Prince Paul: Choice of Colors Pt. 1

AllHipHop represents for those who can recite a verse from beginning to end, those who quote lyrics to explain serious life situations, and those who have an arsenal of punch-line snaps in they raps. But AllHipHop has just as much love for the producer. From eight bar loops, to live instrumentation, to the Trinitron, we […]

AllHipHop represents for those who can recite a verse from beginning to end, those who quote lyrics to explain serious life situations, and those who have an arsenal of punch-line snaps in they raps. But AllHipHop has just as much love for the producer. From eight bar loops, to live instrumentation, to the Trinitron, we love true beat makers and trunk shakers. AllHipHop’s Paine has kicked off a series of interviews with the greatest, most innovative producers in Hip-Hop history. In depth interviews looking back, looking forward, and always looking for the perfect beat.

            We begin with the devastating Prince Paul. In his eighteenth year on wax, Prince Paul’s career spans a number of projects, periods, and innovations. Paul began as the DJ and co-producer of Stetsasonic, one of the greatest groups ever in terms of how ahead of their time they were. Paul later helped his native Long Island into a daisy age, by producing De La Soul’s first three, and unforgettable LP’s. Meanwhile, P Squared was still making classics for 3rd Bass, MC Lyte, and Boogie Down Productions. Paul went on to co-create The Gravediggaz and Handsome Boy Modeling School – two concept projects that appealed to two opposite sides of Hip-Hop, but still were cherished by critics and fans alike. In the last five years, Prince Paul hasn’t slowed his roll. His beats still finds their way to some of the most creative MC’s in the underground like Last Emperor, Tragedy Khadafi, and even Chris Rock’s second comedy album. In 2003, Paul dropped his third solo album, Politics of Business, filled with a wide-spanning A-list of MC’s dropping rhyme commentary on the ills of the industry. Prince Paul won’t quit, and if he did, there are a lot of us that just might walk with him.

AllHipHop: You were one of the first cats to sample obscure records outside of Funk and Jazz. Sampling was a big part of your formula. As the laws buckled down, how has it affected your formula and your overall sound?

Prince Paul: To be honest with you, it really didn’t affect me until very recently. To me, it was worth paying the money, whatever it is, as long as you had a great song. It was always – the song first. Financial gain, it’ll come in time, as long as you had a great song. It didn’t bother me until recently when all these crazy lawsuits started coming from these records I did years ago – like De La Soul days. I thought all of that was taken care of by the label. Now, I guess I really have to be careful and make sure that not just I look at it, but that the label takes care of these things. ‘Cause back then, I just looked at the label to do all the work and that’s how we [De La Soul] got into trouble with The Turtles.

AllHipHop: A lot of people blame the artists for suing. But for a true crate digger and lover of music, it’s hard to fault these people. What’s your take on that?

Prince Paul: I’m not really mad, definitely not at the artist. I get mad at, I can’t front, usually at the label. ‘Cause they know ahead of time. Their main concern most of the time is obviously saving money. Because they look at it as “what if it ain’t gonna sell?” So they’re taking a risk. But ten years down the line when an artist like me starts to pay for it, but the label’s defunct, it really gets crazy. I don’t blame the artist we sample from. I just don’t like it when they go overboard. Let’s say I made a song and it sold 50,000 copies but yet they want $200,000. I’m like gee, I didn’t even make that much, nor did I get any type of an advance.

AllHipHop: Now that you’re on an Indie, do you expect to release work on a more consistent basis?

Prince Paul: Even being on an Indie, I gotta worry about getting dropped. Who knows, man? I have to have a meeting with them in the next month here to find out if I have another record coming out – with them, mind you. But I would like to. I started working on the next record already, which I tell you now, is crazy!

AllHipHop: Word? Go on, you’ve got our attention.

Prince Paul: It’s a very gutter record. Put it like this, just think from ’93 all the way back to the first time you heard Rap records. That’s my record. So I don’t know how supportive the label’s gonna be.

AllHipHop: Wow. That’s the answer. What prompted you to go that way?

Prince Paul: It’s where my heart’s at. It’s what I miss. It’s what I don’t hear. It’s where my passion is. There’s a lot of guys, my age, like, “Man, what happened?” That’s the question. So I’m like, I’m from that era, why can’t I make a record like that? With the same vibe or the same feel. I can do that. I’m in there.

AllHipHop: I heard you and MF DOOM had some stuff cooking again.

Prince Paul: Oh, he’s in there! Man, when I first started this, me and him was on the phone. I know he has his own album with Madlib coming out, which is great, but this is where the Old School Hip-Hop ego comes in, which I rarely use, I’m hear to blow all that out the box. This is probably the last Prince Paul record I’ll make, as Prince Paul. Handsome Boy or whatever, that’s that. If I’m gonna go out, I’m going out with a bang. So I’m putting a lot into this.

AllHipHop: But you’re still pleased with Politics of Business, right?

Prince Paul: Yeah. Personally, I liked that record. It’s just that, other people didn’t [burst of Prince Paul signature laughter]. There’s a concept behind it, and they just looked for what they heard and what they thought I was trying to do. It’s weird because it’s “He’s trying to do new stuff, this and that”, and I’m just like – B, I’m just making commentary on today’s music in parodies. I’m not trying to do that style and I think people didn’t look beyond that.

AllHipHop: Do you think it’s saying something about how we as a generation listen to music? I mean, I always say they aren’t pressing much vinyl no more ‘cause heads’d pick up the needle too much. People can’t look at an album as a body of work anymore.

Prince Paul: I’m a 70’s guy. Most of my music listening was music from the 70’s. Even radio, it was different. You had Hall & Oates, you had James Brown, you had Disco Duck, a variety of stuff being played, you know. With albums, you put it on from the front to the very end, especially if it was a great record. Yeah, now everybody has the track button on the CD and [clicks through]. I can’t change my formula. I get criticized that people can’t listen to albums anymore, they want more singles, which was the skit with Dave Chapelle. That was real deal business. Even though I’ve been advised to sit and make singles, not albums, it’s not in my blood. I like to listen to a record from front to back.

Click here for part 2 of this Prince Paul interview.