Bay area rapper and producer Paris is one of hip-hop's most militantly Afro-centric radicals. Drawing from the teachings of Malcolm X and Nation of Islam as well as the provocative intelligence of Public Enemy and the gut-level rage of early Ice Cube, Paris' music has in turn influenced a generation of political and conscious rappers, such as Dead Prez and Immortal Technique. His early albums, including 1992's Sleeping with the Enemy, were both acclaimed and controversial for their graphic lyrics addressing police brutality and presidential neglect of inner-city violence. Due to labels and distributors objecting to his material, Paris has released the majority of his work on his own labels, including Scarface and Guerilla Funk. His lyrics have remained relevant and thought-provoking throughout the decades, covering topics such as the war on terror (2003's Sonic Jihad), institutional racism (2006's Rebirth of a Nation, with Public Enemy), and gentrification (2020's Safe Space Invader).
Born Oscar Jackson, Jr. in California, Paris earned a degree in economics from the University of California-Davis (near the San Francisco Bay Area); but hip-hop appealed to him more, and he founded his own record label, Scarface. He recorded a single, but found he lacked the resources to promote it properly, and wound up landing a deal with Tommy Boy Records. His debut album, The Devil Made Me Do It, was released in 1990, and attracted some attention (and praise) for the single "The Hate That Hate Made," as well as the title track, whose video was banned by MTV.
Paris completed the follow-up album Sleeping with the Enemy in 1992; however, in the wake of the controversy over Ice-T's "Cop Killer," Tommy Boy refused to release it, citing the anti-George Bush track "Bush Killa." Eventually, they decided the whole album was far too strident and inflammatory, and bought out Paris' contract. After distribution agreements with Polygram and Def American fell through for similar reasons, Paris resurrected Scarface (helped by the Tommy Boy settlement money) and finally put the album out himself. It was acclaimed as a major statement in some quarters, but failed to find a wide audience in the midst of the gangsta rap revolution. Released in 1994, Guerrilla Funk met with a similar fate, slipping largely under the radar, and Paris spent four years away from the studio. He returned with Unleashed in 1998, which largely addressed racial violence and was closer to G-funk and gangsta than his earlier hardcore rap style. He retired from hip-hop not long after and put his economics degree to use as a successful stockbroker.
The break didn't last long, however. In 2003, Paris resurfaced with Sonic Jihad, which he released through his new label, Guerrilla Funk Recordings. Remastered versions of his first three albums were issued around the same time, and Paris subsequently partnered with Public Enemy's Chuck D for a collaborative album, 2006's Rebirth of a Nation. That same year, Paris began producing additional records and issuing politically minded compilation albums (titled Hard Truth Soldiers) for his label. He returned to his own craft in 2008, recording and releasing the studio effort Acid Reflex. Paris continued producing music for other artists as well as Hollywood films, and released his seventh solo album, Pistol Politics, in 2015. Safe Space Invader, addressing subjects such as gentrification and income inequality, appeared in 2020. ~ Steve Huey