Prince Paul Superstar producer Prince Paul is one of the most diverse producers STILL in the hip-hop game. From his start with Stet, to De La Soul, to 3rd Bass, Prince Paul has influenced a whole new generation of hip-hop fans while still holding the respect from all his pioneer piers. From “The White Rapper Show”, to his new album with Donnie Newkirk and Bernie Worrell, Prince Paul kicks it with WHO?MAG with everything you need to know!
By William Hernandez
WHO?MAG: Talk about the new album Baby Elephant? PRINCE PAUL: Oh yeah, it’s a collaboration with between Bernie Worrell, who everybody should know is the keyboard player and musical arranger for Parliament Funkadelic and also for the Talking Heads. I also my good friend [Donnie] Newkirk from back in the days who was signed to Def Jam. He was also the game show announcer voice for 3 Feet High & Rising [De La Soul] and a whole bunch of other stuff I do and obviously myself. It’s a collaboration between us three that we’re trying to make good music. We’re trying to take it back with live instrumentation and kind of straight up feel. No marketing, no gimmicks.
WHO?MAG: How’d you hook up with Bernie Worrell? PRINCE PAUL: I hooked up with Bernie Worrell because this guy I know, a label head, had put a DVD of Bernie, I guess depicting his life. They asked me to do an interview for it since they knew I’m a big Parliament Funkadelic fan. In the midst of doing that and being a big fan, they asked if I minded working with him. I was like “are you crazy? I’d love to. He’s an icon.” It’s a dream come true. So much I can learn. I just had the opportunity.
WHO?MAG: Who do you have on the album as far as cameo appearances? PRINCE PAUL: Out of respect we have George Clinton, gentleman by the name of Reggie Watts out of Seattle. We have Shock G, David Burns, and Yellowman, who sounds great! We also have a young lady by the name of Gabi Lala from the West Coast, San Francisco. It’s a host of people who work with Bernie and have a lot of respect for him.
WHO?MAG: How was it working with Shock G since you guys were former label mates on Tommy Boy. Why didn’t you hook up while on the label? PRINCE PAUL: I’ve known him for a while, but never got a chance to hang out with him. I always thought of him as a super duper genius and crazy as well. That’s where the creative mind comes from. When I approached him about this, it seemed he really loved listening to Bernie and everything, but he was probably within a crossroads in his career at the time with what he wanted to do so without hesitation, he jumped at it. Due to technology we have today, I was able to talk to him on the phone and explain to him what I wanted. I sent him the track and that’s what he sent back to me. He sent the vocals and he went way beyond the call of duty. He’s a funketeer. Anybody that grew up on Parliament Funkadelic, you know what we’re looking for. We never hooked up because we never crossed paths or talked about doing anything creatively. Some years back, I wanted to get him on “Prince Among Thieves”, but I guess the timing and stuff didn’t work out right. There’s definitely collaborations in mind. I thought “Sex Packet” and even “Future Rhythm”, the first one he did when he got out of Tommy Boy, I thought those were brilliant.
WHO?MAG: How did you meet Don Newkirk? PRINCE PAUL: We met in 9th grade. We’ve know each other since we were fourteen. He’s originally from the Bronx. He was the new guy in the school. He came in and I was like that DJ cat in the school. Back then, I was DJ Paul and the kids were like “DJ Paul is nice”. Don was like “whatever! We’ll see”. With the name DJ Paul, his thought was yeah whatever. Then I went over his house and to see how dope he was because he was DJing and Emceeing. He saw how dope I was and we just had to combine forces. We were like a DJ and Emcee thing. We kind of grew up musically from that point on.
WHO?MAG: Talk about the Psychoanalysis album since it’s ten years since it first came out? PRINCE PAUL: Wow! That is ten years ago? I made a lot of albums during some really rough points in my life. I made that album when I thought I was really done and over with the music business. I thought that was it! The end of my career. Somebody gave me an opportunity to do a record. I was like “a record of what?” He said “Do what you do best”. Give me a conceptual thing. “Psychoanalysis” without any idea of the marketing or people liking it. The irony of it is I thought people would hate. That record boosted my career again. The record is a bizarre album. We talk about having drinks at the bar. We go into racism, sexism.
WHO?MAG: How did you end up doing the Psycho Funk remix for Boo Ya Tribe back in 1990? PRINCE PAUL: Wow! That’s one that a lot of people don’t know about. 1990 was my “hot moment”. Prince Paul was like the man for two seconds in hip hop history. I was getting offers and remixes everywhere. I heard from Boo Ya Tribe or management somebody wanted me to remix that song. I liked Boo Ya Tribe so I took a crack at it. That’s what came about. In hindsight, I wish I could redo it. (laughs) It was cool!
