although today mod is often characterized as a mid-60s, working class subculture fueled by the holy trinity of amphetamines, scooters and soul music, it first appeared in the late 1950s when a largely middle class group of mostly Jewish teenagers with families in the clothing business and for whom the chosen drug was apparently coffee. Modernists, as they then to themselves referred, championed modern jazz over trad jazz (which was championed by the Acker Bilk-listening, bowler-hatted, beer-swilling, baggy sweater-and-duffle coated trads). Sharing their love of modern jazz were the beatniks, but their beardy, black, cultivated scruffiness was rejected in favor of the natty continental style associated with untouchable icons of French cool like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon.
If it can be said that the freshest of the fresh artistic creations bubble up from "underground," then it should come as no surprise that the vast network of tunnels that comprise the coiled entrails of Paris' infamous catacombs has long served as a place where creative Parisians bent on escaping the trappings of society, hemmed in by signs and signifiers girding the city's surface, retreat to the "freedom" of the damp and hard-cut, cramped lawlessness that thrives beneath the streets, expressing themselves with dim-lit abandon. Veteran graffiti artist Psyckoze has spent more than 25 years traversing, tagging, sculpting and mapping the catacombs beneath Paris, a perilous proclivity that makes the documentary Dead Space infinitely watchable.
The Parisian catacombs have always held a certain fascination, whether it be a fear of the dark-generated late night creepshow vibe (must be because of all those skulls 'n' things down in there) or a more sensationalist ghost-hunters of "reality" television programming feel, the mere mention of the mysterious, bone littered underworld beneath the French capitol always stirs the imagination. In following Psyckoze on several adventures throughout the underground maze, documentary film-makers Marielle Quesney and Jean Labourdette nearly destroy their camera (they claim it was held together by duct tape by the end of shooting) and find themselves lost on more than one occasion while Pyschoze, or Psy, encounters graffiti and scrawls of years (sometimes hundreds of years) gone by, often stopping to update his own tags with the fresh designs of his evolved artistic style, and discovers a myriad of threats and claims laid by various catacomb clans, gangs (like the Rats, who were prominent in the eighties) and wanderers who have at one time or another called the catacombs home. There is even a faction of preservationist catacombers who seek to stop taggers like Psy, arguing that the tunnels should be cleaned and restored to their natural sandstone tones (which is not unreasonable, really, when you consider the quarry origins of the catacombs, which were once used to mine and transport building materials as far back as 1000 years).
Shot on a shoestring budget over the course of two years, Dead Space follows Psy as he conducts a surprisingly cohesive tour of the catacombs below Paris (clad in his habitual rubber boots and mining helmet catacomb gear), stopping here and there to highlight several of the more famous subterranean hang-outs like "the Beach" (a large, sandy chamber with a huge painting of a wave --- styled after Hokusai's famous woodblock print --- where parties often rage underground for days) and revealing Psy's personal secret hideaways, including his "castle" --- a sprawling freehand relief sculpture of breasts, faces, battlements and turrets comprising what has to be Psy's ultimate psychedelic masterpiece, laden with personal significance (example: Psy carved a turret in the castle for every year his good friend and fellow catacomber spent locked up in a Thai jail, nine altogether). However, it is clear that most folks who venture down into the catacombs have something other than artistic creation and personal reflection in mind.