Paris: Public Enemy Number One

F or sixteen years, Paris has held the mic like a grudge, as his records have approached just under four million sold. Contemporary Hip-Hop may seem far removed from the socially and politically challenging records of the early 90’s, but the themes aren’t. Sleeping With the Enemy dealt with a Middle East war, a Bush […]


or sixteen years, Paris has held the mic like a grudge, as his records have approached just under four million sold. Contemporary Hip-Hop may seem far removed from the socially and politically challenging records of the early 90’s, but the themes aren’t. Sleeping With the Enemy dealt with a Middle East war, a Bush in office, and watered-down records dropping every Tuesday.

In 2006, Paris is still advancing his career. However, through his Guerilla Funk Records, he’s also helping others like him. The admitted “biggest undertaking yet” for Paris may be Public Enemy’s forthcoming, Rebirth of a Nation album. Produced and penned almost entirely by the San Francisco rapper, this project is as radical in concept as it is in audio. Paris explains to his intentions for the record, as well as his role on the artistic and business responsibilities. Paris is a soul survivor from “The Days of Old”. We spoke to Chuck D. But I never got a sense of how Rebirth of a Nation came to fruition. How contacted whom, and so on?

Paris: Well, it goes back to [Public Enemy’s] Revolverlution record. I did a verse [“Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need (Remix)”on that. It had been a long time coming for us to actually work together. I told [Chuck] that I’d get down on his project, and I wanted him to get down on the project I had comin’ up – Sonic Jihad, on a one hand wash the other type of thing. Both of those collaborations worked out well. So I approached him when he was out here at KPFA promoting his AOL Radio [show] or something. I told him, I wanted to produce a Public Enemy project. He was with it. He said, “Go ahead, get started with it.” This was maybe in the beginning of ’04. One thing led to another and he said, “Go ahead and write. Because I don’t have a lot of time to do multiple things.” He has hella s**t goin’ on with Public Enemy. They got multiple albums, radio shows, TV related projects. He said it’s cool to do the collab though. So I put it together, called up [Professor] Griff, and took it all out to Long Island to Griff and Chuck’s studio. It’s almost nonchalant the way that it’s coming out, but you wrote all the lyrics?

Paris: Uh, the majority of them. Two or three songs were remixes of the original. I asked Chuck this too. But as the producer, you remixed and retitled “I” from There’s a Poison Goin’ On. What was it about that record that attracted you?

Paris: Well, there are a couple of songs on the projects that had been released since they left Def Jam that I dig a lot. It’s just my feeling that a lot of what they’ve released since they left Def Jam actually, hasn’t been heard by anybody. There’s a very select core group of people who follow Public Enemy, and will get down with them, and stand by them, no matter what – through the good albums, through the bad albums, through the hey-day and through the fading of the limelight, so to speak. If there’s one thing I hate doing, it’s being put in a position where I feel like material may be wasted. I don’t want anybody from PE to take that the wrong way. But I just like feel like with the promotional effort that was gonna be put forth with Rebirth of a Nation, I wanted to give it as much shine as possible, and I wanted original contributions from artists that may not have been heard on a large scale. The readily accessible material that I had access to, [‘cause] I couldn’t go to Def Jam, was some of the material from [There’s a Poison Goin’ On]. [“I” really struck me as a song that was being honest in its approach. You can feel the heartfelt tone of it in what [Chuck] is sayin’, and the way it’s delivered. That’s what draws me to most material nowadays is honesty. If you listen to T-K.A.S.H.’s album, it’s very honest. There’s a lot humility in it too. That’s not to say that we won’t get that ass if it’s time to ride. But you don’t have to be that way all the time. I’m very pleased with this project. What was the purpose of this would you say? ‘Cause Public Enemy will release two albums this year, whether on Guerilla Funk, SlamJamz, or wherever…

Paris: My purpose with this project was not necessarily to recapture a snapshot in time, but to focus on the specific meat and potatoes elements that I love about Public Enemy. There was a certain production style – a certain type of song that initially drew me into Public Enemy. I think that’s kinda exemplified on the track “Hard Rhymin’”, which is very scratch-intensive. It’s not really a heavy-sample sound like The Bomb Squad used to do, because logistics prohibit that approach nowadays. But the structure of Rebirth of a Nation is supposed to mirror their better known efforts. You mentioned the shorter reach on some of Public Enemy’s independent albums. Certainly, Sonic Jihad reached an impressive amount of people. As the CEO of Guerilla Funk, how do you intend to combat the market?

