In 2001, the unreleased album cover to the Coup's Party Music, which showed group leader Boots gleefully detonating a bomb to blow up the World Trade Center, became a symbol of the post-9/11 debate between civil liberties and patriotism. Two years later, Sonic Jihad, the fifth album by Paris, the Bay Area's own "Black Panther of Rap," rekindles that controversy with a cover depicting a low-flying jet heading straight for the White House. Sonic Jihad is being marketed as an album so dangerous to homeland security it's unavailable at chain stores (you can find it online at GuerrillaFunk.com). While it's several notches below an al-Qaeda training booklet, it's laden with hard, crunchy beats -- as well as some pretty inflammatory comments about police, the government and the media.
Paris' intensity and lyrical delivery haven't changed much in 13 years, Matrix and CNBC references aside. But these days, he alleges, "hip-hop has sold out," necessitating his latest comeback. "P-Dog in the cut back to bring the pain. . . . It's the return of the Bush killa back to bust," he growls on the album's opening salvo, "Field Nigga Boogie." The song hints at the rapper's return to classic form, with a keyboard bass line and insistent tempo that recall "Break the Grip of Shame," his breakout 1990 single. "What we about is justice and freedom/Fuck the rest," he bellows on "You Know My Name." On "Evil," Paris plays devil's advocate and imagines what he'd do if he were morally corrupt. It's an effective technique, one that shows it's far easier to be an ignorant thug rapper than a thugged-out revolutionary.
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Yet Paris isn't alone in his mission. He teams with South Central Muslim MC Kam on "Ain't No Love," while "Spilt Milk" contrasts P-Dog's Bay Area slang with the Jamaican patois of red-eyed Rasta Capleton. And in a conspiracy theorist's wet dream, Paris is joined by dead prez and Public Enemy on "Freedom." The song's G-funk handclaps may seem dated, but hey, so are throwback jerseys. Still, the rabble-rousing posse cut, which builds around a simple chorus of "freedom, freedom, freedom," is almost "Live at the BBQ" for the anti-Bush contingent.