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Monday, May 13, 2013

Prince Paul In The Mix

By Stacey E. Bueche

Stacey:  Interviews

Prince Paul: I feel like this-  if somebody wants to interview you AT ALL, it's a big deal, because obviously, there are a LOT of people I know out there that feel like, "Damn, I wish somebody would interview me!"  There have been times when NO one wants to hear anything you have to say.
Stacey:  Keeping A Low Profile

Prince Paul: I don't worry about popularity, and I'm not one big on social media, like most people.  I can't do that.  I'm pretty private.  The other thing, too, is that I've always lived below my means.  It's not a matter of me hustling, feeling that I have to work all the time.  I don't feel like "I've got to get that gig for $100.00," to keep my name out there.  So when I DO work, it's more for fun than profit.  I do need to make X amount of dollars, but it's also a matter of me being shy and a bit anti-social...  I'm able to keep that without having to be somebody I'm not, by going out to and being like "Man, I gotta get that radio gig," etc.  The things you see me doing primarily are for fun (not 100%)...

Stacey:  First Music Memory

Prince Paul: Music, whatever's going on, is the soundtrack of your life. In the very beginning, I remember the wind-up Fisher-Price toy, playing melodies (2-3 years old).  Then, it's my Dad playing the radio, and me sitting with my Dad (who was into hard-core jazz like Thelonius Monk, Coltrane...) which wasn't too pleasing for a child.  My Mom listened to early R&B, and then I had older siblings who were teenagers, and they listened to the radio all the time...  So it's a combination of them all. 

Stacey:  DJ Prince Paul, The Early Years

Prince Paul: I was 11 when I started deejaying-  I was young.  You don't get any respect as a DJ when you're 11 trying to DJ.  Everything at that time was based on spinning "SUCKER DJ..."  In the 8th grade, for me it was "Genius Of Love," Tom Tom Club.  When I first started it was Grandmaster Flash, Fearless Four, Treacherous Three, The Crash Crew, The Disco Four...In hindsight, not ALL of them were great... 

Stacey:  DJ Extraordinaire Prince Paul

Prince Paul: Everything is based on power.  I had the skills.  I'd see what Theodore (Grandwizzard Theodore), DST, Jazzy Jay, and all of them were doing, and then try to step it up a little more.  In High School, I thought I was pretty good.  For 17, I was pretty good.  

Friends of mine in Long Island were going to Brooklyn, packing up the van with equipment, and they asked if I wanted to go, I said "No, I'm going to stay here and ride my bike," (I had a Schwinn at the time)... I thought about it, and, I was like, "Yeah, I'm gonna go."  So I asked my Mom, put my bike up, and went down there.So this was in '83-'84, and there were 3 DJs, almost like a battle, and I was doing tricks (I guess you'd call it turntablism), and I was showing off, under the leg, with the mouth, and THAT drew the attention of Stet.  So they approached me, "Man, YOU got what we're looking for."  At first, I thought they were gang members, but then it was hard to tell.  Remember they're older, and Daddy had beads, long braids and spikes-  it was indicative of that "Beat Street" era.  "Yo, we need a DJ-  would you be interested?  Yo, we just won Mr. Magic's Rap Attack Contest at Coney Island, and we've got a human mix machine, and we won a deal with Sugarhill."  So I know Brooklyn (because my Grandmother lives there), and I met with Stet, and became their DJ.

Next thing I know, we're making a DEMO (who knew what a DEMO was?).  I had no idea what was going on.

Stacey:  Please Listen To My Demo

Prince Paul: I was a kid.  Making a record wasn't the first thing to do-  People were still rappin' to be rappin', not rappin' for profit, and making money, or just for fame...  so to make a record was so out of the question, and then when it happened, I was like "Whoa!  I'm signing a contract for what?  What is this again?"  I was 17, but I told them I was 18 so I could sign the contract.

What happened with the Mr. Magic Rap Attack was a really bad record deal with Sugarhill Records, so we demoed "Just Say Stet" and we did a little show at Harlem Week-  remember at this point, we were just going around doing gigs willing to do gigs-  Harlem Week, Disco Fever, The Roxy-  wherever we could get on at.  I think Tom Silverman saw us at Harlem Week, and we had the place rocking yet nobody knew who we were!  Tom said "If you ever make something, come check us (Tommy Boy) out."  We handed him the tape, "Just Say Stet," and he said "Yo, I want to sign y'all..."  AND it was a MUCH better deal than Sugarhill (in hindsight not a good deal at all, but much better than Sugarhill)...  

The ironic part is, that our demo of "Just Say Stet," Tom Silverman wanted to re-record in HIS studio.  Which we come to find out later, to record in his studio meant we owed him money,  because there's recoupment for studio time.  As it turns out, the studio was in his apartment and somehow the bill came out to $10,000.00... I don't know HOW that happened. That's how things are.  

