When Paris came on the scene in 1990 with his debut album The Devil Made Me Do, he created quite a bit of controversy with the title track and its militant stance, calling out the white man for his many transgressions since the conception of the United States. Through all the controversy, Tommy Boy stood behind their man. For a little while at least.
When he returned in 1992 with his sophomore effort Sleeping With The Enemy, Tommy Boy and the distributor Warner Bros, refused to release and distribute the album due to its content (which speaks of killing then President H.W. Bush [even one of the inner pages of the liner notes has a picture of Paris hiding behind a tree with a tech nine, as Bush approaches on foot] and crooked cops), and ultimately Tommy Boy would drop Paris from the label. This wouldn’t stop Paris from releasing the album, as he would start his own label Scarface Records, and release the project independently.
Paris does mention in the liner notes that the “album was censored and rushed”, which makes me wonder what and why it was “censored”, considering it was released independently; and is “rushed” code for SWTE is a hot mess?
The Enema (Live At The White House) – SWTE opens with what is supposed to be a shootout at The White House. Exhibit A for why Paris was dropped by Tommy Boy.
Make Way For A Panther – Over a mediocre backdrop our host demand that you make way for him and his violent black conscious message. Side note: the liner notes gives Shadow-as in the underground legend DJ Shadow-credit for the sample. Am I the only one that finds it interesting that a militant pro-black artist like Paris would let a white guy help with his production? I’m just sayin…
Sleeping With The Enemy – Paris dedicates this one to the brainwashed brothers that assimilate to white America and its European sensibilities. The instrumental is decent (I guess), but Paris doesn’t do a great job of articulating his points on this one.
House Niggas Bleed Too – This one kind of ties in with the previous song. On the title track, Paris calls out the “house niggas”; on this one he threatens to take them off the face of the earth for being “house niggas”. Well, at least the instrumental on this one is slightly interesting.
Bush Killa – The song opens with Paris snipping H.W. (Exhibit B for Tommy Boy dropping Paris). Paris uses the rest of the song to list the many reasons why he wants Bush dead in the first place. The first half of P’s instrumental is kind of nice, specifically the rough drums and bouncy bass line. Then he switches everything up and brings in a backdrop that has a Teddy Riley New Jack Swing vibe to it; needless to say, the dance track doesn’t quite work with Paris’ violent content.
Coffee, Donuts, & Death – Paris dedicates this one to killing crooked cops who’ve done the black community dirty. Exhibit C for Tommy Boy dropping him. Not a great song, but props for the clever song title.
Thinka ‘Bout It – Paris tones things down a bit, as he samples The Gap Band’s “Outstanding” for the instrumental and takes a slightly less violent approach, as he asks brothers to reconsider the destructive choices they make. Not a great song, but I have a soft spot in my heart for any song that samples “Outstanding”.
Guerrillas In The Mist – P’s song title happens to be the same as Ice Cube’s crew’s (Da Lench Mob) debut album and overall concept. Paris must have felt guilty about this, as he inserts a Cube sound bite at the beginning of the song, almost in an attempt to acknowledge them for using the concept first. Regardless, I’m not a fan of this one.
The Days Of Old – I believe this was the only single released from the album, and one of two reasons why I bought SWTE in the first place. Over a beautiful Blackbyrds’ loop (with the sample credit going to DJ Shadow), Paris reminisces on the innocence of yesteryear and how the black community has lost its sense of unity. It was nice to hear Paris put some of the blame for the plight of black America back on us, as we’ve got to start taking responsibility for our own actions ( “or maybe even more of us a blame the white man, before we understand now the problem is not him”). It sounds like Paris was siding with X-Clan on the whole humanist vs pro-black argument, while also taking an indirect shot at KRS-One with his line “What I’m telling ya is actual fact, I aint pro-human cause all humans aint pro-black”. P’s rhymes are solid and the content is still very relevant; and the instrumental sounds even better than I remembered it.
Long Hot Summer – This interlude has Paris having a phone conversation with a few of his boys (Khaliq Asharri & Kif) regarding the black struggle and a pending black revolution.
Conspiracy Of Silence – Paris invites his friend LP and probably one of the most unlikely emcees to appear on a Paris song, Sun Dubious (from Funkdoobiest), to join him on this one. And yes, Sun actually spits some slightly conscious rhymes. None of the three emcees really impress, and to make matters worse, the hook is trash and the Khaliq Asharri & Kif instrumental is ass.
Funky Lil’ Party – Reason# 2 why I bought SWTE. Over a mellow and smooth instrumental (with another credit going to DJ Shadow for the sample), Paris recounts the details of a party he and the crew decided to go to one evening. While making his way to the bar (to get a glass of juice), Paris is approached by a group of fine ladies that make it crystal clear to him that they “want to do the oochie coochie and spread it ’round”. Like any honest warm-blooded heterosexual man, the righteous Black Panther considers the offer for a minute, but ultimately rejects them and leaves them with some “knowledge of self”, warning them of the consequences of being a hoe (“only gets ya kids, AIDS, or crabs”). Then everything goes wrong when a fist fight between two dudes, turns into gunplay and dead bodies. Grim ending and all, this was a dope song.
Check It Out Ch’All – Over raw, heavy, crashing drums, P-Dog spits more black revolutionary rhymes. Paris doesn’t say anything quote worthy, but his instrumental is kind of nice.
Rise – Khaliq Asharri & Kif return to produce and perform (I think?) this spoken word piece. Not live changing, but I’ve heard worst.
Assata’s Song – This is Paris’ ode to the black woman. Over a mellow jazz tinged instrumental (I love the live saxophone), Paris expresses his love and need for his Nubian sisters; he also shows a rare sign of vulnerability, as he apologizes to black women for running game on them and viewing them as just a piece of ass in the past. This was nice.
Bush Killa (Hellraiser Mix) – This mix uses the same instrumental and verses as the second half of the original, with one additional new verse and unnecessary extended instrumental breaks; and this mess goes on for nearly 8 and half minutes.
It’s a tough task for any emcee to make a full length album full of militant pro-black messages both conscious and entertaining throughout. It’s nearly impossible for a tier B (or C) emcee like Paris to pull this off. On Sleeping With The Enemy, the messages become repetitive, the bulk of the production ranges from mediocre to trash, and Paris (who sounds like a poor man’s Rakim) doesn’t have the charisma or lyrical ability to keep the listener engaged for a full album. SWTE would have definitely fared better as an EP.