Hailing from San Fransisco, California, Oscar Jackson Jr, better known to the hip-hop world as Paris, came on the hip-hop scene in 1990. Following the likes of Public Enemy, Paris’ music was heavily influenced with a pro-black message. In fact, Paris would later get dropped from Tommy Boy Records before the release of his sophomore effort Sleeping With the Enemy, due to its violent content; which wouldn’t have been a problem if the violence was directed at other black men, but because it was directed at (then) President Bush and the police force it was viewed as too much for the suits at Tommy Boy and Warner Bros. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to his debut…
In 1990 Paris released his debut album The Devil Made Me Do It, which can be looked at as a sign of troubles to come for our militant brother in the industry, as the video for the title song was deemed to controversial by the powers that be at MTV, and banned from the network. Unlike his left coast brethren, NWA, Paris was not able to turn the controversy into ginormous record sales, but he still continues to record independent records and tours the globe.
I was exposed to Paris back in 92′, after seeing the video for his song “The Days of Old”, which led to me eventually buying Sleeping With the Enemy. A few years ago I stumbled upon The Devil Made Me Do It at a local Pawn shop, and since I liked a few songs off the second album and it was a 1 dollar holla, you know the rest.
Fast forward to today. This is my first time listening to The Devil Made Me Do It in its entirety. Let’s give her a spin, shall we?
Intro – The album opens with a dark menacing instrumental accompanied by various soundbites from news reports relating to the black struggle in America thru the past 100 years. One of the clips is on Yusef Hawkins, the Brooklyn teen who was murdered by a group of white youth in 1989. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost 25 years since that happen. I feel old. RIP Yusef.
Scarface Groove – Paris sticks with the dark feel on the first song, as his instrumental is driven by a ridiculous bass line. You would think (or at least I did) he would follow the intro with a pro-black/militant message song, but instead he uses this one to utter unconviencing threats and random boasts. I’ve never thought it about it before today, but you definitely can hear the influence of Rakim on Paris’ style. I’m not saying he’s a biter or nothing, but he definitely studied Rakim’s blueprint.
This Is A Test – Lets get one think straight right off the bat. Paris loves bass, or as he refers to it on this song, “righteous bass”. Unsurprisingly, Paris’ instrumental is driven by a bananas bass line that he uses to criticize radio, their playlists, as well as telling the listener what to expect from a Paris album. P-Dog even takes a shuttle shot at shot at N.W.A. and another act that was remains unknown, thanks to a censor on that part of the vocal. (I’m extremely curious on who the shot was aimed at, why their name was removed, and why NWA’s name stayed on the track. Anyone with the inside scoop, hit me in the comment section) This was a hot one.
Panther Power – This one opens with a soundbite taken from a speech from former Black Panther leader Bobby Seale, which is fitting, since the song is pretty much an endorsement for the Black Panther Movement, which is becoming very obvious that P-Dog was obsessed with when this was recorded. The soundbite of a prowling panther at the end of the song was kind of corny. This song didn’t make me want to put on my black beret and leather jacket, but I did get pulled over the other day for looking suspicious, so I’m not opposed to calling the cops, pigs. So, Panther Power!
Break The Grip Of Shame – This was the second single released from The Devil Made Me Do It. Curiously, Paris’ instrumental (which I was fighting the urge to get up and shake my groove thing to while listening to) has a dance feel to it, which I’m not opposed to, but I find a bit contradicting, considering the comment he made about dance music on “This Is A Test”. It’s also interesting that Paris (or the label) chose to censor his curses on this particular song but let them fly all Willy-Nilly on the previous songs. More than likely this was recorded with the intent of releasing it as a single, thus Paris made that decision, but it still sounds a little awkward when listening to the album in its entirety. I’m not sure why he settled on naming this “Break The Grip Of Shame”, since his lyrical content is all over the place on this song. Maybe when Paris heard the infectious groove, like me, he too had the urge to shake his little tush to it. But unlike me he could no longer resist the desire, as he proceeded to drop it like it’s hot, and in the process experienced a freedom he never felt before, and for a moment (at least) he stopped taking himself so serious and felt no shame in letting the rhythm move him, thus the title “Break The Grip Of Shame”. Probably not, but it sound like a good theory in my head.