I went there, and I remember I knew specifically what I wanted to scratch on the record.  I only brought those records with me.  I remember Tom & Daddy-O had the same sentiment.  "What kind of DJ is this? He only has X amount of records-  why is HE a DJ?"  DISSING ME.  Like saying they should get rid of me because I was WACK!  Because I wasn't prepared as much as he thought a DJ should be in that situation.  But I studied, and knew exactly where I wanted to cut the records... the ironic part is that I made him so much money based on De La Soul and everything else, that if they fired me, I doubt that Tommy Boy (as a Label would not have had such success, based on the money Silverman made off of Prince Paul's contributions) would've ever happened...  

Stacey:  DJ to Producer Extraordinaire

Prince Paul: Going into Stetsasonic I was ahead of them in terms of drum programming, because as you know, Grandmaster Flash was the first one to introduce the beatbox.  So if you're a DJ, it's a natural progression to have-  automatically you wanted a drum machine, figured out what it was, and got one.  So I was doing that already with an 808.  So when we started making the first album, I said "Hey, I got some ideas," and they happened to pick two of them.  One was a song called "Bust That Groove," and the other was the title track, "On Fire."  I was a really good DJ.  I mean really really good, and I remember wanting to do really fancy scratches and cuts, and remember them going "NAH, man.  You gotta do like Jam-Master JayTone that back!"  They were really into a structure.  I'm all over the place-  that's where we butted heads.  I was respected for my talent, but I was not AS respected because of my age...    To fast forward a bit... 

Stacey:  Thank God for De La...

Prince Paul: I knew it (De La Soul's debut LP, "3 Feet High and Rising") was different at the time, but you can't gauge something like that, because who's done it before.  Put it like this, when we made that record, we were kids having fun.  The fact that we found each other, it's almost like having your hip-hop soul mate.  The weird way that I thought, and the weird way that they thought-  and then we were put together?  It wasn't like I had a sound yet, so that they could determine "We should work with him," nor did I know how they rhymed, because I was just put on to them.  Just because we went to the same High School, I didn't know they rhymed.  It has been just a weird kind of life changing experience, where we were put together, and it worked out.  We got along so well- we laughed, we joked, we experimented-  where I didn't have the freedom with Stetsasonic, with them, they thought I was cool because I had a record out.  As much as I didn't know, I still got the respect from them.  It was a lot of fun.  As much as I felt dissed by Stet, I used that energy with De La, and producing De La, I was like "Hey, whatever I did you got.  Whatever you guys want to try, let's try it.  Let's facilitate it.  I'll make it work.  Tell me what you guys want to do, and listen to what I do, and let's just have fun."

I did that.  They'll tell you, on that first record, everything-  every idea they had, I said, "Let's do it.  Let's record it." There's a difference between recording it, and listening to it, and then say no-  rather than say no before even trying it.  That's what I was used to with Stet-  "Let's try thi..." cut off by the sound of Stet saying "NO man..."  I thought, "I'm not going to do that.  I'm going to treat these guys differently.  Treat them like they're humans, man (in Prince Paul's semi-sarcastic voice, garnering many laughs as always)..."  And that's what I did.  That's how we did it. We had a lot of fun...  and it worked!

Stacey:  Solo Work

Prince Paul: Kool Keith has always been around, they (Ultramagnetic MCs) recorded their first record in the same studio De La recorded their first record.  People think he's crazy.  In a conversation he'll repeat the same thing over and over again, like "Yeah man, Yin Yang twins, man, what's up with that?  Yeah man, Yin Yang Twins..."  But you know what the crazy thing is, is that's one side of him- he's entertaining, he's funny, a great guy to chat with.  But when we got to working, and we worked on "Prince Among Thieves" together, I said "Yo, here's what I need you to do.  You're name's Crazy Lou, and you are a weapons specialist.  So I just need you to rhyme about all the types of guns you sell."  He was like, "Okay."

I recorded him and Everlast the same day somewhere in L.A.  He came in there and said, "I got almost all the rhymes written out," and he had a gun magazine with him. I was so impressed with the fact that he took time and did the research what I asked him to do.  He didn't take it lightly.  The fact that he was so on point and professional and knocked it out so quick, and did it in that capacity, that it overshadowed all that "Yo, Keith is crazy!"  He was mad professional, on point, you can't get better than that.  He did his job, so I have mad respect for him-  as a person, too- but he doesn't come to play, he comes to work. 

I did "Psychoanalysis," "The Gas Face," with 3RD Bass, I did a Big Daddy Kane record, I did Queen Latifah, Slick Rick, Boogie Down Productions, Vernon Reid's solo album, and of course I did The Gravediggaz...  and, I don't know if we're coming back. Talking to RZA, before this movie came out, he was talking about, "Yeah man, let's do another Gravediggaz record, let's do another Gravediggaz record," for a while, and then Poetic passed away.  To me, he was a big part of what we did, and the fans are demanding it.  Either let's do another record, or call it quits.  It really depends on RZA'a availability, because, of course, he's the RZA.  So I'm like "Hey, when you got time, you got time."  When it happens, it happens...


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