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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ear Drums Pop: September 2010...The Z-Ro Edition

If I'm honest with myself and the people who care to read what I post on HITS, I only really started listening to Z-Ro 2-3 years ago.  In that short amount of time he has quickly become my favorite rapper.  To me there isn't another rapper out right now who is more talented or consistent.  Ro has been rapping since the late 90's, averages about an album a year, and rarely releases sub-par material.  I can't think of many rappers who can make the same claim.  In addition to being consistent, he is one of the most versatile artists in the game.  Ro can sing passionately while spitting lyrics with varied flow, intensity, and subject matter.  That's why I'm dedicating the September edition of Ear Drums Pop exclusively to Z-Ro.

"Rain (Original Version)"- ABN (Z-Ro and Trae)

Ro and Trae rhyming over a slowed up New Edition sample is pretty tough to beat.  While I enjoy the album version of "Rain", it can't hold a candle to this. 

"Tired (Original Version)"- Z-Ro

The album version of "Tired" featuring Mya was great.  This version is incredible in its own right and succeeds at evoking a completely different feeling due to its uptempo production.  Z-Ro is at his best here, baring his soul for the world to see while singing some of his most heartfelt lyrics.

"Thatz Who I Am"- Z-Ro

Chill-inducing production from Mr. Lee coupled with vicious lines like, "I put my trust in no man, only my motherfucking glock.  Cuz she ain't never let me down before, fuck a gang, I follow my bitch 'cuz she be busting rounds for Ro" make this one of the best Z-Ro songs ever created.

"Never Take Me Alive"- Z-Ro feat. Trae

I'm very picky when it comes to rappers using well known instrumentals for exclusives, freestyles, and unreleased songs.  I honestly tend to prefer the original versions most of the time.  "Never Take Me Alive" showcases the dynamic duo of Ro and Trae going to town of 2 Pac's notable "So Much Pain" instrumental.  The end result rivals the Pac original.


"The Mo City Don"- Z-Ro 
Although I know reactions to Crack were mixed amongst hardcore Z-Ro fans, I consider it one of his most
consistently produced and fluid efforts.  Mr. Lee (one of the most under appreciated producers of all-time) provides several of the albums standout tracks, including this incredibly somber and reflective effort. 

"Foundren & Main"- Guerilla Maab

Guerilla Maab was a rap group consisting of Dougie D, Trae, and Z-Ro.  Their first album, Rise, also features original member Taz.  Unfortunately, the Maab has been on a long hiatus due to Dougie D and Z-Ro quitting the group at different times and various inner group turmoil.  "Foundren and Main" features one of Z-Ro's best sung chorus's.  

"No Help"- Trae feat. Z-Ro

To understand the lyrics of the song is to understand Trae and Z-Ro.  Simply put, they want everyone to leave them the fuck alone.  This track does a great job of questioning the value of fair weather friends and pointless acquaintances.

"Smoker's Anthem"- Z-Ro

This feel good weed anthem from Z-Ro's early catalog has him adding his own reggae stylee to the beginning of the song.  His first few albums have several stand out tracks that showcase his reggae talents.  It would be nice him bring back the reggae sound on one of his current projects.    

"Let The Top Down"- Z-Ro

Much like the above mentioned version of "Tired", this is another outstanding musical moment intended for Crack that was left on the cutting room floor.  Shout outs to Cocaine Blunts for posting this and "Tired" a while back.   

Who's The Man- ABN

Another song that showcases the undeniable chemistry between Trae and Z-Ro.  Although the It Is What It Is didn't quite meet my lofty expectations, it had several essential Ro moments on it.  This is one of them. 


Monday, August 9, 2010

Noz Tackles Lil' B

"Walk The World" Video

Lil' B is real hit or miss for me. If he's spitting over some Clams Casino beats, I'm a fan. If hes spitting like he does in the above video, I'm a fan. But some of his production/lyrics/songs are borderline un-listenable to me. Maybe I'm getting old and out of touch with where rap music is headed.