WHO?MAG: Who are some of your influences as a producer? PRINCE PAUL: My Influences? In the early days, Parliament Funkadelic was a major influence on me. To see pictures in my music, Parliament Funkadelic painted pictures in their music and layered lots of stuff. I layered samples like they layered instruments. On the hip hop side, is was probably Rick Rubin because Rick Rubin to me made beats back then. It was just a drum machine and a rapper. He made beats that stood out. Soon after that would be Marley Marl. Then a bigger influence closer towards “3 Feet High & Rising” would have to be the Bomb Squad. “It Takes a Nation of Millions” was so far ahead of its time with the way the arrangements and the drum patterns went. Now a days, kids will probably go “yeah, yeah that’s cool”, but that song was light years away from what anybody was doing. Even after that album came out, you can hear the difference in [Dr.] Dre’s production. You can tell there’s a lot of influence from the Bomb Squad. A lot of producers won’t admit it, but that definitely was the guide point to where your production had to be.
WHO?MAG: What equipment do you use production-wise? PRINCE PAUL: I’m going back to the old stuff. I’m using my ASR-10. I was using my MPC2000. I’m back to my SP1200, a hundred drum machines. I’m combining it with Protools and with a quarter inch tape. I’m going analog and digital. I like to mix it up. It depends on the project I’m using. On certain projects, I’ll use an outboard keyboard module, older ones, maybe like Aprodias or whatever. But I like to mix it up. I like to work with a piece that will bring out the type of sound I’m trying to do. If I try to go retro, I got to with the older stuff. If I’m trying to do something new, I’ll go with Reason. Different instruments make you program a different way.
WHO?MAG: How did you hook up with Big Daddy Kane? PRINCE PAUL: I met Kane at the Latin Quarter when I was with Stetsasonic. What was cool about Kane and being a DJ back then was they acknowledged the DJ. They acknowledged the DJ in the early part of hip hop. But as time went on and records got popular, it was all about the emcee. But Kane went up and introduced himself. He said I heard about you. That’s when he was at his peak with “Raw” and everything was out. To be that cool with me back in those days was great. After my success with De La Soul, he was already established. It made it easier for us to work together.
WHO?MAG: What was difference as far as production style with De La Soul, 3rd Bass, and Gravediggas? PRINCE PAUL: I tried to cater to the artist and at the same time, I try not go out of my realm of what I do. With De La Soul, it was all about experimenting. Let’s be the first ones to do whatever. Let’s try anything. With 3rd Bass, it was me trying to give them a sound or develop a sound for them with songs like “Gas Face” and “Brooklyn Queens” trying to give them their own type of feel. They had multiple producers on the album. I wanted to put them out the way I heard them. When it comes to Gravediggas, that was all gut, anger, and hurt and anything I that going bad in my life that depicted that feeling from the subjects and the sampling. Seeing that I had three guys that felt the same pain, I felt made it that much easier that vibe come up.
WHO?MAG: How do you feel Tommy Boy records treated you while your time over there? PRINCE PAUL: Tommy Boy was a love/hate situation. I always liked Tommy Boy for the fact because they always gave me a voice and opportunity to put out music that a lot of other labels might not have given me. I don’t know how many other labels would have put out “A Prince Among Thieves”. De La Soul, a lot of people wanted to work with them and wanted to sign them so I can’t really go by them. Stetsasonic, we didn’t really have a lot of opportunities. I though they were great in terms of giving me opportunities. The hate part is a lot of times they took me for granted. “Ah yeah, that’s Prince Paul whatever!” and focused on a lot of other artist who probably didn’t come to the table as much as I did; at least for the company. I made that company a lot of money. I should have got more respect than what I was given. They took a chance on me because I made some really weird records at that time.
WHO?MAG: Aside from De La Soul, what other Tommy Boy label mates did you work with? PRINCE PAUL: I did get a chance to work with the Force MDs when I was in Stetsasonic. Everlast, I did a skit on his record and he was on “A Prince Among Thieves”. Queen Latifah, I got a chance to work with. Every one that worked there I put them on skits like I had their voices on a few songs. I definitely utilized what I could. I wish in my heyday like mentioned earlier. I would have worked more with Digital Underground and could’ve done some good collaborations.
WHO?MAG: You did a comedy album with Chris Rock two years ago. Is there a possibility of doing another one? PRINCE PAUL: I’m hoping. We did our last three records with Universal. Thank God it was a great thing. They didn’t sell like crazy. They did ok. But they got us Grammy’s which got us a lot of acclaim for. Now, in general with things not selling that much, I don’t think people want to take the time to put out a comedy record anymore, unless we get together and do it on our own. I doubt something like that will happen again.
WHO?MAG: Talk about that Hip Hop Gold Dust album? PRINCE PAUL: What happened was I forgot the label they had approached to make a compilation of songs that influenced me throughout my career; like a mix CD. I said “hey I’ll do one better. Why don’t I put out songs that were unreleased, unheard, or looked over?” I want to do that instead of songs that inspire me because that might be boring. They were like “cool we like that idea”. The powers that be over there came up with the title “Hip Hop Gold Dust”. Me personally, I might have picked something different, but hey whatever. It came out as “Gold Dust”. I went through the archives and picked up a few songs and things that were kind of collecting dust. I figured I wanted to get it out in my lifetime before somebody puts it out when I’m dead and puts it out wrong. You know what I’m saying? (laughs) I hear compilations of people when they pass away and I’m like “yikes man”. I wonder if they would’ve wanted it like that with all the collaborations that Biggie had. Did he really want to be down with all those cats? Who knows?
