posted: 07-16-05
interview : tadah
So how are you these days?
Busy. I mean, I'm glad, but I'm like: "damn, when did this happen?" I wish I'd have the money to match the business.
But being busy, that's a good problem to have.
Yeah, I hope so. It's nice to actually be crazy… working. Not just crazy 'crazy,' but crazy working.
Would you rather be bored?
No, not at all. But I cannot ever really be bored. Like I live inside my mind. So I'd be alright. With a pad and a paper and a drum machine, I'd be alright.
When was the last time you were bored?
Man. Probably the last time I was bored was at the DMC Championship. Oh my god…!
When was that?
Oh, years ago. But it was the same 'chigga…chigga…chahh.' Oh please stop, stop! Can you please do something different, or cut a different record? God, that was killing me. Then again, that wasn't boring, that was annoying. So being bored I don't remember. It's been a while.
So then, what is keeping you busy right now?
One, I've been spinning at a few places, what is good. Two - and this is in no particular order - I've been getting some renovations to my house. What was about time to get it done.
Do you get the carpenter in or do you get the tools out yourself?
About half and half: I do half and I'll let the professionals do the other half.
So it's that and three I'm doing this record with Bernie Worrell - which is like a big deal for me. Bernie was the keyboard player for Parliament/Funkadelic. He made "Flashlight" and all those songs. And he was the musical director and keyboard player for the Talking Heads. He's a guy I look up to.
Plus I'm supposed to work with Hank Shocklee right now, but I guess he's busy, so I don't know when that's going to happen. And I'm talking with Craig Mack, believe it or not. We're actually talking about one or two things, to do business together.
Business as in music or other ventures?
Music. And that's more business than it is something creative. And there's still a bunch of other things. But this might get boring, so let's end it right there. Oh, and I'm plotting my next record, which should be interesting.
What kind of record are we looking at?
You know, the instrumental record, that's 'for fun' stuff. It's not designed to be a competitive record. The next record that I'm trying to do, I cannot really say much, because I haven't sat down and thought it all out. But I wanna have something that'll bug people out and that'll have a crazy impact. I don't wanna make records just to make records. I wanna make something… I wanna change the world. Not necessarily with that next record, but that's my intention at some point in my career.
So the next record is going to be another concept album, like a "Prince Among Thieves" was?
Yeah, there's definitely going to be a concept. It's going to be an overall thing. Like whoever the people are that I'll get involved with, will be what the album is about. So it's all about me sitting down and plotting it all out. I'm looking forward to that.
And I'ma write some more things, like some more screenplay stuff. So it's a lot of things. I just need to take my time properly.
Isn't there a record coming out with instrumentals of old songs?
Besides the "Itstrumentals" record that's out now, which also consists of some old music, there's going to be an 'unreleased' record of like some Gravediggaz stuff, some De La songs and some other things that's been laying around. You know some other stuff that people might not have heard because the distribution was limited or because it wasn't popular. It will be released on Sanctuary a little later this year.
Will a Groove B Chill track on there?
Yes. You know, I listened to it and not to toot my own horn, but I actually like it. I put it together and compiled it with a lot of stuff, like Stetsasonic, stuff I don't think people ever heard before, and stuff by like The Last Emperor to stuff that I think is really, really cool, like Resident Alien, but stuff the people haven't heard. That's what I'm trying to get on there.
I got the Groove B Chill record in front of me. Another record I got in front of me, and we're jumping from topic to topic a little bit, but it's Brothers Ov Da Blackmarket. Now I wonder if you can figure out why that's in front of me.
What is that?
You cannot make the connection? Brothers Ov Da Blackmarket did an album back in 1992. Came out on Select records, so I figure Chubb Rock had his fingers in it somehow. Now the reason why I bring it up is, because there's this skit on it, where some dude act to listen to the album and complaining how it sucks.
And as said, it came out in 1992 and I checked "De La Soul" is dead, and that came out in 1991.
That's funny.
You never heard it?
It's actually a good record.
Yeah. And I mean, Chubb Rock in my book is rather underrated and the stuff on Select that he had his fingers in is usually a save bet.