That being said, I respect the hell out of what B is doing for himself. He obviously has an insane work ethic, and whether YOU like his music or not, you have to admit that the man is willing to take risks. That's really refreshing to me. I'm OK with people making music that sounds terrible to me if I feel like they are trying to do something interesting. I get the vibe that when B misses the mark sonically, he was doing his best not to follow convention and be boring.

For a great read on Lil' B, his significance, and his recent success in NYC, check out Noz's outstanding piece about him over at CBRAP.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"The Fire"- The Roots feat. John Legend

This is one of the more intense music videos that I've seen in a long time. The music contains the same kind of energy that I fell in love with during the Do You Want More?!? days. I still haven't checked the new album, but after hearing this, there is no question that I'm going to buy it.

Feel free to post interpretations of the video in the comments section.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Long Distance Love- Little Feat

Ant sampled this song for Atmosphere's "Modern Man's Hustle". After doing some YouTubing, I found this live performance of the song. The lead singers voice is perfect for the instrumentation and the lyrics are really captivating. In short, I can't stop listening to I decided to share it with you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trae Day 2010

The Rap Up just ran a great photo essay on Trae Day 2010. For those who don't know, Trae Day is the result of rapper Trae's countless efforts to help out in the Houston community. Houston mayor Bill White and council member Peter Brown were so impressed by Trae that in 2008 they named a day after him in honor of all of his hard work. It looks as though this year's Trae Day was an extremely positive event with a lot of support from the rap community.

To check out some great photos of this years Trae Day, click here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

DJ Spinbad: Needle to the Groove 2

Oh boy. This is really exciting. The original Needle to the Groove is straight classic, and we all know that Spinbad rarely, if ever misfires. Haven't had a chance to check the CD yet but I'm sure it bumps. I'm looking forward to listening to this all the way through tomorrow while I do shit around the house. Big thanks to Spinbad for making this a free download on his website.

To download it, click here. To visit Spinbad's website and download other incredible mixes, click here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ear Drums Pop: July 2010...The Prince Paul Edition

Since I just ran a two-part interview with Prince Paul, I wanted to let his music be the focus of this month's edition of Ear Drum's Pop. My goal in compiling this list was to shed light on some gems from Paul that you might have missed. I ended up unearthing songs that I was completely unaware he produced until a few days ago. This includes the J-Live song "The Day I Fell Off", which I can't stop listening to. I am constantly amazed by the diversity of artists he has worked with and the quality of songs from his catalog.

I hope that you enjoy these songs as much as I do.

"My Friend the Popmaster"- Prince Paul

Paul's maniacal creation The Black Italiano gets the royal treatment with this unforgettable track off of the excellent Itstrumental album. Paul's haunting instrumental, which is primarily composed of dusted string and piano samples, gets layered with bizarre vocal samples and hilarious dialogue from Paul "playing" himself and The Black Italiano.

"The Day I Fell Off"- J-Live

A very reflective, heart-felt song from J-Live about losing your love for the rap game. Crisp drums and somber, minimalist production from Paul are a perfect compliment to J-Live's verses.

"Drug Dealer"- Boogie Down Productions

I'll be honest...I had no idea this song was produced by Paul until I started composing this post. Let me take it one step further. I've owned Sex and Violence for at least a decade and I didn't know Paul produced ANY songs on it until a few days ago. Vintage KRS doing some very musically sound social commentary.

"Breakdown"- Handsome Boy Modeling School feat. Jack Johnson

What looks like a recipe for disaster on paper turns out to be one of the highlights of the White People album. Only Paul and Dan The Automator could make something as random as Jack Johnson singing over scratched samples work.

"Everybody Needs Love (Prince Paul Mix)"- Marvin Gaye

Paul does a fine job of breathing new life into this track while respecting Marvin's original version. I'm surprised there wasn't more hype around the re-release of Here, My Dear that this was featured on. There are some really nice remixes by people like Salaam Remi and Easy Mo Bee and the remastered O.G. version sounds great.

