If Barack Obama's candidacy was supposed to take the wind out of black nationalist hip-hop — by imposing racial reform via presidential elections — nobody told Bay Area rhymer, producer, label owner, and activist Paris. For 17 years, the veteran MC has uncompromisingly addressed burning issues in the African-American community with an ultradense rhyme style over durable, hard-hitting beats. His sixth album, Acid Reflex, finds him as outraged as ever. Paris doesn't mention Obama directly in his rhymes, but he alludes to at least one of his former allegiances in "The Violence of the Lambs, " which finds Paris backing off the mike to put a beat track behind the Reverend Jeremiah Wright's infamous "chickens coming home to roost" speech. The oration essentially blamed 9/11 on U.S. foreign policy and dogged Obama's campaign with negative publicity. The rapper's message seems clear: An election won't mitigate the concerns raised by black liberation ideology. Paris leads the hip-hop game in analyzing those issues, which include police abuse ("Blap That Ass Up"), race politics ("The Trap"), violence between blacks and Latinos ("One Gun"), the sham of organized religion ("The Hustle"), and many others.
Acid Reflex is expertly made hip-hop both lyrically and sonically, though it has one troubling aspect. As in early tracks like the revenge fantasy "Bush Killa," Paris makes repeated calls to arms against feds, politicians, and racist cops: "What if we demand a change/and blow heads off instead of complainin'?" he asks in "Get Fired Up." It's provocative imagery, but ultimately firepower politics seem just as futile as electoral messianism.