Chubb Rock to me was always dope. It's a shame that he owes me money.
[laughs] Yes, that's that song on the "Politics Of Business" album, right?
Yeah, yeah, he owes me cash.
Oh, so that wasn't even a joke?
Oh no, it's true. And he's been dodging me since then. He owes me that money man and he's just been like disappeared.
And now considering this skit and that he might have had something to do with it, he even owes you more money.
[laughs] Yeah he should. Oh, I'ma just start adding it up. Now, I can buy a house off of this.
Or forget to do the plumbing yourself.
Yeah man. But it's a shame though. I just want everybody out there to be careful. That's all I have to say. "Protect Your Neck" as Wu-Tang says.
Don't believe everything people tell you. Even if you feel like they are somewhat respectable. Always question it. And always back yourself up with a written agreement, which I didn't do stupidly. And I handed over cash for something he said he'd give me. And he got a lot of my friends like that: Harry Allen, Wes Jackson, and I could go on.
And I could go for the cheapshot now: if he's on the run, he might have finally lost some weight.
[laughs]. Well, yeah hopefully. And that'll keep him alive long enough for me to get my money.
See, there's always something good about everything.
[laughs] I see the same way.
Now, you mentioned Resident Alien. As much as I know, that was a group that you signed to a deal where you were the label honcho. And for one reason or another, not many releases came out of that: both of Resident Alien and the whole situation. So how would music sound like that you'd put out as a label guy? What would you be looking for?
The Resident Alien was like my pet project. I was like deep into that one. But back then and especially then, I was all about just having fun. I was like: "yo, this is crazy, this'll freak people out - listen to this." That record and during that time, was very bizarre. Definitely too bizarre for Russell Simmons. That was around 1990. It was supposed to be out by 1990 but it kept getting pushed back. And then finally Russell said: "you know, I think this deal isn't working well." [laughs] So it kinda ended at that.
As for in general, it'd depend on if I was trying to make money or if I was trying to change the world. Lemme say, I guess now I'd be looking for something that's just honestly good. Catchy, melodic, whatever, without it sounding like somebody else. I'm not into like "oh, that sounds like such and such." Like if I'd have to describe someone and be like "oh, he sounds like such and such." I would want something that'd be like: "wow, I never heard that before. And it's really good." Cause a lot of kids come up to me now and are like: "yo, you gonna like this cause it's different." But different doesn't necessarily mean good. [laughs] Like "yeah, it is different…" [laughs]. I get that a lot.
So "different, but good" I'd say. And that's where my ear is. Like Pos once said: "yeah Paul doesn't get to a lot of things unless it's kinda something new and different." And he's right. That's just who I am. I like to just have something that freaks me out. Expand the mind.
Something that is certainly different about your instrumental album, that it actually features a whole lot of talking.
[laughs] I don't know if that's good or bad.
Well, it can go both ways.
[laughs] Yeah, it can definitely go both ways. But you know, it started out as an instrumental, but you hear all these instrumental records - and nothing against the guys that do 'em and I'm not going to name names - and the beats are great, don't get me wrong, and they are way better than my beats. But the record is boring. It's not designed for you to listen to 'em apart from in the background or something. I wanted to make a record that you could listen to and it would keep your attention at some point. Something where you'd be like "wow, that's kinda crazy" and you'll be listening to it from the beginning to the end. So that was intentionally and what I wanted. And I'm not that fly of a beatmaker to be like: "alright, lemme do it like this and flip that." My strong points are concepts and arrangements. And I can produce really well. So I had to build upon that.
It started out with me just making hooks. I was like to bring a concept to the song: "ooh, let's make a hook. You know what would be crazy, Paul Barman. Or Mr Dead, he's funny." You know, I got some CDs and DATS of him talking, so lemme see if I can fit him in there and make a song about the Popmaster. As it went along, my whole thing of taking old instrumentals from like the eighties to 2000 or however long the time it spans, I just started coming into concepts. And concepts I couldn't do with just the music. So with some of 'em, I didn't want to put vocals on 'em, but I didn't mind sampling like the little talking pieces, like: "yeah, I can make a little hook out of those."