"Secret Wars (Prince Paul Remix)"- Last Emperor

Last Emperor's imaginative lyrics that pit super heroes against rappers comfortably ride Paul's piano based production. The amount of creativity in this song is mind boggling. I wonder how long it took Last Emperor to write these lyrics.

"Macula's Theory"- Big Daddy Kane

Big Daddy Kane devours this beat with an intensity and clarity rarely heard on his more recent output. After listening to this song, one wonders why Kane and Paul have only recorded a handful of songs together.

"Tattle Tales"- Horror City

A sadly overlooked, never (properly) released gem from Amityville rapper Superstar a.k.a. Horror City. Paul recorded an entire album with dude right after The Gravediggaz dropped 6 Feet Deep. How labels were not intrigued enough to pick up this duo is beyond me. As Sam Hockley-Smith of Fader Magazine put it, "How insane is it that dudes are just sitting on albums like this?" To download the entire album for free, compliments of Paul, click here.

"Mommy, What's A Gravedigga (Prince Paul Mix)"- The Gravediggaz

This interesting alternate take from the group's 6 Feet Deep recording sessions has a completely different feel than the final version. Although I prefer the album version, Rza's insanely amped verse helps make this well worth a listen.

"Blue Flowers (Prince Paul's So Beautiful Remix)"- Dr. Octagon

The pairing of Paul and Keith on a remix for one of Keith's more bugged projects is a match made in heaven. While I love the original version, this one takes the cake.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Speak Ya Clout: Prince Paul on Montezuma's Revenege Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my interview with Prince Paul. Part 1 can be read by clicking here.

DJ Sorce-1: The guys in Souls rhyme about things in a way that’s clever and easy to relate to. “Tour Stories” is such a great song; musically and lyrically. The beat is really somber and reflective, but there are also some funny lines where they talk about being nervous about smoking weed overseas. They also talk about their uncle tearing up when he talks to them about how he’s played guitar for 40 years and yet hasn’t been where they’ve been. I’ve always been a fan of Souls of Mischief, but with this album, I think I fully appreciate how dope they are as lyricists for the first time.

"Tour Stories"- Souls of Mischief


Prince Paul: I appreciate that. I’m glad you think so. Like I said, lyrics are something I tried to zero in on and focus on. It’s good that you listen to the album and you get it. If you’re a Souls of Mischief fan, you’ll appreciate this album a lot. Hopefully if you’re just a fan of good hip-hop, you’ll get into it.

I made this more for the fans that were already there. I wasn’t trying to get any new fans on this, which is bad business. It’s like if Run DMC came back with the intensity they had on “Rock Box”. As a fan you’d think that was incredible. Would the young kids get it? Maybe not, but as a fan you’ll start tearing up. (Laughs)

DJ Sorce-1: Did the house you rented put financial stress on you, especially since you weren’t targeting a new demographic?

Prince Paul: Nah. It’s funny…it’s hard not to think about marketing, core audience, and trying to make money these days. I just tried to make a gut record by figuring out where the emotions lied and what sounded good. As far as renting the house out, the guys in the group took care of that. Tajai handled all the business, so I didn’t get too deep into that.

There aren’t too many professional studios anymore. Back when I was recording with Gravediggaz, and in the early, mid, late 90’s and early 2000’s, to get a good studio was like a grand a day. Sometimes that wasn’t including the engineer. So if you rent a house for a month, for something like a grand, that’s way cheaper. Less than a week at a nice studio will cost you more than that.

We did it on a laptop and an M Box. It was like if we recorded in someone’s bedroom…well, it was the living room actually. It was very ghetto. I had a junction to hook up multiple head phones…but I told people, “Bring your own headphones.” (Laughs) In essence, it was way cheaper to make this album than most albums that are out now. I mixed it at home, so it probably cost…I’d say under $5000.