WHO?MAG: I like that skit at the end of the album with Dave Chappelle. PRINCE PAUL: Yeah, yeah! Let me put this down on the record. That was BEFORE Dave Chappelle became the Dave Chappelle of The Dave Chappelle Show. That was out of me loving his work then. That also helped me in the relationship with him too because he knew I was a fan and I was down from the gate before all the big accolades that he got.
WHO?MAG: Do you still talk to Dave? PRINCE PAUL: I haven’t talked to Dave in a longtime. The last time I talked to him was when he put the show out. I was going to try to get him to executive produce a show I was going to try to put on. After that he blew up and did his thing, I saw a whole lot of things coming at him. I just figured I’d lay back. I didn’t want to be another cat “Hey Dave man! Blah blah blah”.
WHO?MAG: I know you were on the White Rapper Show as a judge. Since it’s over what are your thoughts of the show and did it portray hip hop in a positive or negative way? PRINCE PAUL: For me, I didn’t really see a lot of the show until it actually aired. I didn’t know a lot of what was going. I just did my part. At first, it is the White Rapper show and it could be kind of funny coming from the Ego Trip guys. They use a lot of sarcasm. That’s usually kind of like my route. I though it could be pretty interesting. I don’t think it made fun of rap music as much as it made fun of people’s interpretation of rap. A lot of people on there they interpreted of what hip hop was off the mark. For the fact that Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Caz came in and said this is what the culture is really about and where it came from, it was really informative. Unfortunately, at a lot of other people’s expense making them look silly in some ways. I think over all it definitely educated a lot of people on what hip hop was about because if you look at some of the contestants some of them who made it and some of them who didn’t make it. Come on man, a lot of those things were off. Watching whatever is on TV and interpreting those ideas and not knowing what hip hop culture is about or even what the music is about. I definitely think it helps in a funny way.
WHO?MAG: Are there any artists out there that you haven’t worked with that you would want to and why? PRINCE PAUL: The ones I want to work with are dead. I would love to work with Marvin Gaye. Bob Marley would be incredible. If I could think of somebody living it would probably be Prince basically for the fact he’s just ill. I’m not going to say I’m the biggest Prince fan. I love his work. I think he’s a genius. I would love to work with just to learn. I just want to think back and ask a ton of questions.
WHO?MAG: What are your thoughts on digital downloads and on the decline in CD sales? PRINCE PAUL: Illegal. You can’t stop it. It is what it is. I think if people make really good music, people are going to want the original stuff. I think it puts a stop on people putting out crap. I’m going to be honest with you, I definitely downloaded some albums that I’m glad I didn’t buy. Man this is garbage! I spent ten to fifteen dollar on this crap to get half a song and it’s only the hook that I like. But if I love the song, I’ll buy it and support it. I think it puts artist on their A game. Don’t put the wool over my eyes and feed me crap, because I will download your stuff and throw it away. I think the art of not having a physical property like a CD or wax or cassette is kind of awkward because there’s a vibe that you get with actually holding something and looking at something a certain way. That’s just my generation. The new generation honestly won’t even know what that feels like. For being an older guy, it’s kind of a relationship having it.
WHO?MAG: What are you playing right now in your CD player? PRINCE PAUL: The new Kanye album. The Baby Elephant album so I can figure out what mistakes I made. 50’s album checking out what everybody else is doing and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On”. I got some comedy. Dave Chapelle is in there.
WHO?MAG: How is your production process when you’re in the studio? PRINCE PAUL: It usually depends what I’m working on. Everything is individual. I don’t have a stock way of doing things, but I like to do a lot of preproduction in my home. I like knowing what I’m doing. Having it laid out and have it where it’s basically done, like the emcee or musician can come on head onto it. To me, it’s knowing what I’m doing and having the idea laid out.
WHO?MAG: If you weren’t doing music; what career path would you have chosen? PRINCE PAUL: Honestly I went to school to become an audio engineer. Actually, the one that travels on the road and sets up the equipment for the band and does all the audio concerts and stuff. That’s what initially I was going to do and that didn’t work. I was going to take the civil service test and become a postman. For real man.(laughs)
WHO?MAG: I always saw you as doing stand up comedy. PRINCE PAUL: I think that’s flattering because Chris Rock would tell me the same thing; “You should do comedy.” I never saw myself as that because when I would be cracking jokes and that as a kid my family would look at me as if I was stupid. I never thought I was funny more stupid than anything else.
WHO?MAG: Any other projects? PRINCE PAUL: I’m going to start working on a children’s CD.