One of the most underrated artists in hip-hop, throughout his career Paris has struggled to find an audience for his righteously angry brand of overtly political hip-hop. But where earlier albums attempted to mask the stridently non-commercial nature of Paris' lyrical content with accessible, commercial-minded productions, 1998's Unleashed finds Paris damn near giving up on trying to reach his audience politically, instead hopping on the West Coast gangsta rap bandwagon with dispiriting gusto. Paris' gruff baritone remains as powerful and commanding as ever, but it's depressing to hear someone whose work once resonated with conviction and idealism spit gangsta rap clichés like some sort of lost Suge Knight flunky. Where Paris' lyrics once took dead aim at the racist white power structure, Unleashed finds Paris and his unpromising protégés venting their nihilistic anger at anyone and everyone, from women to wack rappers to dishonest record labels. Bitterness and disillusionment seep into nearly every track, as Paris takes oral revenge on a world that never really accepted him or his music. Sonically, Unleashed is steeped in the sinister, low-riding West Coast G-funk pioneered by Dr. Dre, full of accessible, professional, but not particularly distinctive grooves and laid-back samples. If Unleashed was the work of an up-and-coming West Coast rapper, it would be a lot easier to forgive the bleak nihilism of its lyrics or the familiarity of its production. Coming from an artist of Paris' stature, however, it's a tremendous disappointment, and easily his worst album to date. Given the consistent air of desperation and hopelessness that pervades Unleashed, it's not surprising that Paris retired from the rap game shortly after its release, giving up the hip-hop lifestyle to become, of all things, a wealthy and successful stockbroker.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Rabin