You're saying you're not that good of a beatmaker?
Yeah. I think I'm a great producer, but I'm not that great of a beatmaker. And there's a huge difference. I can sit down and arrange stuff, I can get the best out of an artist and I can make things sound better. But as far as sitting down, by today's standards, there's kids that make way better beats than I do. But some - not everybody, but some - make music that's not really arranged. They just let the beat rock from the beginning to the end and only might drop the kick drum or snare at some point.
So if you're saying that you're not that good of a beatmaker, it had to be the producer that won the Grammy?
Hopefully. I think I can just sit and make something out of nothing. I think that's my strong point. Having those beats to me was like nothing, it was stuff that I made throughout my career for fun. It was beats where nobody said "ah, that's garbage." For some reason somewhere in my heart I kinda liked those beats. So I didn't want them to go to waste. But I can tweak 'em and make them interesting. As a standalone beat, you'd be like "yeah, eeehh." But the production side of it made them, you know, you listen to 'em differently.
It's like putting make up on an ugly women. Where you're like: "uh, she's busted." And now after the make over, you're like "hmm, I just might have to hit that off." You look at her differently. So that's what a Prince Paul beat is. It's not that appealing if you just look at it. But when I dress it up, it makes you scratch your head and be like "wow, lemme look at that again."
But you did win a Grammy.
For the Chris Rock stuff. But I was also nominated for the "3 Feet High & Rising", but we didn't win. Young MC won. Go figure that one. But I won for "Roll With The New" and "Bigger And Blacker." That was fortunate. We didn't expect that at all. So it was like: "wow, get outta here, that's crazy."
It looks good on the résumé, but I just need my Grammy check. It's not like it made a big difference in my life. It's nice for bragging purposes, but other than that it's just "oh, okay."
But secretly the real reason for you to renovate your house is to find a nifty place for your Grammy's?
Yeah, I build it around it. You know, others have a little guy on the lawn, I have a Grammy on my lawn. Iced out, you know.
And I'm sure it looks really shiny when the sun hits it.
Yeah, you know. The cops told me to put it down because it's blinding the motorists.
Argh, what party poopers.
Yeah, they are haters.
Speaking of "3 Feet High & Rising": do you think that album would be possible to get released today?
No [laughs]. Just for samples it wouldn't. You know, back then nobody realized that hip hop had any kind of future or could make money or would get any types of respect, so they were just like "yeah, yeah whatever." But once it became the biggest selling form of music, now everybody's like "ha, you sample that? I wanna have fifty billion dollars and all the publishing." And it's like: "even if I'd give you all the publishing, I still couldn't give you fifty billion dollars." So I just cannot use the sample, what destroys the whole concept. If I'd have a sample that I'd think would make a really good song, and even though it would hurt and business wise it'd be crap, I'd give 'em the publishing, just for art's sake. Just for making that big record or making that record sound really good. But if you wanna get money up front and that money is my whole entire budget… I don't have a single, I cannot afford to do that.
So that changed the whole perspective on sampling and making records. It would be good if we could make those type of records again.
But you do still sample, right?
Yeah. Underground records: yeah. The major records: no. The underground records, you know, they sell two copies. So if you wanna sue me for the two copies, and you wanna get a dollar for each record: fine, we can square that away. But on a major record, when they are after one of the major labels, and are like: "hey, you sold x-amount hundred thousand copies" then it gets real. So I had to change my format. Or just step up my production a lot better. Make it sound like it's sampled, but it's not sampled.
People say you invented the Skit on albums.
Yeah, they say that.
Did you?
Well, I think for hip hop records. But in the back of my mind, like the first Skit that I remember was "Living For The City" with Stevie Wonder. You know where he had stuff acted out in between. To me that was a Skit.
