Contrary to how the music industry ought to operate, being creative and being commercially successful aren?t necessarily scenarios that go hand in hand. Just ask Prince Paul. So we did in this exclusive interview with producer/DJ/recording artist Prince Paul.
First I would like to show respect to Prince Paul. You have done so many things for Hip-Hop. Respect!
1. For people who may not have heard some beats from you yet… what can someone who’s never heard of you expect from your music?
Expect experimentation and fun…
2. Are you pleased with the response you have received so far from the public and the Hip-Hop scene?
Yeah I?m cool with it so far, I still have a job I guess
3. What did you went through to get your music recognized? Has your career been more difficult because you have a very own opinion on which music you want to make?
Being constantly dissed. It?s a little more difficult but it?s more rewarding when you set your own pace and styles
4. During your career you have done a lot of things like Stetsasonic, Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School. If you look back to these projects what can you say about it?
Each project represents a certain point in my life – for example gravediggaz represents a dark, depressed side, Handsome Boy Modelling school represents the handsome side. Stetsasonic represents my beginnings.
5. Are there any plans for these projects to record a new album? Or are there plans for a completely new group/idea?
Yes Handsome Boy is currently recording a new project due out next year. The others won?t do anything again, that?s in the past. I have a new group I?m working on now, The Dix –
6. You have also done a lot of producing through your career for De La Soul, MC Lyte, Boogie down Productions, Big Daddy Kane, etc… Who would you like to work that you haven’t yet, whether it be Hip-Hop, Rock, or any other form of music?
Most of the people I would have liked to work with are dead. But I wouldn?t mind working with Prince – at least on one song.
7. Your latest album is entitled “Politics of the Business”. Could you tell something more about the purpose of the album and the title?
Politics is the song and dance you have to do in order to get things done in the recording industry. The purpose of the album is to represent that song and dance in music – a parody of all the things being done for people to make a hit record in today?s climate.
8. You had problems with Tommy Boy about your former album “A Prince among Thieves”. You said that you thought had enough experience to have no loopholes in your contract. What did you exactly learnt from such experience? How do you handle your contract [-s] nowadays?
I learned to be more careful and I let my attorney handle it – but sometimes you just get got – you just never know.
9. “Politics of the Business” is more mainstream then your former albums. Did you made this album more commercial because of the problems you had with Tommy Boy?
I was just doing what the label asked of me – to be more commercial – to a certain extent – but only as a parody.
10. How did you have all those artists like Planet Asia, Guru, the Beatnuts, etc… to be featured on your album?
I begged them first, and then I paid them.
11. The latest track on your album has two more joints on it. Lately I have noticed that more artists are doing this. Why is this because it isn?t easy for listeners to skip through the song?
It didn?t fit within the sequence of the album to me – it didn?t flow well – so I put it at the end as a bonus track
12. How did you come to the conclusion to begin a career as a music artist?
I didn?t – it was by the grace of God really
13. What would you like to achieve with your music and career?
To have fun, be creative and pay my bills and put my kids through college.
14. What artists are you listening to at the minute?
Ghostface and Redhead Kingpin and Kwame and JJ Fad
15. You are promoting your own website [www.princepaulonline.com] a lot but a lot of sections are not available yet like the message board and the merchandise section. How come?
It?s a work in progress – all good things take time, like a fine wine
16. Do you have anything to say to the MusicRemedy.com?s visitors?
Yeah visit princepaulonline.com
Contrary to how the music industry ought to operate, being creative and being commercially successful aren?t necessarily scenarios that go hand in hand. Just ask Prince Paul. During his unprecedented 18 year career, the revered producer/DJ/recording artist has experienced every high, low and in-between that the business has to offer-from mentoring De La Soul during the group?s chart topping heyday to independently releasing no-budget LPs like the wonderfully eclectic
Psychoanalysis as rap music?s outsider genius. But whether it?s been as the turntable wizard in the original hip hop band Stetsasonic, collaborating with fellow production gurus RZA and Dan the Automator (Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School, respectively), or creating conceptual album masterworks like A Prince Among Thieves, Paul?s legacy has always been synonymous with innovation. Naturally, his latest opus, Politics of the Business, continues on this highly inventive path. And the title suggests, this time around he channels his talents into a humorous and insightful treatise on the trials and tribulations of the recording industry.
The jump off point for this project was Paul?s own record label dealings involving his last album, the critically lauded, narrative-based A Prince Among Thieves. Explains Paul: “In my meetings with my former label, Tommy Boy Records, they pretty much dismissed my last album by saying, ?You have no singles.? I was like, ?But it?s a concept album.? Then I went through a whole lot of stuff where I wasn?t getting paid because of loopholes in my contract-things that I thought I had figured out from so many years of experience. I was like, ?It?s always something.? From there I knew my next record was gonna be Politics of the Business.”
More than just an opportunity to vent about the nonsense involved in the record game, Politics is also about musically leading by example, and it provides its own remedy for the industry?s general creative stagnation by delivering some of the most engaging and accessible material of Paul?s career. Along for the ride are some of the most respected and recognizable artists in hip hop-Erick Sermon, Trugoy of De La Soul, Guru, Masta Ace, Chuck D, Ice-T, Beatnuts, Tony Touch, Chubb Rock, M.F. Doom-as well as some of the underground?s most exciting voices in Jean Grae, Planet Asia, Kardinall Offishall, Truth Enola and Wordsworth.