Paris: Chuck is adverse to spending money on promotions – that’s no secret there. That’s not on diss. He’ll tell you that too, “I don’t spend money on s**t, I just let it sit.” His approach is selling records over a period of time. My approach is to hit ‘em, make a big awareness, and still sell a lot of records over a period of time. To make a dent in this environment where everybody and they mama got a rap record, you have to spend money on promotion. There’s a huge print campaign, an Internet campaign, television commercials, and there is a pretty intensive radio campaign. It’s gonna be a pretty major undertaking. One of the album’s special points is its guest-list. The Conscious Daughters and Kam are Guerilla Funk artists. These are veteran artists that ride with you. What sense of loyalty do you have as a businessman?

Paris: Loyalty is important. But more important, is the message. Guerilla Funk provides the artists that are on it a lot of flexibility to do what they want to do. At the same time, doin’ what you wanna do must fit into the confines of Guerilla Funk and what we wanna represent. We are self-censored. We are for the right reasons. If you wanna ride, you ridin’ for a revolutionary cause. Make a statement that is socially constructive as opposed to a lot of the negativity that we currently experience in the music industry. Kam is underrated like a mothaf**ka. He’s been around for a while, and consistently comes with heat that is unparalleled by so many, and for whatever reason, cannot find a home to call his own – same thing with dead prez. They’ll never be embraced by a major [again]. Even major-indies would rather have a G-Unit clone than ride with somebody like dead prez. So I said, “F**k that s**t. Let’s all get together and put this down. I’ll finance it, and we’ll make it happen.” VH1 and MTV2 revisit controversial music moments a lot. They quickly go to NWA and Ice-T, but overlook you and 2 Live Crew a lot. As your legacy endures, do you want to be on those television specials for some of the things you’ve done?

Paris: It doesn’t really matter. I’m an economist, which is threatening to a lot of people in the industry because the industry is all about control. Guerilla Funk is a wild card situation, ‘cause I’m not controlled by anybody’s financial interest. I’m able to do and say and make and the material that I wanna do, when I wanna, how I wanna. If somebody doesn’t recognize me – like VH1, the ultimate musical corporate interest, then it’s still cool with me. I’m still 3.8 million records deep, independently. You really can’t kill me. That’s not being egotistical. That to me, is I’m in the driver’s seat making the kind of material that I feel needs to be made, and I don’t care if you acknowledge it or not. With every interview, I like to revisit an artist’s song –

Paris: — “Bush Killa”. Actually, “The Days of Old”. [both laugh] Tell me what specifically prompted that joint…

Paris: With “The Days of Old”, the writing on the wall was… quite some time ago, I was predicting the slow decline of quality and message in Hip-Hop. That was my commentary, ten years ago. The difference between the environment in Hip-Hop now and then, is night and day. Yeah, there are a lot of people making a lot more money now than then. The crude expense at which they’re making that money can’t even be measured, because there’s so much negativity infused in the community through s**t that’s being put out by corporations that don’t represent us. It’s scary. There wasn’t really any one defining moment. Sleeping With the Enemy was conceived as a result of the first Gulf War. My cousin went to go fight in that…the anger and uncertainty that went into that. He’s alright now. But these Silver Spoons boys pulling the switches and deciding who fights, who lives, and who dies – it was so much anger. How’s that angered changed?

Paris: It hasn’t. It’s still there. Now I have more tools available to me to counteract the propaganda of the s**t that surrounds us everyday. Your s**t really will end up in a garbage can too, if you send me material that sounds anything like the artists that a lot of these labels put out. To go out on a funny note. Through your website, you are easy to reach. However, there’s a notice to artists who wish to get you to appear on their work, that they consider who you are and what you represent. That said, what’s the craziest, or most unusual request you ever received?

Paris: Most of ‘em know better now. [laughs] A lot of ‘em, I can’t really speak on it. There hasn’t been anything that’s been so far removed from what people expect. I haven’t really encountered anything that’s been out-there. People that take the time to figure out how to reach me already know the parameters that they have to operate in. And I am a humorous motherf**ker, in case that doesn’t come through. Everything is serious as a mothaf**ka, but our conditions is serious.