Warning – Over an instrumental that is so minimal it barely exist (which also rings true for Paris’ vocal), Paris spits a quick one verse wonder about a thirteen year old boy who’s been the victim of police brutality. In case you forgot or never knew: after NWA recorded “Fuck The Police” this type of song became mandatory for any hardcore/Pro-black hip-hop album back in the early nineties. This wasn’t terrible but not memorable in the least bit.
Ebony – This is an ode to Paris’ favorite magazine (not really, but I think you’re smart enough to figure out what it’s really about). I actually like the guitar sample Paris uses for the instrumental, but the drums underneath it are way too aggressive and end up overpowering and drowning out the sample like a tsunami.
Brutal – Paris’s strong bass line carries his instrumental as he gives a brief history on the Nation of Islam and name drops a few key players in the that movement in the process. The second verse is when things get a bit shaky: P completely changes up the instrumental to what equates to a bunch of noise; and to make matters worse, his flow completely falls a part as he trades in his smooth delivery for a more aggressive one that leaves him off beat and sloppy . Listening to the last part of this song fits the song’ title.
On The Prowl – Did I mention that Paris is obsessed with the Black Panthers? It becomes even more evident with this complete waste of time. This is pretty much a drum beat with the same panther sample used on “Panther Power” sprinkled over it. On the bright side, it’s only a minute and a half.
The Devil Made Me Do It – The video for the album’s title song was the first single that was banned from MTV back in the day because it was deemed to controversial. I just watched the video on YouTube and honestly I’m not sure what was too controversial about it. In comparison to the videos they play nowadays this video is pretty innocent. Paris’ overall theme is to say the devil’s (aka the white man) treatment of blacks throughout American history is the reason for the militant stance he taken, I think. Paris sounds decent on the mic but the real winner is his instrumental with its driving bass line and the melodically dark keyboard sample sprinkled in during the hook.
The Hate That Hate Made – This was short. That’s all I got.
Mellow Madness – The song title is fitting, as Paris fuses a jazzy sax into his instrumental to create a laid back and pretty enjoyable instrumental. I have no idea what Paris was rapping about, though. My attention is getting shorter than a Nevada stripper’s skirt.
I Call Him Mad – This is Paris’ ode to his deejay Mad Mike, for whom P-Dog is generous enough to give equal shine to on this song. I respect the sentiment, but anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m not a fan of this type of song; and this one is no exception.
Esacape From Babylon – P-Dog breaks out the soapbox to discuss the state of the black man, The Nation of Islam (again) and take the time our of his busy schedule to explain the Black Panther 10 point system, which is pretty much a waste of time since the 10th point sums up point 1 thru 9 in a nutshell. I didn’t care for this one too much.
Wretched – Paris aims this one at those he considers to be sellouts. It was kind of interesting to hear Paris call out Young MC (wonder what he’s doing these days?) and Jazzy Jeff (and the Fresh Prince, even though he only names Jeff) for (in his opinion)creating mindless music people choose to listen to so they don’t have to face the reality of racism and injustices. Even Chuck D (whom Paris would later collaborate with) know every militant rapper needs a Flavor Flav to balance things out.
The following two songs are only included on the cd version of The Devil Made Me Do It:
Break The Grip Of Shame – Other than an extended instrumental intro and a few cuts and scratches here and there, this is the exact same as the original mix.
The Devil Made Me Do It (Poach A Pig Mix) – Same as the original with a few added bells and whistles in the form of extended breaks with soundbites of derogatory terms for police. (thus the “Poach a Pig Mix” sub-title). This was a waste of wax, but more importantly, a waste of time.
The Devil Made Me Do It is one of the greatest hip-hop albums every manifested. Any hip-hop collection instantly loses creditability without The Devil Made Me Do It included. I’m bullshitin’ ya. I do appreciate Paris’ hands on approach, though. He wrote, performed, and produced the entire album which manages to maintain a cohesive feel throughout. But there is a thin line between cohesive and redundant, and Paris, who is a pretty decent emcee, tends to straddle that line quite often when it comes to his content, never straying too far from his “pro-black-black-panther party-Nation of Islam” rhetoric. Some of his instrumentals tend to sound the same as well. The Devil Made Me Do It isn’t a complete waste of time nor is it a classic, but it falls somewhere in between those two extremes.