Maybe I should have taken Paul Foley up on his suggestion to meet in his Malden bathroom (“the only place I can really hang”) or “in a tub of oatmeal.” Either scene would have been representative of the musician’s electro-retro and party-rap catalogue — a homegrown oeuvre that’s all at once sexy and sloppy, deliberate and daffy, potty-humored and ironic. Slice Har Mar Superstar in half, soak him in New Order’s juices, then rinse with a Weird Al–inspired joke-hop flow, and you might get something like DJ Paul Foley.
“I usually stand out in a crowd,” Foley informs me before we meet. And he does. Found alone by the bathrooms of the Milky Way — the Jamaica Plain joint where he spins old-school dance classics with five other DJs every Thursday for “Aquanet” — the 30-year-old Boston University grad is decked out in fingerless biker gloves, plaid pants, and a teddy-bear-plush faux-fur coat. Hoop rings hook onto each nostril. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know: my waist size, foot size, the color of my kneecaps,” Foley offers once we settle down at a table beside the booth. (For the record, they’re 36, 12, and purple — cold weather turn his joints violet.)
In high school, Foley formed a rap group called Falsehood that rhymed at school dances and wrote lines like, “I’m so dope that when I smoke, blunts get high off of me.” Mister Jason, now of the Porn Theatre Ushers, became Falsehood’s DJ. They rapped on Emerson’s WERS and opened for Coolio. But in 1998, six years into the game, Foley “just got sick of hip-hop. I’m too old to grab my balls and talk about how good I am.”
From there, Foley, who works as a case manager for psychosocial services, taught himself drums and how to program a digital 12-track and over four years released four records of rhymes, synths, and beats. There was Pu Pu Hot Pot (2003), named after the Central Square Chinese-food joint. (“I can’t believe there’s a restaurant called the Pu Pu Hot Pot — blows my mind.”) There was Nappi Meats, another record christened after a real place, specifically a grocery store Foley photographed on Route 60. (“I picture getting a steak with pubic hair on it. I’d throw up.”) But a few other song titles pretty much nail his attitude and aesthetic: “Wet Donuts,” “Cute Girls,” and “Yellow Panties.”
Foley conceived the chorus of arguably his best song — a new-wave synth-soothed proposition, “Naked 2Nite” — while eyeing “hot punk-rock girls” at the Paradise Lounge’s defunct hipster-dance night Start! In it, he reassures his self-conscious muse that he won’t find her stretch marks gross: “You’re insecure about your weight/A little junk inside the trunk is great, baby/I just can’t wait.”
“I’m always, like, flattered when someone takes their clothes off around me,” says Foley. “I can’t believe this person trusts me. That alone is the greatest thrill. But that’s cheesy to have a song called ‘Seeing you Naked is the Greatest Thrill.’ Who the hell wants to listen to that crap?”