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Interview With Paradox 2WX
Emerging From The Darkness
By Tamara Harris, Cinque Zenith
(more articles from this author)
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Artist: Paradox
Title: Dark Reign
Genre: Hip Hop
Label: Independent
Download: “Dark Reign”
Dark Reign

The red-eyed half face of Paradox on the Dark Reign album cover revealed one piece of the rapper’s personality that is always living through life’s nasty muck days. His black cloak flew behind words describing frustrations with as he says "everything."

A pure underground effort, Dark Reign matched a Bronx-bred Puerto Rican face to street Goth. Fans have called his style of hip-hop horrcore, demonic and hardcore. Earlier promotional shots of his face painted like a yin-yang icon intrigued hip-hoppas. Balls, chains, cloaks and swords have never been associated with a hip-hop show and those things only increased curiosity about the emcee that offered heaven and hell in the same verse.

The latter spawned from a lifetime of personal struggles that continue to this day. As a light-skinned Latin man he is mistaken for white regularly. One day at the beach a few years back the ‘N’ word was muttered not too far away from where he was standing. An entire silence engulfed the space and all eyes fixated on him before he took a near-fatal beating. No one was ever charged for the crime but the painful experience fed the fire of Reign.

Family troubles and recently gaining full custody of his two teenaged daughters have pushed his pen deeper into the page. And the crowning incident of it all came last year when two off-duty drunken police officers hit him in a car accident. Although the policeman had alcohol levels of .13, Florida’s Wheel Law protected them and their punishment was a three-day suspension.

It would seem that ten years off and on in Tampa would have taken this particular sting of urban living away, but being from New York City nothing surprises Paradox. He admits his earlier work actually censored some of the darker things he’s seen. It would be simplistic to call him another angry young man of color because he is just as invested in construction as he is destruction.

"Hunger Strike" is a song about the vapid attack of corporate rap on hip-hop. Paradox compiled a group of fetid emcees to complete the song dedicated to hip-hop’s Old School ethos. Zulu Nation membership keeps him grounded with the music and has for years. Their positive teachings still nurture his creativity.

The grim reaper imagery is ultimately about killing off the ugliness and clearing the way for new beginnings. But you can not let go of the past if you don’t confront it. And that much was accomplished with Dark Reign. Two years ago is a long time in hip-hop and Paradox is not in the same place of a semi-cynical sun.

ACT II: How I Lived

Violin strings wound tight from tension and female R&B back-up singers flanks each side of Paradox’s vision in "Changes." It is one song from his new album, How I Lived, that sounds more like a man approaching light than a happy subground dweller. The new material has a brighter quality to it and explains how Paradox got to Dark Reign in the first place. And his identification with Marvin Gaye’s Divided Soul eloquently translated by David Ritz falls flat because he has already survived his biggest personal demons in addition to being strictly drug-free.

Concertgoers who saw him and fellow rapper BobbyLee open for Common in Tampa this past summer felt anything but darkness. The fans showed love again when they supported his single "Ain’t Seen It Coming" on 95.7, one of Clear Channel's many mafia-like stations, which is no small achievement for any underground rapper. DJ Ekin promoted the song enough for it to seep through the tightly controlled corporate airwaves. Fellow emcees Big Mook, Vizion, and underground notable Celph Titled blessed the How I Lived project as well.

These days Paradox is smiling a bit more thanks to the career progress he’s making and his spiritual understanding of life. No matter what kind of inner battle he may want to rap about hip-hop helps to keep his soul intact and the fans who greatly appreciates continue to encourage his next steps. I talked with him about his grind as an independent artist and this is what he said.

[Tamara Harris] Who is Paradox?

Paradox You talkin to him, The Arch Angel, a hiphop/spoken word emcee, raised in the Bronx and operating outta Tampa.

[Tamara Harris] I know people compare you to people like Necto because of your dark imagery, but what exactly is your sound/style of hip-hop?

Paradox They used to compare me, but after I released Dark Reign and did other projects, they soon saw that we had really nothing in common except for both being underground. My style is a combination of reality, street ryhmes, mixed with wit, pain and pleasure. My love for hiphop gives my style an edge. There’s a lot of anger in it, but also other emotions, as well. Check out my video, “If A Bullet Could Sing," and you'll see a very real side to me. So variety is there, also "feel me"?

[Tamara Harris] You've built a reputation for yourself in Tampa. What is the scene like there?

Paradox Crazy yo. I mean we have got to have one of the hugest hiphop scenes in the country. It’s not just one style, dirty south, like most people think. Problem is lack of real industry and unity here...if ya looking for hip hop, we got it. If ya lookin for music business, Tampa aint quite there yet ... but it will be, in my opinion. I mean, Mad linx reppin for us on BET Rap city. So Tampa's getting there lil by lil.

[Tamara Harris] Tell me about the new upcoming album, How I Live. How is it different from Dark Reign?

Paradox It’s “How I Lived," so I revisit my past in some of the songs. Heads wanted to know what made me such a red-eyed Beserker, so I hit them with a flash back, a prequel yo.

[Tamara Harris] I know you are opening for Common. How is the touring situation? Future plans?

Paradox Actually, BobbyLee is and I’m part of his show. Big ups to him and Sandman from for that look. It’s supposed to be a secret cuz I'm considered a pioneer in Tampa’s scene, and BobbyLee wanted to give shine to other artist I suppose he respects, but Imma be humble and just keep reppin hiphop. I got some out of state plans in effect, but money gotta be right. I love hiphop, but I still gotta eat y,know.

[Tamara Harris] Who are some artists that you are working with now?

Paradox Heh, Did a joint with Celph Titled and Highcollide, and I think it was the first time a Clear Channel station ever gave a indie underground song so many spins in Tampa (thanks Ekin). But, yo back to that, Noktik, Vizion,Lord Khefran Gizmoe, Marazmus, Pemcee vega X. I’m lookin to do sumthun with Majik. Most we just gotta agree onna beat. Brother Mellow, Sham, maybe Laws if he can pick up his phone. IceyBlue, Keith Wolfe and C-Rena. Sorry if I left anyone out.

[Tamara Harris] Who would you like to work with?

Paradox Rakim, Kanye West, Tech 9. It sucks that majorly I can't really name a lot. But I don’t do well with the flavor of the month rappers. I love hiphop classics. I’d like to also work with Kool G Rap, Prince, even Marvin Gaye (rip), if he were alive...few others.

[Tamara Harris] What's the best and worst thing about being an independent?

Paradox Freedom to do you! Money percentages are bigger. But you’re overlooked and underpaid, also. But the longevity is a beautiful thing, especially if its in your heart.

[Tamara Harris] What's next for Paradox?

Paradox Sex, Lies and Video tapes...JK. I’m just takin it one day at a time, and rapping up my next album and "Praise the most high."

For more information and to contact the author, click on the author’s name at the top of the page.

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