But I kinda got my stuff from kiddie records. Just listening to some of their records. They had like 'turn the page' and stuff like that. Or action records that I had. And that's what I was trying to mimic. I wasn't thinking like: "hey, this is going to change the way records are going to be made." All I was thinking when we sequenced the album: "heh, nobody knows who these guys are, I gotta find a way to make it so that it's personable. So that they can listen to it and be like: oh Trugoy, he likes Yoghurt. PA Mase eats ketchup." I had to find a way that would describe them or their personality.
So I thought "gameshow, they do that on gameshows. Let's make a gameshow. Guys, make it sound like a gameshow real quick." And that was the whole thing. And the next thing you know, "woah, Skits". And we didn't even call them Skits, we called them Bugout Pieces. That was the name for 'em. But later on in print everybody said Skits and Sketches. So they changed the name of what we originally called them.
So let's just say that you did invent the Skit - at least on rap records. Don't you think you owe the public an apology?
[smiles] Uhm, no.
Just considering what we have to endure right now, with everybody doing these horrible and unnecessary skits. You are the reason for them.
I mean, I cannot apologize for the stupidity that you hear [smiles]. That's pretty unfortunate, but can't you blame other people for stuff like hip house music.
Hold up right there, who's going to give hip house music slack? Hip house music is great.
Oh god. But you know, that's why we made "Kicked Out The House."
But come on now, hip house music is great. You know there's these two DJs in New York that did those two mix cds with all hip house tracks. Those CDs are brilliant.
[laughs] See, I thought we were friends up until just now.
I am a friend, because with me you don't have to pretend you don't like 'em. Cause secretly you do.
[laughs] Okay, let's go to the next question.
You know, that's just kinda like everybody pretending that they didn't bob their head the first time they heard "Ice Ice Baby."
You know honestly, lemme tell you this, I was like "what is this garbage?" But actually the first thing I said when I heard it, I was like: "ah, I wish I had used that with De La Soul." We originally used that loop but never did a song. He flipped it in a different way though, so I was like: "this is corny." But that's just me. My mind was different. But yes, after I heard it fifty million times, I was saying "ice ice baby." But I never liked it. It was weird. But whatever, I'm just crazy like that.
And while I'm at it: you also liked "Bust A Move" by Young MC.
That I can tolerate a little more. Actually that Young MC album: I like that whole album.
It wasn't too shabby.
It was really good. People now are like "aaaah, Young MC is wack." So I'm like "yeah, whatever", cause they don't even give it a chance.
And I bought Vanilla Ice's "To The Extreme" album. For me not to like it is one thing, but for me to understand it is totally different. I sit and analyze things in order to understand them. To get a sense why people like it, I ask 'em questions like "why do you like that, why don't you like that?" Just to see why people get into things - even if maybe I can't understand it.
So yeah, I get all those things. I'm a producer man, I'm always learning. That's the key. Like everybody at some point of success they get to "ah, I know everything." Naw man, I'm always in training. Always. That's why I'm so into that Bernie record. I'm going to learn so much from him, it's going to be ridiculous. Even Hank Shocklee, I've been over to his house and just sat and watched and be like "oh, you can do that? Wow, that's crazy." I just sit there with a pen and pad.
That's all really interesting, but I still can't get over you not liking hip house.
[sighs] Oh God, man. [smiles]
What hip house song did you personally do?
On "De La Soul Is Dead": "Kicked Out The House." And I thought that was pretty good [laughs]. "Kicked out the house, you got kicked out the house… hip house." It's so funny, cause it really sounds like these hip house records. You know, it started with the Jungle Brothers. And I was like "aaawwwhhh," the song I least liked, they made the biggest thing, like go figure. So "Kicked Out The House" wasn't done to diss anybody, it was just "oh God…"
So it was just a joke, huh?
Oh, it was very much a joke. Come on, with the beeper going and then "terminal vibrate!" It was like one of those house songs like they were back then.
Actually, I don't have to like the stuff, but I do understand it. And I understood hip house and why people liked it and what made them click. So I was like: "you know, I'ma mimic that. I'ma mimic that vibe."
But you know you're crushing my dear little heart here…
Oh sorry. I was just joking, I love hip house. And I'ma make a hip house album with every person that ever came out with a hip house track. And we're going to call it "Hip Mansion". We're going to build the House even bigger.
