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Prince Paul - conducted by Hugo Lunny & DJ Neoteric  

Prince Paul - Defining Musical Integrity

June 2005

MVRemix: Do you listen to Hip Hop as a fan and then maybe spark off ideas as a result or try to be just creative outside of that? Do you ever find when you're listening to songs you sometimes get more influence than you'd like? How do you respond listening to Hip Hop and being original at the same time?

Prince Paul: I used to listen to the radio, and I used to listen to other people and be so excited, like listening to "It Takes A Nation Of Millions..." or "License To Ill." Those two records and some other things stemmed off "3 Feet High & Rising." It doesn't sound alike, but that was kind of my inspiration. As time went on I listened to more things, Cypress Hill and whomever. Sad to say, in 2005 it's far and few. The last thing to motivate me was probably The Neptunes. But yeah, you're gonna hear trickles of whatever you hear in your music unfortunately. It's not necessarily that you try to bite the sound or the style - it's in me not to really do. Not for mimicking or making fun at. I try to get a feeling. I don't necessarily get the sounds, but I like the feel of that record. So if the record's gangsta and I like you, and the record's a gangsta song. Then I'ma try to get the feeling of that. Or if The Neptunes doin' somethin' kind of retro and they're tryin' to take it back with something like "Grindin'." I'm not gonna make "Grindin'," but I like the feel of that record - "Man, that reminds me of 1984!" That motivates me. And it's sad because I'd love to listen to the radio and I'd love to just go into Fat Beats and pick up any random underground record and get into it. But every underground record that I picked up, for the most part is either sounding like they're tryin' to be Pete Rock or Premier. [groans] If I wanna listen to Pete Rock or Premier, I'll just buy Pete Rock and Premier! Give me somethin' different. I'm not gettin' too much of that anymore. I wish cats would just go out the box.

MVRemix: Of all your projects, one of those that came off as "crazy" when it dropped was Gravediggaz'. I'd really like to know what your mind state was like and where you were at when that project was comin' out...

Prince Paul: As far as Gravediggaz is concerned, that is probably my favourite record that I've produced. I've never been too crazy about records I've done, but that one holds a very special place in my heart because it came at a time where everybody who was in the Gravediggaz was doin' bad. Poetic was homeless, RZA just got out of some legal situation - he might have just gotten out of jail... there wasn't really no Wu-Tang Clan when we first put that together. Frukwan wasn't no longer in Stet[sasonic] - I think he was tryin' to make clothes or somethin' like that. It just wasn't workin' out for anybody. So it was a collective grimey effort. For me, personally, I'd just had that Doo Doo Man record label and it just didn't work. People were saying "De La Soul Is Dead" was a flop and everything in my career at that point, which was at a high maybe a few years before, was getting lower and lower.

That record was just a record from me that tried to prove to everyone that I'm a decent producer, I can make decent records - I can do decent production. But it all stemmed from being depressed and having a collection of guys that were either angry or depressed. That's how that vibe came out. That's why I can never really make another record like that because it was just a time and a place. That's why the second record didn't sound the same.

MVRemix: I'd heard that "Ring Ring" may have been inspired by someone - is there any truth to that?

Prince Paul: Yeah... I mean... [chuckles] Honestly, how the album initially stemmed was from De La. It was at a point where we always used to get bombarded with demo tapes and we used to walk through and hear, "Yo, I got this! I got whatever!" and as a joke we would give out each other's numbers, like "Man, I'm not really ready to do nothin', but call Pos. You got a pen? His number is 516-blah blah blah." Then we'd get people calling us going "Hey man, yo Prince Paul told me to call you..." and also "Yeah, here's his mailing address..." It was really foul at the time, but it was also kind of funny in a way. In the end it became more of a nuisance.

We had other people calling up and it just got crazy, we got bombarded. You had people like "Yo, we're different... check this and that" and they'd rhyme in front of you. Even though you wanna help everybody and be nice, it was just always at the worst times and they'd always sell themselves in the worst ways. So we just made a record kind of reflecting that at the time. I think they were more fed up with it than anything else. I thought it was funny though.

MVRemix: When "3 Feet High and Rising" came out it was fairly revolutionary, very different. Obviously you had a lot of people saying "You're on that Hippie crap." How did you deal with that?

Prince Paul: For me, when "3 Feet High and Rising" came out - it wasn't really a big deal. If you think about it, we made a record at the beginning that wasn't like any other record at that time. It wasn't intentional, it just kind of stemmed from our personalities. It kind of brought an arrogance of what we thought was cool and was not cool. Like James Brown is cool, but an over-extensive usage of James Brown is not cool. A mock-neck is cool - but not in 1988 or '89. [chuckling] The doo-rag is cool, but not... So, there was a slight arrogance about how we made it.

When it came out we really were in our world. I think that Hippie thing was perpetuated by the label because they needed a way to market an obscure record - "What are these guys about?" It's easy to come up with a record - okay, this is what it is. This is what we can put in the bio to send to press, and this is the look that we're gonna give these guys. I didn't really feel the pressure per say as a producer.

But I know them, as artists traveling felt a lot because yeah, a lot of people were thinkin' they were soft. I remember, especially on the first tour they went on - was it the first one or the second one? Anyway, they got kicked off because they were beating up too many people. All in all, those are big guys and they don't take any shorts. A lot of people would come and test them and a lot of 'em got knocked out, and in the process they got kicked off. That's how De La Soul handled it. As far as me, I was like "Wow!" It was the first time I had a big record. Stetsasonic made cool records, but I never made a record as big as "3 Feet High and Rising." I was just in awe of everything.

MVRemix: Last year when De La and The Beatnuts both came out with albums, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that B.E.T. weren't playing their videos - do you have any reaction to that?

Prince Paul: It's not Hip Hop anymore. That's the bottom line. People try and front off with their shows saying, "This is Hip Hop. This is rap, this is real and this is that..." It's Pop music and Pop music is what sells. That's what unfortunately the stations, whether it be radio programming or whether it be video programming, I think that kind of proves it right there. It's unfortunate because it's making the kids who are growing up now think that's what Hip Hop is about. It's funny because when I get reviewed now, a lot of the kids is like "This isn't real Hip Hop! Paul isn't doin' it, he's not real!" I guess if I did have a few T&A and I was up in there with guns, controlling the block, then that'd be real. I guess Bambaataa, when he had that outfit on the Planet Rock wasn't real Hip Hop either. [chuckles] You know, dressed up in all the craziness. It's funny who determines that. Unfortunately the programmers determine half the time what they think is real and what the kids want to watch. It would be nice if they had alternate programming like for say on B.E.T. or even radio stations where they did allow an hour or two hours of just underground stuff to be played. I mean that's [actually] good. Not just for the sake of being underground. Stuff that really doesn't get a chance, I'm sure there's an audience for it.

>> continued...

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"That record was just a record from me that tried to prove to everyone that I'm a decent producer, I can make decent records - I can do decent production. But it all stemmed from being depressed and having a collection of guys that were either angry or depressed."

(on 6 Feet Deep)