DJ Sorce-1: A theme that comes up again and again on this album is frustration with women. One line I keep telling people about is A Plus’s verse, “I used to down me a 40 until I found me a shorty…shit now I need Bacardi.” And of course the song “Postal” is all about girls driving men crazy. Was there a particular event or reason that inspired the rhymes about problems with the ladies?

Prince Paul: I think at the time everyone was going through something. We would just sit around and talk about our different situations. It’s funny, I didn’t really think about that until I read a review somewhere. The writer pointed out that this album and a lot of the other records that I make deal with girl problems. There’s always something major going wrong, and I’ve been going through that stuff forever.

Luckily for me, it’s not like that anymore. But for those guys, at the particular time, we were all sitting around just going, “Oh god.” (Laughs) Woman can really get at you. They know how to push your buttons. You care about them, but they stress you out, and it can make it hard to focus on your work. That’s a good observation.

DJ Sorce-1: I’ll never forget the skit on Politics of the Business where the girl starts yelling, “Where is my fucking phone call” on the answering machine. It’s perfect. I can only imagine the amount of grief you must get from girls if you have to dedicate so much time to music.

Prince Paul: It’s funny, when you start dating girls, they always say they understand. When it starts becoming a problem, you try to explain that it’s not like you love music more than them. It’s a different kind of love. You love your parents differently than you love your girl. You love your kids differently than you love your parents. They don’t understand that. It’s funny, I don’t get that kind of animosity outwardly, but I get a lot of it through passive aggressiveness. People won’t understand that on wax, so I have to make it more obvious in my skits.

DJ Sorce-1: I read an interview where Tajai mentioned a possible future album of outtakes and scrapped material. Was there a lot of good material that had to be cut out?

Prince Paul: Yeah. There weren’t a lot of excess lyrics, but there was a lot of spare music. Maybe if they record more lyrics to some of the music that was leftover they could put out an album. A lot of the leftover beats are really good. What’s on the album isn’t necessarily the “best” of all the music we had, it was the music that worked well together. There are some beats that people would say are better than the ones we used, but I didn’t think that they worked within the context of the album. I wanted to build something you could feel as an entire album, as opposed to just having a bunch of songs.

DJ Sorce-1: Earlier we talked about the equipment you used to make this project work as an album. What sort of structural and musical elements did you have the guys in Souls focus on?

Prince Paul: For this record I really stressed the importance of hook and melody. Even if you don’t speak the English language, I want you to listen to the music and listen to how the words flow to the music. I want you to be able to feel it. I appreciate lyrics, but I appreciate flow equally, if not more. Busta Rhymes is a good example of this. This is no discredit to Busta Rhymes, but sometimes his rhymes aren’t as good as his flow. It’s the way he says it that wins every time. Not to discredit lyrics, but a lot of times if you can present something a certain way, it makes it much better.

Something has to appeal. I try to stress that to everyone I work with. There has to something in the song that makes it work. Let’s say we don’t have the hot, crazy beat…at least the melody and lyrics have to carry it. Maybe the lyrics on the record are shocking or memorable. You need something that pulls people in. Otherwise, it’s like making a song just for the sake of making it. The song has to strike something in the brain. Even if people hate it, at least they’re talking about it. But if someone walks away from your record indifferent…then it’s like…for what?

DJ Sorce-1: It’s almost like a passionate negative reaction is better than just complete indifference.

Prince Paul: Yeah. I was researching different Soul’s albums on Amazon, and they had one of my albums listed in the section where it says, “If you like this record, you’ll like these records.” I was looking at some of the comments, and someone wrote, “Paul isn’t talented. The people he works with do all the real work. He just leaches onto them.” While I was reading it, I had the biggest smile on my face. (Laughs) I told someone about that and they were like, “You didn’t get mad?” I was like, “Nah man, that’s how they feel.” At least they paid attention to me. It was passionately written.

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah, they were fired up enough to go online and write that.

Prince Paul: (Laughs) Yeah. It might have hurt me more if the majority of things said about me were like that. But I was reading something written by somebody who hasn’t been in the studio with me. If that was the case, at some point, especially after all these years, somebody would have come out and said, “Paul, you don’t do nothing” or “Paul, he just chills out and puts his name on it.”