And of the two copies it's going to sell, I will buy one.
[laughs] See, that's good. There we go. And that means I can sample a lot for it.
We talked about De La a couple of times. Now are you responsible for the demise or at least the lesser state of De La?
Hmm… I don't know. I kinda liked…
Just saying that a lot of people seem to argue that since you two split, the albums haven't been as good.
I wouldn't say "as good" I would say "as experimental." I still think they are good. Unfortunately what happened is, I created a situation where people expected a certain thing from De La Soul. Nowadays, if you are a new kid, you are "okay, De La is cool." But if you're familiar with the old stuff, you'll go: "ah, this is not like one of those first three albums." But I still think it's good.
But it's funny you mention that, because I'm trying to convince those guys for us to do another album together. Every time I see them, I'm like: "yo look: let's do another album. Just one more album. Just us, nobody else as producers, just us." Like we did in the beginning. And they are like "oh yeah, yeah" and then I don't hear anything back.
But now you're on the same label, as you mentioned your record is going to come out on Sanctuary.
Yeah, that's good. But see, I'm only going to do like a one off with Sanctuary. I'm not like an artist of theirs. Now if Sanctuary would be like: "listen Paul, we're giving you 1.5 billion and all your publishing" - well, actually you gotta get that nowadays - "and you'll own your masters" I'd be like "yeah, great." But I know they won't give me that. They probably wanna sign me at this point, so I might be jumping the gun.
Speaking of labels: why did you pick Female Fun for "Itstrumentals"?
'Cause Peter had approached me and said: "hey, we'd like you to do this instrumental record." - "yeah, I don't know." It's not my thing. I've never done it before. But then I thought about it and I like to challenge myself. As far as I know, as far as producers go, top producers go, and this is not bragging, this is like an observation, I'm the one that is pushing his limits on what he can producer and can't produce. Like I do a comedy record, I do the stuff with the Automator, I do crazy gutter stuff with The RZA, I do the De La stuff, I do a hip hop band with Stetsasonic. I do it all 'round. And I like to challenge myself. I wanna be able to say that "in my lifetime, I tried this." That's what makes it fun. And what makes you a better producer, cause you had your hands in something different.
And that's the reason why I tried this instrumental record. And especially with that label, I didn't want a major label to put their money into something, that I didn't know what's going to happen to, and then they'd drop me and be like: "aw Paul, it only sold two copies." So putting it out on this level, and I like putting out records on an underground level, to experiment. And nobody ever really looses. It can come out in very low pressings, and who gets it and likes it, is usually a hardcore fan.
So that was also why you worked with Wordsounds - for the same reasons?
Yeah, same thing with Wordsounds. Skit had approached me "do you wanna do a record" and I was like "alright, what kind of record?" - "Just do one of your concepts like you always do." - "Oh, alright." And same thing with this one: I took a bunch of old beats that I had, was like "I like these" and tried to make something out of 'em.
You mentioned the Automator, and I apparently cannot leave this topic behind: but the one song on the first Handsome Boy Modeling School album with Alec Empire and El-P, that was kinda hip house-ish. And you know, El-P hated that song.
Of course. I think that was funny. It's hilarious. When we first gave him the beat, it was something totally different. When El-P rhymed to it, it was a different record. And then we gave it to Alec Empire and it came back as something totally different. And it's funny: Mr. Len - I guess when they all were together as Company Flow - came up to me and said: "yeah, El came to the studio and was like: yo, listen to this song I did with Paul and Dan, it's crazy." And he hadn't heard the new version. But he had a copy of the album, went straight to it and when the music came on, he was like "what's this? Ah, this is horrible!" [laughs] I think that's hilarious. I don't wanna hurt his feelings, but I just thought that was funny.
So you like to alienate people.
I like to bug people out. I just like adverse reactions. It's fun. I mean, come on: have fun. Have a good time. That's why I don't try to stress the small things. I just go out, make music and I've been extremely lucky that I've been making records this long, under the circumstances that I've been making records. Cause I've been making music on my own terms for a long time. That's hard to do in general and it's even harder to do and live off of it. But I try to not copy too many styles, but try to do my own thing.
