Putting the Diss in Dissent

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Review of "Sonic Jihad" by Paris

Paris first graced the airwaves in 1990 with his black nationalist, anti-establishment LP The Devil Made Me Do It. Two years later he cemented his name as one of hip-hop's most militant lyricists with Sleeping With the Enemy, which was originally due for release before the presidential election in 1992, but suppressed by the recording establishment until the November after the election. The album was shrouded in controversy, with one song in particular - Bush Killa, a revenge fantasy about the assassination of then-president George Bush Sr - raising ire. The G Funk sound which had become prevalent in West Coast rap featured heavenly on Paris's third album, Guerrilla Funk. This sound followed him through to his fourth record, Unleashed, which was an angry rejection of an increasingly negative political climate in hip-hop.

Five years on, a stint as a stockbroker(!), one 11 September and an endless war on terror later, Paris is back and as militant as ever. Sonic Jihad, released on Paris's independent 'musical organisation' Guerrilla Funk recordings, initially sold out via the artist's website (www.guerrillafunk.com). After fighting tooth and nail to get distribution, it is now taking to the shelves of major retailers and looks set to garner Paris new fans. Encased in a jet black sleeve, the cover is hidden away so as not to offend. It depicts a plane heading for the White House. Paris acknowledges that it will cause offence, but responds that 'they complain about the imagery but remain silent when records come out every day that are endorsed by white corporations that degrade black people. Records with lyrics and imagery of black on black violence, drug use and degrading messages about our women. You know there's no outrage there.'

This album attacks the erosion of hip-hop creativity in an industry awash with negativity, genetically modified by major labels in the name of profit. Paris bigs up the anti-war movement in the US and showcases his view that the Bush administration played a key role in orchestrating the terror attacks of 11 September. Tracks like 'AWOL', where Paris adopts the persona of a poor young black male tricked into joining the military with promises of his own apartment, money and exotic world travel, exemplify Paris's ability to paint vivid pictures in your mind. His art of lyrical storytelling is further evident on the track 'Evil', a guide to becoming an oppressor. 'What Would You Do', musically the finest track on the record, calls on people to stand up and fight the common enemy (the US ruling elite): 'And now I'm hoping you don't close ya mind - so they shape ya/Don't forget they made us slaves, gave us Aids and raped us/Another Bush season mean another war for profit/All in secret so the public never think to stop it.'

This album is a breath of fresh air in an industry that is doing its best to silence dissent and reward ignorance. Guest appearances from fellow revolutionary rappers Dead Prez, Public Enemy, Kam and reggae legend Cappleton, alongside speeches from Jesse Jackson and other anti-war activists, add to the flavour of this truly angry vocal critic of US imperialism and the status quo. As Paris says, 'When ya see me, understand I'm representing a voice the majority would feel if given a choice.'