“I think this album is more user friendly than my last one,” says Paul. “I don?t wanna say it?s commercial, but it?s mainstream for me. See, I?m usually rebellious in a way where I think, ?Okay, I?m gonna make something that nobody?s ever really done before.? With this situation I was rebelling against myself, like, ?Aight, I?m a try to go as mainstream as I can, but still be me. You want singles and guests? That?s what I?m a give you.?”
This musical approach is typified by “Make Room,” featuring Erick Sermon, Sy Scott and Molly Gee, an infectious club banger buoyed by hooky clavinet stabs and vocal samples. “Rock a show, tell them fools at the door/We the ones who the people came for,” the Def Squad compadres exhort, conveying the pure exhilaration of those who love to rhyme. With Snoop Dogg?s favorite funked up vocal foil, Kokane, twistedly crooning the hook (“What do you say to a man that raps about his car?/So what/What do you say to a man that claims he?s a rap star?), “So What” finds Masta Ace and Pretty Ugly trading unimpressed quips about those who exalt materialism.
“I just got murdered with all the cats just bragging to me about, ?Yo, I got this, I got that,?” Paul says exasperatedly. “You turn on the radio and it?s the same thing. It kind of got me down in a sense. And a lot of these cats is winning. It seems like today a lot of music is based on what surrounds the music, not necessarily what the music is.”
By contrast, “Not Trying To Hear That,” featuring Guru and Planet Asia, and “What I Need,” featuring Canadian rhyme stalwart Kardinall Offishall, address the frustration of artists at their wits end. “[What I need is to] empty a couple clips into a label nigga?s ass/ And show him my life is worth more than a contract,” Kardinall spits over an arresting, ascending guitar-propelled melody on the latter. And “Chubb Rock Please Pay Paul His $2200 You Owe Him (People, Places and Things)” resurrects one of Paul?s most famous beats (originally created for De La?s “Peas Porridge”) as Chubb Rock, Wordsworth and M.F. Doom free-associate verses in an extended metaphor for those who drop names to get put on.
“This album embodies a bunch of emotions to me,” confirms Paul. “There?s feeling good, there?s feeling anger with the fact that a lot of things are money driven. There was a lot of things that was kinda going on around me at the time I was recording that forced me to make music to represent my feelings.”
Some of the most emotional songs deal with relationships-specifically, the difficulty in maintaining one when music occupies most of your time. On “Drama Queen,” also featuring Trugoy, Truth Enola, succinctly sums up such situations in a few lines: “First message on my cell/ ?Daddy please come home?/ Second message/ ?Daddy please I don?t wanna be alone?/ Third message/ ?I know you fuckin? them bitches out there?/ Fourth message/ ?When you get home I won?t be here.?/ Lady givin? me drama more than my soul can accommodate/ Watch your shit, miss/ I need some time away.”
“Every guy I know who?s in the music business who has a girl always got some stories like this,” says Paul. “You love your girl, but man, does she stress you! You?re like, ?I love you, but get off my back!? And that?s a prevalent thing that I?ve dealt with most of my life.”
In fact, the subject of infidelity (as a result of relationship tensions) produces what may be Politics of the Business?s most startling composition, “Beautifully Absurd,” a lovely, acoustic guitar-based number featuring Washington D.C.-based singer/emcee W. Ellington Felton. Wrapping his raspy vocal chords around a folky melody, and somber lyrics about a loved one who?s strayed, Felton (the son of cult jazz keyboard hero Hilton Felton) evokes sincere heartache without resorting to melodrama. Ironically enough, the song came to fruition in a most atypical of record business deals. Paul met the aspiring vocalist after a back woods D.C. DJ gig at which he was stranded with no transportation. Felton offered Paul a ride to his destination on the condition that he please listen to his demo. Amazingly, “Beautifully Absurd” was one of the songs on the demo.
“I was like, ?Yo, this is really good!?” Paul recalls, still seemingly surprised by the whole
experience. “He was like, ?Yeah, yeah.? And I was like, ?No, this is amazing. Rarely does
something like this ever happen. I really wanna work with you.?” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Of course, a Prince Paul project wouldn?t be a Prince Paul project without some real drama. No, not the kind detected in rickety relationships, but skits acted out for audio pleasure. With the help of funnymen Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock (their past collaborations yielded two Grammy?s for this comedic duo for Best Comedy Album, Roll With The New-1997 and Bigger & Blacker-1999), Politics of the Business contributes some future classics to Paul?s already prodigious canon. “A Day In the Life…” sets up the album with Chappelle as a record exec overly (and insincerely) enthused over Paul?s music (“I?m love this shit more than pussy on a Triscuit! Delicious! It?s gonna sell!”) only to change his tune after the album flops (“Liked it schmiked it! It?s all backpackin? music. You?re lucky to go double wood with that shit!”). “The Driveby” substitutes gangbangers with gats for aspiring rappers with industry dreams running up on an unsuspecting Paul for pointers. And the title track simply features Chuck D and Ice T doing what they do best: spitting wisdom in bite sized bytes.
Not that, despite its subject matter, Politics of the Business aspires to preach a bunch of heavy messages. “One thing I did not want to do was hate,” maintains Paul. “Yeah, the game has changed, but too many rappers come out and all they talk about how everything?s wack: ?Aw yeah, this is wack and if you breakdance and do graffiti you?re real!? I ain?t into that. Because I know I don?t like listening to preachy rap records, especially by some ?old school? guy. It just sounds bitter.
“I just want people to listen to it regardless of what they?re into, the hip pop stuff, or the
street stuff or ?underground? stuff, and try to relate to what I?m talking about,” he concludes. It shouldn?t be hard, because making creative and compelling albums is Prince Paul?s business-as usual. Aight?