Capital Rap

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

After the dot-commers built a Web site for Paris, he stayed up nights blogging it. Guerrillafunk.com is hundreds of pages deep, filled with the rapper's thoughts on the origins of the Bush family, his advice on personal wealth-building, and links to dozens of articles on a wide range of political topics, including a number of conspiracy theories.

It was time for Paris, still a Muslim, to make jihad – with music.

This time around, though, the rapper understood that Americans were "not ready for a revolution. There is no black army. We might talk about overthrowing the system, but you can't if the mass of people do not want to do it."

Jackson morphed into Paris after 
listening 
to black Muslim leader Louis 
Farrakhan and 
reading Malcolm X's autobiography.
Paolo Vescia
Jackson morphed into Paris after listening to black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan and reading Malcolm X's autobiography.
Davey D says Paris was a big hit 
when the 
DJ played him on KMEL.
Paolo Vescia
Davey D says Paris was a big hit when the DJ played him on KMEL.

But that does not mean they won't actively defend themselves against police repression or vote against the political party in power. "At its best, hip hop is aggressive and counterestablishment," notes Paris. So the erstwhile stockbroker decided to reach out to hip hop fans, especially young black ones, with an anti-corporate, anti-Republican, anti-major-record-label message. "In the black community," he says, "life imitates art, as hip hop carries a lot of weight."

It carries weight in white suburbs, too. The majority of American hip hop fans are, according to many consumer surveys, white people between the age of 14 and 34. The problem with commercial rap, says Paris, is its ludicrous content.

"You can ask elementary school kids to recite a 50 Cent or Eminem song, and they know every obscene lyric, but they do not know math," he laments.

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 ...

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