DJ Prince Paul is a producer and dj who has been living and working through the hip hop world since before he was a teenager. His long and varied catalogue has seen him work with great names in Hip Hop and Comedy who Hip Hop fans of all generations and stylings can recognize and appreciate. With a new album on the way, a collaboration with his son DJ P.Forreal titled “Negroes on ice”, which started off as a series of stage shows depicting the common ground Hip Hop brings to the various generations that have lived through it’s rise. I had the opportunity to have an extensive chat with Prince Paul on a number of topics but as you would expect from someone with such a long history in the game, we had more things to talk about than time available. Check out an excerpt below.
Sif Infamous – So, What were the early years like for Paul Huston?
Prince Paul – very simple, born in Queens (NY), moved at an early age to Amityville Long Island, my dad was a very big collector of jazz music, my first exposure to music was sitting in my dad’s lap you know listening to the Coltrain’s, Felonius Monk, u know alot of hardcore stuff (laughter)
SI – so would i be correct in assuming that this is where your love for music and instruments began?
PP – Well definitely my family was a great influence, i have 2 brothers and sisters and we are about 10 years apart in age so when i was growing up they were already teenagers, listening to all the new stuff that was coming out, so my ear was well tuned at a super young age, probly the first 45 (vinyl record) i bought was at the age of 5, which was James Brown’s “Hot Pants” and King Floyd’s “groove me”. I still have em, a little bit scratchy (laughter) but from when i was 5 though i have kept those records
SI – but those are classic collectors items u gotta hold on to em!!
PP – Yeah man they are definitely classics and while you know some of the other kids were playing with toys (i wasn’t no corny kid or nothing) but i would also collect records basically since kindergarten
SI – So really music been in your blood you started at a very early age, and i think that shows in the longevity that you have been able to maintain in the game since u started early and stuck with it
PP- For me i like to say, although i cant say like some other rappers that my family were producing music or i played piano or none of that i can say that our family life revolved around music from the time you come into the house, we went to school listening to music and fell asleep to records too! The radio was on almost all the time in my house. I think it did influence me because i learnt to technically listen to stuff from an early age
SI – So you’ve told me a little bit about your upbringing, how did the music you listened to influence you into singing producing and DJing? Which came first?
PP – Um, I was a dj before anything else, i started djing maybe at 10 or 11, and thats in very early Hip Hop times, like maybe umm
SI – This is back when it was just in the parks right?
PP- yea man, like in 77 78, and so it was like all new, it was before i could remember Hip Hop being called Hip Hop, it was new, exciting, you had to look for it and find who the best crews were because people weren’t really even putting their music on wax at that time. Now you got the magazines and the blogs so Hip Hop is very accessible to the youth, we had to SEARCH for it, and the parents too were not necessarily in aggreeance with that.
At the time though that i started spinning my dad had passed, but my mum was always supportive of my djing because you know i was staying outta trouble. It was crazy though i mean really undescribable the vibe at that time because it was all brand new, we were all learning these new techniques, people had the block buzzing like “ohh shit theres a party whos djing” and we were all hearing stuff we never had before coz none of it was on the radio
SI – How did you get into the group Stestsasonic?
PP- So Basically, it was around 83 i was djing at a block party, a couple djs (including myself) we were having a battle, i was on the turntables doing my thing like doing all the tricks like mixing with my back turned and all that (i thought i was the shit haha), so it drew alot of attention to me, and also because i was one of the youngest doing it at the time, so i was kinda sceptical working with grown men but we made it work and i was the dj for stet for several years
SI – Stet is a great group, they were kind of the precursor to the roots in the sense that they used live instrumentation and fused jazz with Hip Hop right?
PP – Yeah i think we kind of started the trend of using live instruments and yeah The Roots have kept up the movement as well as the really big artists when they do their stadium shows
SI – So, as a member of Stetsasonic what was a memorable highlight of being in the group?
PP – um, i could say that the most memorable thing was being on tour, you know i had never really been outside of the tri-state area, when we were kids we would like take trips to Connecticut or something, but to get out and travel cross country when i was so young was a great experience. And being on the road with some of the great crews of that era like Eric B & Rakim, Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and more. Plus the whole experience of like people chasing the tour bus, groupies, sold out shows it was really a great experience
SI – that sounds crazy! Alright, so you started off with Stet, which was towards the late 80s and early 90s when hip hop was beginning to be recognized as an legit genre of music with mass appeal, this is around the same time you did the production for the De La Soul joint right?
