Prince Paul Recalls MF DOOM’s “Impostor” Idea & Wu-Tang’s Earliest Days (Audio)
The “devastating” Prince Paul is a living Hip-Hop legend. Although he is a self-professed “shy guy,” the Long Island, New Yorker would eventually find himself winning Grammy Awards for cracking jokes around Chris Rock and elite comedians. Listening to Paul is a joy in and of itself; an experience filled with crack-ups and candor. Like his famed interludes on albums, Paul’s perspectives can be veiled in jest, but driven by realism.
A member of Stetsasonic, a Gravediggaz co-founder, and one half of Handsome Boy Modeling and Negroes On Ice, Paul Huston is the latest guest on the Combat Jack Show. There, the host and guest take nearly two hours to walk through a career that spans 31 years, and a number of classic Hip-Hop artists and titles.
Here are some notable highlights:
Prince Paul opens up about his mom. “The first money I made off [De La Soul’s] 3 Feet High and Rising, I wanted a [Mercedes] Benz, kitted, 190[E], it was gray…I wanted a Benz, and I bought my mom a house,” said the producer/DJ. “I retired her from that day, ’til the day she died.” Paul’s mom (a mother of four) would pass in 2007. Asked if he ever bought the German luxury sedan, he says, “Nah, and I’m glad I didn’t, ’cause service was experience.”
Moments later, Paul admits that he does enjoy cars. In the 1990s, the Long Isle’ native says he had five luxury cars, and a one-car garage. Making fun of himself, he says he learned the hard way. Notably, Paul achieved fame and fortune operating largely outside of the major label systems. While Warner Bros. Records distributed product, Paul began and has been on and off with Tommy Boy Records for more than 30 years—first as a DJ/producer of Stet’. Notably, Paul says he’s back in business with the label now known as Tommy Boy Entertainment, on a Brazilian music project that also includes Ladybug Mecca (Digable Planets).
Elsewhere in the interview, Paul recalls getting jerked in some production credits on Stetsasonic hits. A teenager in the Daddy O-fronted group, Paul (and Combat Jack) equate this experience to an internship. Later in the interview, Paul discusses how Tommy Boy’s namesake founder (Tom Silverman) would not be an instant fan of the scratch-happy DJ in the Brooklyn, New York crew.
Paul drops some gripping anecdotes, including getting little brother’ed by artists such as Kwame and Salt n’ Pepa producer Herbie “Luv Bug” Azor. On the flip-side, he explains how Pharrell and others have praised Paul’s work, and what that means to his legacy.
Paul explained working with 3rd Bass and professed, “MC Serch is a character, as you know, [he was] blacker than me at the time.” He discussed MF DOOM, who (as Zev Love X) was also around at the time (47:20). “He’s the same guy. That’s what’s beautiful of him…he has not changed,” said Paul. He adds that DOOM bounced the impostor performer idea by him when the MC was unable to fulfill obligations due to what Paul says was “family.” Always up for a joke, the producer said, “I’d try it, and see what happens.”
The Handsome Boy Modeling School artist joked about his staying in a certain zone. He recalls turning down remixing the B-52s’ “Love Shack” remix (which he would give to Daddy O), as well as Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat.” When Prince invited Paul to Paisley Park to work with George Clinton, Paul declined. He reflected, “No [regrets], because I like where I am now.” On quite the other hand, the producer felt accomplished when the Gravediggaz upset C. Delores Tucker in her mid-1990s campaign against immortality in Hip-Hop.
Throughout the interview, Paul sprinkles jewels. He recalls teaching RZA how to use the SP-12 sampler (48:15). The demonstration, left on desks, would end up being Prince Rakeem’s (RZA’s stage name in 1991) breakthrough single. “I got demos that one day I’ll play—that [RZA and I] did.” During the pre-Wu-Tang Clan Gravediggaz sessions, Paul remembered brushing off chances to work with GZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard—something he laughed about. He does remember working with Slick Rick at that time, who Paul compared to Luther Vandross with a lot of supporting evidence. Russell Simmons would orchestrate that, although the producer later explained learned Rush’ dissed him.
Combat Jack asks Paul about his solo career much more than just focusing on De La Soul. The producer explains making his solo debut, 1996’s Psychoanalysis: What Is It? Although not a chart success, the creator says the album is what ultimately led him to work with Chris Rock, attract Tommy Boy to sign him again, and “resurrected my career.” He added that when he contacted his wish-list of guest MCs, none returned his calls. Thereby, Paul made the solo debut with “some friends from high school.” The album came to be by parting ways with De La. “It was simply a creative difference, and its ran its course,” he said of the relationship after three spirited albums. Around the 1:23:00 mark, Paul added that the trio wanted a guaranteed success with their fourth album (what would eventually be Stakes Is High, while the producer had a more organic view of album-making). That, coupled with a custody battle sent the for-hire producer to stepping out on his own.
Of 1999’s follow-up Prince Among Thieves, Paul remembers wishes to cast Lou Rawls, Chino XL, The Notorious B.I.G., and Vanilla Ice—and goes into detail as to why that did not work for each.
On a final note, Prince Paul reveals that he initially auditioned for the part Method Man received in The Breaks. The producer would end up being a CD bootlegger in the Vh1 film.
As a note, 3 Feet High… is one of the finalists in Ambrosia For Heads’ “Finding The GOAT: Album” series. The Wild Card is this week.
#BonusBeat: Here is a new Prince Paul side-project with J-Zone and Sacha Jenkins, known as Superblack! The track is notably called “White Privilege”: