Two things are certain. One, there are at least a thousand MC Paul Barman look-alikes in New York, and two, if you're looking for the real MC Paul Barman, look no further than the children's section of the Barnes and Noble on 26th street. On June 26th, I made the trek to New York from Philadelphia to meet with the infamous MC. After waiting in the Barnes and Noble and keeping a close eye on the Paul Barmanesque New Yorkers who casually strolled past me as I stood in the doorway, I was hoping the MC would recognize me. However, given the fact that he's never seen me, it would be a long shot, to say the least, if he did know who I was. So I wrote on a piece of paper, "MC Paul Barman", airport limo-driver style, and walked around the store hoping the real Paul Barman would notice the paper. I had a feeling for some reason that he would be in the children's section, and sure enough I found him, standing in the corner reading Richard Scarry's "What Do People Do All Day?" (The truth is, neither MC Paul Barman nor I know what people do all day. But it is a question I'm planning on pursuing via Richard Scarry and others.) So, we go across the street to Cosi, a cafť that provides comfortable couches and window seats on which the topic of the future of hip-hop can be discussed at your leisure.
The feeling of the interview was very casual yet, unlike a lot of casual style interviews, it contained substance. Throughout the course of the interview, it becomes apparent to me that MC Paul Barman has a simple goal with his music and lifestyle, to kick fresh rhymes and rejuvenate the spirit of hip hop that was buried in the Bronx while I was still in Scooby-Doo pajamas. His EP "It's Very Stimulating" and his LP "Paullellujah" are an exhibition of comedic rhyme play and sexual extravagancies that illustrate much of his earlier work. However, he is trading in themes of comedic sexuality, that characterize his earlier work, for political, scientific, religious, etc, themes. MC Paul Barman has worked with MF Doom and Prince Paul, yet the strength of his music is not found in his cameos or strictly on production, the strength is found in his innovative wordplay and a pure demonstration of his love for words. MC Paul Barman is a true hip hop philologist and, as he has said, he is "iller than the Iliad."
[This interview begins with MC Paul Barman explaining the interview he had done with The Onion, in which he denies being an MC.]
MC Paul Barman: The first thing I wanted to address is what I said in that Onion interview. First of all, I love the Onion so much. But in that interview I was intimidated, slightly stoned, twerp. And I said, no, Iím not a true MC. Now, how can I take that back? I would rather just crush it. The MC moniker is very important to me. The MC attached to Paul is much more important than Barman. When people drop the MC thatís getting it all wrong. Iíve written a few new songs, kind of on the topic. On one hand, MC is just a word, and when words are taken too seriously, like [the word] democracy, they need to be deflated because theyíve been used in a way thatís wrong. I think at the time I got a perverse thrill out of saying the last thing you should ever say. But in my heart I consider myself as true an MC as any of my favorites, and most importantly I, as an MC, get to define what an MC is and does, what skills there are, which are more important, how to play to my strengths etc. We all have strengths and weaknesses. When weíre young and stupid weíre so insecure and judgmental that we pretend we donít have the weaknesses. But as I hope youíll see with my new material, Iíve been working on both strengths and weaknesses for years now, and itís a crying shame I said anything that blasphemous.
MVRemix: So when you step up to the mic, do you take control of it, as an MC should?
MC Paul Barman: Yeah. I do have to take control of the crowd and the mic is just a tool.
MVRemix: What possessed you to become an MC?
MC Paul Barman: You mean back in 98í when I made my 7 inch? What possessed me to do it? I had lost all of my paintings in the mail. I was feeling like I really needed to do something different. Everybody knew me as a chronic motor-mouth. I started writing rhymes for my friends for fun during my summer job at the Rhode Island School of Design. And that just grew into a show and a tape to promote the show and after the show was over I kind of had this bug and one thing that really blew my mind about writing was that it could incorporate all of your visual ideas, where as the visual work I had been doing seemed to be just a small component of all the ideas I was trying to express. And all I could do with them was get better technically and conceptually it wasnít satisfying me at all. And I remember someone defending me at one point saying, ďyou know, heís just an artist, and heís doing hip hop right now.Ē And at the time I was like, yea that person understands cause I thought artist was the highest compliment anyone could be given. But now Iím like, Iíve been stuck in songwriting for almost ten years and Iíve never concentrated on one medium for that long, and I believe I will die still making records, but between now and then I think Iíll probably also branch out a little bit too.
MVRemix: Wouldnít you say a good compromise to make is to form a synthesis between your visual art and your audio? Could you, letís say, combine hip hop music and art?
MC Paul Barman: No, I didnít say combine, I said incorporate. Like let's say you're thinking of a sculpture, Instead of building it, you can create it inside someoneís mind just by talking about it. I would say "incorporate" rather than "combine". Combine is more like when you combine it with the album cover and thank god Iíve worked with such wonderful designers that can help me. I want to say whatís up to Gar Lyn of Iamecstatic.com and his company, ecstatic design, who helped me with all the Paullellujah newspaper and the album cover. He helped me put it together.
MVRemix: What do you find to be the most irritating question to be asked in an interview? Of the interviews Iíve read, some of the questions seem to annoy you.
MC Paul Barman: Well at that time I was doing several interviews a day, and the only answer to your question is, when the person is not talking to you like itís two people. When theyíre not coming from a true place in their heart. Itís like theyíre talking to someone else. So how are you supposed to respond? The subtext to what theyíre saying is either, Iím better than you, or I represent more than myself. Any question thatís like, ďwhat do you say to this?Ē comment. I always say, are you making that comment, no people say that. Which people, and do you agree with them? Or you could put your politician face on and talk from a different level. Some interviewers expect you to go from true honest person to whatever your image is supposed to be, to Bill Clinton and mix it all up. Iím not trying to get a vote from you but thanks for giving me some exposure.
MVRemix: So if Iím going to be asking you questions, are you going to mind if I occasionally look at my sheet?
MC Paul Barman: No, I used to throw away peopleís sheets, cause I have a preference for conversations that take on their own life. Iíve actually done some journalism in the last couple of years. I can send you the interviews. [He does actually send me the interviews heís done]. I did Penjalet, NERD. Talib Kweli, Buju Banton, well Ween I did years ago, and Wordsworth.
MVRemix: What is it about hip hop that you love the most? Feel free to take your time with this one.
MC Paul Barman: I think the rebellious aspect.
MVRemix: Do you feel you exhibit a rebellious spirit in your work?
MC Paul Barman: I do feel that way, although I think itís much more clearly expressed in my new work. And I brought some stuff on my disk-man, if you want to hear that.
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"When I first started I couldnít understand the emphasis like style was a good thing. I always thought if youíve got style, the opposite is substance. And if youíre concentrating on style, youíre not concentrating on substance. Now, I understand that style can be a great thing..."