Interview: 7 Minutes with Prince Paul

Not too many folks have a resume that reads like a who’s who of hip hop. A member of the original hip hop band…check. Producer for one of the most inovative groups in hip hop…check. A member of one of the groups who invented an entire new genre of hip hop…check. And a production resume that includes everyone from De La Soul, Slick Rick and Big Daddy Kane to Boogie Down Productions, the GraveDiggaz and 3rd Bass…check.

If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s the one and only Prince Paul. I got a chance to chop it up with the legendary producer and get in his ear about how it feels to be a member of four different successful hip hop groups (the unofficial 4th member of De La), how it feels to see the Roots as the house band on the Jimmy Fallon show and what he thinks rappers can do to insure they have health insurance.

I’m going to name 5 of my favorite Prince Paul productions and I want you to let me in behind the scenes on how these songs came together:

De La Soul – Ring, Ring, Ring

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De La Soul provided the hook and the concept and I went ahead and laid down the beat.

Big Daddy Kane – It’s A Big Daddy Thing

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Kane wanted a fast beat. Once I put it together, he liked it and we laid down the entire song in about 20 minutes.

De La Soul – Say No Go

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That song was a group collaboration. De La wanted to do an anti drug song. We all pitched in on the beat with Pos with the concept .

Gravediggaz – Mommy What’s A Gravedigger

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I had the beat and the sond title the guys just ran with the rhymes and rhyme styles.

De La Soul – Buddy

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l Pos wanted to use heartbeat so we sat down and figured how to remix that into the original buddy that was on 3 Feet High and Rising.

You’ve been part of 4 different hip hop groups: Stetsasonic, the unofficial 4th member of De La Soul, The Gravediggaz and the Handsome Boy Modeling School. Can you name me one thing that you learned differently from each group?

I was in  Stetsasonic to learn music business. De la Soul was mainly to have fun. I was in Gravediggaz was to put your emotions on each project . My goal with Handsome Boy Modeling School was to give our music a look as well as a sound .

Poetic from the Gravediggaz passed away without having any health insurance and we’ve recently found out that Kool Herc is now sick and doesn’t have health insurance. What do you think can be done to make sure more of our hip hop brethren don’t have to be in the same position one day?

Instead of investing in material things, hip-hoppers need to look at basic needs like insurance as a priority in your expenses.

You’re credited with coming up with the idea of putting “skits” throughout albums and throughout the past 20 years it’s hard to find an album without skits. How did that idea come about?

I threw in the idea of skits because I just wanted to make 3ft high link together somehow. Also I think that the skits give each member in the group an personality outside of the songs.

You’ve produced for everyone from Stetsasonic, De La, 3rd Bass and Queen Latifah to BDP, Nikki D, Slick Rick, J Live and the Last Emperor. What’s the funniest studio story you have from over 20 years of producing?

Not the funniest but…KRS-ONE would blow out the studio headphones all the time because he liked the music loud in his ears. It kind of baffled the engineers how he could play it that loud!

You and Rza were part of the Gravediggaz and I don’t think a lot of people realize that’s like having Pete Rock and Premier in the same group. What was that like working with Rza?

The Rza is a great guy to collaborate with. We had mutual respect so that made the job easy.

You produced both of Chris Rock’s comedy albums “Bigger and Blacker” and “Roll With the New”, what was that experience like?

Producing those comedy albums was fun. To be honest anything with comedy is less of a job and more of having loads of laughs.

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When most people think of New York, people only think of the 5 boroughs and they leave Long Island out but LI has given hip hop SO much! Why do you think Long Island has always been slept on?

Well, Long Island is always slept on because we have lawns, and tress, and no huge apt buidings.  The suburbs are alwas considered soft.

And if you’re in the Washington DC area, you gotta come through and check Prince Paul behind the wheels of steel with Stereofaith and Jerome Backer III at the U Street Music Hall, Tuesday March 8 at 9pm. Don’t sleep.