Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Capital Rap 

From revolutionary rapper to stockbroker to rapper again -- the long, strange trip of Paris, aka Oscar Jackson Jr.

Wednesday, Dec 3 2003

Page 4 of 5

For his comeback, Panther Paris wanted to influence all the hip hop lovers, to persuade them to "adopt an attitude of frustration and outrage instead of just parroting corporate America's objectives."

As usual, Paris employed the stylized hyperbole of hip hop to package his political message, hoping to make it digestible for millions of fans who he believes have been lulled to sleep mentally by the obscene banalities of commercial rap.

... when you killin' niggas on a record then you going places

But talk about killin' these crackas, you racist ...

Look into my eyes before I pull this trigger, I don't know what's worse

A black cracka or a white nigga, who should I do first? – "Ain't No Love (w/Kam)," Sonic Jihad

The burning question, though, is what does Paris really want his fans to do? Ultimately, he says, he hopes his art will "redefine black manhood," but he's quick to remind you that he is not a philanthropist, not the savior of the world. "This is not a hobby, it's to make money," he says firmly.

And in the parlance of hip hop, making money is the bling.

Michael Franti, recording star and nonviolent revolutionary, gets visibly sad when he talks about the hip hop culture of over-the-top materialism. Even the music itself, he notes, has been co-opted by corporations.

"It's hard to observe how hip hop has changed over the last 15 years," said Franti, who performs regularly at Bay Area anti-war rallies, as he dressed for a concert (with his band, Spearhead) at the Warfield last month. "It was a political, cultural, spiritual force, a voice of the community. Now it's the voice of McDonald's, Reebok.

"Face it: Every teenage boy wants to get laid. The question is how to do it. Hip hop teaches him he needs a car, money; to be tough enough to outplay, outsmart.

"At the same time, hip hop has always been about making people dance, socialize. As a political songwriter, I cannot forget the importance of dance, humming along with the melody, planting seeds in the lyrics. Over time, when people enjoy music, the seeds take hold. Songs help to make the revolution."

Yet Franti has no problem with Paris' forays into the world of high finance.

"Paris has street credibility in his music, which is injected with radical lyrics. He also understands the music industry as a place to do his art, but he is not solely reliant upon music, which is a fickle way to earn a living. As a successful businessman, he is a good example to young people who think hip hop is a way to get rich."

A musical colleague of Paris since the early 1990s, Franti loves Sonic Jihad. "Paris has one of the best voices there ever was in rap -- a deep, authoritative baritone. People talk about the things he says, but he is also a great musician."

Plus, Paris has a devilish sense of humor.

Sonic Jihad opens with "Ave Bushani," a spoof of the Omen movies, featuring George W. Bush as Damien, the corporate Antichrist.

"Our objective conflicts with others," Satan tells the newly minted president. "Your father believed his country should look to another form of government, and he took control of that belief, so we view him as an extraordinary man. We believe, we know, that it runs in the family."

A chant follows: "He shall rise in the world of politics, the Devil's Child will rise in the world of politics."

Another cut on Sonic Jihad, called "Field Nigga Boogie," urges blacks to:

... ride or die

Put this beast on its back ...

Unless you wanna live on your knees, throw down.

This call to arms is followed by "Sheep to the Slaughter," a pounding rap overlaid with the sounds of anti-war demonstrations.

And when ya see me, understand I'm representin' a voice

The majority would feel if given a choice.

Paris' collaborations with Kam and singers from Public Enemy and Dead Prez lend vocal depth and musical complexity to the album. The bittersweet lyrics of "AWOL," about ghetto kids tricked into the Army with false promises, alternate with the battle cries of "Tear Shit Up":

Fuck the system, I'm-a holla with a black fist

It's hard truth, where my soldiers?

Unlike most contemporary rappers, Paris reserves the term "bitch" for Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, while labeling President Bush a murderer in a photo-op jumpsuit who is too cowardly to go after a target that might shoot back. He believes that modern wars and oppression are the result of a conscious plan perpetrated by evil people, such as the Bushes, rather than by the capitalist system. He lays it all out in another song on the Sonic Jihad album, "Evil."

See, if I was wicked I would pick and stick to a plan

To rule the world and trick 'em, this is how it'd begin ...

In a school system where I'd keep the money too tight

I'd let 'em know just where they belong in my world

Turn the boys into felons, makin' hookers of girls

Swirled up in my plan, build jails to keep

All my prisons full of niggas, have 'em workin' for free ...

Teach 'em only to respect sports, music, and dope ...

They'd forget about elections and the way that we cheated ...

Then manipulate the media -- it's U.S. first

Get the stupid-ass public to agree with my words

Then I'd make the play, takin' all their freedoms away.

So far, Sonic Jihad has sold 94,000 copies, Paris says, and is licensed for international distribution. He clears $9 per CD sale (and keeps half of the $20 people fork over for Guerrilla Funk T-shirts). Early next year, the rapper/entrepreneur will take his sonic jihad on a worldwide tour.

About The Author

Peter Byrne


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"