What I am really quite impressed with, how much you seem to enjoy yourself and what you're doing.
And you did see a lot of the evolution rap music went through. Is it still as much fun to you now as it was back then?
It's not as stimulating anymore. Like when you could click on the radio at any time and whatever song that was playing would be crazy. And you'd just want to create stuff and meet people that'd just be so diverse. Now I have to find my excitement from other things: people I meet, crazy concepts in my head or maybe a movie I see, them giving me the same kind of ump to make stuff. And I really had to think about how to make my success and a lot has been based on me just experimenting. So I have to keep that same frame of mind for a lot of these records. And they might have been caused by some type of depression, but I still had fun making them. So I try to keep that same vibe.
And unfortunately the reason why me and De La stopped working together was I really wanted to keep my 'yuk yuk' mentality. And they got really serious. So we would see things two different ways. But it was actually good that we parted ways at that point. It was perfect timing. Because it made me grind harder. And made me work harder to make myself known as an individual, as opposed to the guy behind De La Soul. And you know, it worked out.
Now for obvious reasons you cannot do a 'proper' Stetsasonic reunion, but have you ever thought of working with Daddy-O again?
We've been like texting each other and messengering and all that stuff for the first time in a long time, because I wanted to get his publishing for the record I'm putting out on Sanctuary. And there's a track on there that has his voice on it. So I mentioned to him that I would like to do something at some point. Because Stetsasonic is my beginning of professional hip hop and being in the music business. Before that I was just a DJ, a kid in the street spinning. And he's been really pivotal to my whole career. And it would be nice to work with him again. I just used to really look up to him, man. I used to think that he was like the greatest person, the greatest emcee in the world. Until time went on, and you know, [laughs] and I realized that he's a mere mortal and he does stupid things too.
Do you get big, major artists knocking at your door for some beats?
I don't get like major, major stars. But like occasionally I get something like a Chris Rock calling me or a year or two ago I get a Macy Grey saying "I want you to produce an album", but then she never calls me back, so it never happens. So there's a lot of things like that. You know, it's occasional. It's rare. It's not too often. I put myself in the position nowadays that I can create my own projects. And I like it like that - to either work with a new up and coming artist or to make my own records. It's less stress.
Now I already mentioned Groove B Chill which most likely isn't your best known work. Are there any other tracks out there that so far stayed off the radar, that we get to discover on the Sanctuary record?
Well, there's that and there's the Resident Alien. And then there's… what's the name of that group? I cannot remember the name of the group. That's of how limited release they are. The song that I did with May May Ali that never came out and that I thought was pretty good. There's like a lot of weird things man on these records, like Horror City. They had like a song on "A Prince Among Thieves" and I had 'em on "Politics Of The Business." We did a whole album of Horror City stuff that even to this day I think was so amazing. But no label would even touch it. And usually I don't give up, but I actually gave up on that one. And I thought that the music was really good, man. So there's a song on there. It's not like the best song for me from the thing that we did, but it's not bad neither.
It seems like you have a lot of stuff lying around that might never see the light of day. And as a fan, I find the thought rather frustrating, thinking of all the music that's out there stored away somewhere. But how is it for you?
It used to bother me when I thought about all this stuff, but as I got older, and my popularity kinda increased and decreased at the same time, I'm thinking like: "well, maybe people just don't care and I'm like the only person that's like 'ooh, this is great.' " So I don't really feel as much as before that the world needs to hear this and hear that. So instead I keep it to myself. And pull it occasionally for any friends that might come over that want to take the time and listen. What isn't too many. So usually my friends get stressed: "yo, Peter, listen to this." - "Ah yeah, it's hot. Yeah, whatever…"

a lil note by tadah: I am aware that this interview is under-edited. But I didn't want to clean it up any more as this was how it went.
Plus, I'd like to thank J-Zone and Cadence of making me aware of some of the records discussed here.

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