Picks and Pans Review: Sleeping with the Enemy

updated 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/11/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

Paris

You may not know who Paris is, but the Secret Service does. The Bay Area rapper's sophomore album would have hit stores last September had not some of its content—particularly a proposed photo montage to illustrate the cut "Bush Killa" showing a young Uzi-toting black man ready to ambush the President outside the U.S. Capitol—triggered alarmed statements by the Secret Service and the New York State Sheriff's Association, which had earlier protested Ice-T"s "Cop Killer."

The Warner Music Group, which had backed Ice-T in the "Cop Killer" fracas, refused to let its Tommy Boy subsidiary release the album. So Paris look the record to PolyGram's 4th and B'way label. But two weeks before the election PolyGram, too, nixed the deal. Finally, armed with a low six-figure compensation from Tommy Boy, Paris put out Sleeping (with "Bush Killa" and the antipolice "Coffee, Donuts and Death" and the offending photo hidden inside) on a label of his own. By then, Election Day had passed.

Whenever you hear it, though, "Bush Killa" is fierce, funky and often brutal—and, like the rest of Sleeping with the Enemy, works as both polemic and slamming hip-hop. With a steely delivery over a chunky beat, the 25-year-old rapper warns in the song, "So don't be tellin' me to get the nonviolent spirit/ Cause when I'm violent is the only time ya devils hear it."

After the release, Marjorie Heins, director of the ACLU's arts and censorship project, defended the song as "a protest, not a meaningful threat against the President." And the rapper himself took pains to explain that the track "is not meant to glorify violence, and it is not meant to incite black youth or anyone else who happens to hear it.... 'Bush Killa' is meant to express my outrage at what I take to be the violence directed day after day at the African-American community during the last four years, violence that a lifetime of songs from me could never equal."

Luckily for fans of hip-hop and the First Amendment. Sleeping with the Enemy has surfaced, better late than never. (Scarface)

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