PP- yeah De La Soul is dead.
SI – so as you were working with De la, Stet and also starting up GraveDiggaz, what made you wait 10 years before you released your first solo album “Psychoanalysis”
PP- You know with alot of the projects i did for myself it came from a place where i was trying to prove myself, or rather prove critics(haters) wrong. After all the work i had done with De la and Stet, i was getting alot of slack from people for the Gravediggaz projects, I was being told it was not real Hip Hop and here i was thinking my career was over. But a friend of mine approached me and asked me if i wanted to make a record, and print a couple copies, so i thought hey this is my last project i might as well have a little fun with it. So i started the process, got a few of my friends on it, asked some of the MC’s i knew at the time (none of em wanted to be on it haha) . Ironically though that is the record that got me back in the public eye, the most bizarre record i ever made actually got me the most work!
SI – I guess the people in the industry saw the progression from stet to de la to gravediggaz, and since they saw you were still producing quality material they had to recognize.
PP – I hope that’s what occurred i mean that record got Chris Rock to call me to produce for his album, got me to work with Dan the Automator, connected me back with Tommy Boy to do “Prince Among Thieves” so it was a catalyst for alot of future work.
SI – Alright now that we have brought up “Prince Among Thieves”, we would like to know how the project came about because that is one of your most critically acclaimed, and unique projects.
PP- Well basically the idea behind that was reminiscent of back in the days of collecting records they didn’t just have music alot of records were like joke records or had a story to them so with prince among thieves i decided to put the concept of a coming of age story within the album itself.
SI – Do you then think that Hip Hop is missing a part of their culture by skipping over the Hip-Hopera sub-genre? Would you like it to be re born? Kanye was kinda alluding to the theme with the “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” short film but obviously that was more of a visual performance
PP- Well the thing is that at the time i was releasing prince among thieves it was a very different climate you know, the internet wasn’t popping off as much and when you bought music there wasn’t the distractions that would take you away from listening to music in it’s entirety. I do still utilise music as a story telling tool to this day, the project i am doing with my son (Negroes on Ice).. but that’s different because its comedy and i did the whole stage tour and the ustream stuff so i did that to give people the opportunity to really get into it.
SI – Yeah i guess in this day and age the mediums are much different you can’t really just put it on wax has to be a visual element.
PP- Also market is pretty different, i don’t really see alot of modern Hip Hop Fans are looking for those kind of albums any more its all single driven nowadays really unless the artist can really invest on all the mediums that are out now
SI – Yeah Definitely. Ok, So after this you did extensive work with Dan the Automator as “Handsome Boy Modeling School”, continued work with Gravediggaz for a time while also continuing to release solo material. How do you feel this affected your production, since you were releasing and working with all different types of material and artists?
PP- Well, I utilised the different aliases that i had to produce a wide spectrum of music and also use like different sampling mediums to match the different themes we were putting out. But you can’t really use too much sampling now people will want all the clearances (laughs)
SI- Yeah the environment changed so much now within the industry with that and funny u mention it at a time when alot of law suits and desist letters are coming out of the wood work. A new school MC im not sure if you are familiar with said that soon there will be no more sampling in Hip Hop, ow do you feel about that statement and the future of sampling in general.
PP- Well, in the case of sampling, it has existed within this genre really since its inception, and a lot of this type of drama and news of court cases and settlements have been there for years. They said 10 years ago that sampling wouldn’t be done any more and so on and so on, but it really is an integral part of the music so I don’t see us ever stopping, simply because there is always new stuff to sample. As far as the OG’s and stuff taking new artists or record labels etc to court i do think that there has to be good copyright legislation to make sure that artists work gets them their just due.
SI – yeah definitely. So now as we mention new producers and all are there any who are out now that impress you with the music they are releasing?
PP- I mean, not particularly, there is good music and good beats out there but i think now it’s more following a trend and most producers (in my opinion) either sound the same or are hybrids of styles that i have heard before. But i definitely respect Kanye West, Madlib and Pharell though i havent heard stuff in a while are those who i think are making some of the dopest stuff
SI- Are there any words of advice that you would give to any up and coming artists/producers trying to make it in the music industry?
PP – Well i would say the most important thing is to be original and not try and copy a Pharell or Kanye or some other musician because then you lose your voice in the music. I guess it depends on whether you are trying to have some sort of longevity in the game or just trying to make a quick buck.
Negroes on Ice is available on itunes now