Prince Paul Battles the Hip-Hop Robots

Prince Paul Battles the Hip-Hop Robots
"Either you're gonna get it, or you're not," says Prince Paul of his latest opus, Politics of the Business. "I don't think the average hip-hop head will understand what I'm doing." Throughout his 19-year career, the visionary producer has consistently stretched the boundaries of hip-hop, from ushering in the Daisy Age with De La Soul's seminal 1989 debut, 3 Feet High and Rising, to introducing the world to oddball Jewish rapper MC Paul Barman on 2000's It's Very Stimulating EP. Left-field projects like the latter, however, have increasingly polarised fans and critics alike, and Politics of the Business is bound to be no exception.

At first listen, Politics of the Business appears to be the very antithesis of a Prince Paul production: no-nonsense beats, standard samples, and occasional hints of hit single material. The only similarity is the sheer number of guest artists involved. "I think God purposely made me not able to rhyme because if He did, it would be a mad house. It'd be really insane," Paul chuckles. The vocal spectrum encompasses everyone from hip-hop stalwarts Chuck D and Guru to underground MCs MF Doom, Planet Asia, and Jean Grae, aka What What. The album also marks Prince Paul's first collaboration with Canadian artists; Kardinal Offishall lends his slang on "What I Need," while Saukrates will appear on a forthcoming version of the same track.

Still, further listens to Politics of the Business reveal a closer semblance to Prince Paul's previous solo efforts than the "fast food music" of mainstream rap records. Much like its critically acclaimed but commercially rejected predecessor, 1999's brilliant hip-hopera, A Prince Among Thieves, Prince Paul's new LP is a veiled criticism of the hip-hop industry.
"It's a well-done spoof, and I wanted to do it without smiling," he explains. "People expect every record that I put out to [somehow] change the world. I'm gonna do what people wouldn't expect me to do, even though they expect me to do the unexpected."

Despite his best efforts to maintain a poker-face, Paul's quirky sense of humour prevails during hilarious skits featuring Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and the enigmatic "Black Italiano."

Humour is Prince Paul's way of dealing with the commercial aspects of the music industry. "I gave up a long time ago trying to appeal to the masses. It's not in me, to walk everybody else's walk continuously," he says. "That's why I have a small fan base, but they're pretty loyal and I've accepted that."

After almost two decades in the rap game, Paul's agenda remains unchanged: "to make everything more interesting." Having made his statement on contemporary hip-hop, he is already well under way in producing "another silly record."

"I put together a group called the Dix and we're working on this album called The Art of Picking Up Women. I'm probably a third of the way in," he says. "In a perfect world, it'll be out next year about this time, which will probably be around the same time that the next Handsome Boy [Modeling School] record comes out."

In the meantime, Prince Paul is embarking on a North American tour this month with Aceyalone, Jean Grae, Mr. Len, and K-OS. He promises that his live show will "bring another element," at the likely expense of leaving more than one bewildered hip-hop head in its wake.

"I hate going to hip-hop shows where cats just pace the stage and say ‘Throw your hands in the air!' or ‘Let me bust a freestyle!' I can't deal with that. Whatever I'm gonna do, has to be entertaining from top to bottom. Now for the ‘real hip-hop' crowd, maybe they'll like it, maybe they won't. Maybe it's too unreal for them, but it won't be typical. So I advise everybody to get a ticket to see history made 'cause I may never do it again."