Hip-hop's royal gains

Prince Paul's got perspective
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  July 13, 2010

1008_ppaul_main
A NEW GAME: Drake and Lil Wayne “are the exception to what’s going on now, and I’m not sure if it’s based on how great they are or if it’s just by default of where the music is at.”

It's a typically dope thing about hip-hop that one of its foremost architects — an old- and true-school icon who nurtured acts like De La Soul, cut the genre's standard bearer for concept albums, and, for better or worse, produced boom-bap's first comic interlude — will be manhandling the DJ booth at Good Life this Saturday at Fresh Produce's fourth anniversary party. I'm pretty sure that Beatles mastermind George Martin didn't spend much time spinning dusty 45s on London's underground rock scene.

The rap game is unique for many reasons — show me another music in which artists endorse neon liqueurs with cute end-rhyme couplets. But hip-hop is also particular in how, at least at this point in time, most of its founding fathers are reach-out-and-touch-able. If you know where to look, you can find Grandmaster Flash kicking around the South Bronx, where he still hangs his scally cap.

Prince Paul is one exalted statesman whom you might wind up queuing with at Best Buy. Coming from Long Island — where he had to "work super extra hard to be accepted" — he never let the politics of business lure him to Brooklyn or Los Angeles. And like most of his elite peers (or at least the ones I've interviewed), he's unexpectedly grounded, and more perplexed than bitter about the pinky-ring circus clowning of the new rap establishment.

"Everybody asks me about Drake and Lil Wayne, and I'm not mad at them," says Paul (who brings them up before I get there). "Guys like that are the exception to what's going on now, and I'm not sure if it's based on how great they are or if it's just by default of where the music is at. My son [18-year-old P. Forreal] grew up on KRS, Rakim, and Kane, but at the same time, he gets things out of new music that I would never hear. The other day, he had me listening to Waka Flocka Flame. He didn't think it was lyrical or anything, but he thinks it's mad funny."

Though not known as a hater, Paul did earn a rep for questioning lazy trends while some of his contemporaries updated their wardrobes, switched gears, and recorded embarrassing club jams with skanks half their age. His 2003 polemic, Politics of the Business, makes a mockery of an industry that Paul saw slipping into oblivion. Now, more than a decade after he orchestrated alt-rap landmarks with Stetsasonic, Gravediggaz, and Handsome Boy Modeling School, and dropped celebrated solo-flying storybooks like A Prince Among Thieves, he's once again looking for his place among feebs. Next up is a guest-heavy concept project with P. Forreal called NEGROESONICE (for which they stream a live weekly mix show). After that, who knows? Maybe we'll get a sniff at this rare one-off gig at Good Life, where Paul promises to bring the same philosophy to crowd moving that he does to making records.

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  Topics: Music Features , De La Soul, Prince Paul, Prince Paul,  More more >
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