DJ Sorce-1: Were there any songs on Montezuma’s Revenge that you felt most proud of or connected to.

Prince Paul: One song that I listen to over and over again is “Proper Aim”…that and the “Morgan Freeman Skit”. Those are the two I seem to like a lot for some reason.

DJ Sorce-1: Opio said in an interview about Montezuma’s Revenge, “Working with Prince Paul on the record, it had the potential to be one of our greatest, if not our greatest record. I know people look at 93 ‘Til Infinity as a classic, but with Prince Paul, this is on that level too.” There must have been a lot of pressure coming into record with that level of expectation.

Prince Paul: Wow. I think I put the bulk of the pressure on myself. I can’t compete with the time and place of 93 ‘Til Infinity. If that album came out now, would it have the same impact? Probably not. Same thing with 3 Feet High and Rising. Everything has a time, place, space, and vibe. I can’t compete with that. When people compare records from different eras, they forget to take into account what’s happening in the world, what the vibe at the time was, what had been created already, and what hadn’t been created yet. There are a lot of things that affect how an album is viewed.

I didn’t feel much pressure besides my own because it was easy to work with the group and they were open to suggestion. We had a few disagreements that we debated for a bit. But if I asked them to change or do something, they would do it. That made it so much easier. It made everyone open and willing to try new things. There was a lot of respect there both ways, which helps. It works when people value and trust each others input.

DJ Sorce-1: Since you were working in such a close environment, was there ever a lot of tension in the house, or was it pretty smooth overall?

Prince Paul: There weren’t any problems that I can remember…at all. If they had any problems amongst themselves, they kept it away from me. I think they knew the importance of making this record. You get to a certain age and you look at what else is out in terms of music. You also look at all the things going on in your life. At some point you have to take music seriously, buckle down, and make it happen.

DJ Sorce-1: And with the added responsibilities, in addition to needing the money, it also gets harder to find time to work on music.

Prince Paul: Yeah, it’s tough. Every day my son is up in his room making music and programming stuff. His friends come over and they record. When I see that, I’m envious. Recently I looked back at some stuff I was making when I was using a 4-Track cassette recorder in 89 or 90. There are 20 songs on one tape I made. I look at my recordings from that time, and I was making like a billion songs a week. Now, if I crank out one or two tracks in a week, it’s amazing. But then again, my level of critiquing is higher now. My quality control has gone up, which also slows down the process. I’m amazed at guys like Kanye and Pharell. They do something major every two seconds. For them to just buckle down and make beats on the plane or on the bus…I can’t work in that environment.

DJ Sorce-1: After completing Montezuma’s Revenge, do you want to do another similar project with either Souls of Mischief or another group?

Prince Paul: Umm…probably…not. (Laughs) Not that the experience was bad, but it was a curiosity thing for me. I was thinking “Can I do it, and what will happen in the process of making the record?” A lot of the records and things that I do, I hate to say it, but it’s almost like…I don’t want to say guinea pigs, because that sounds degrading, but it’s almost like the artists are part of my experiment to see what I can do. Can I put together three guys who got kicked off of Tommy Boy and make something crazy? When Stetsasonic was kind of putting me down, can I get some kids from around my way and give them these beats and ideas and make it happen? Can I make a story on wax? A lot of it helps answers questions for me, but once I succeed with a certain idea, I’m like “Ok, next thing.”

It’s bad for business. There really is no part two and I don’t capitalize on any momentum that I make from one thing. I get tired quick, I wanna go to the next thing and try something different. We’ll see, maybe if the right group and the right situation presented itself. Hey, I’m not gonna lie, if someone comes up and says, “Hey Paul, we have a $50 million dollar budget”, I’d probably say “What?!? I feel inspired!” (Laughs) There are lot of things that could play into it, but I’d say based on sheer motivation to do another project like this, it probably won’t happen.


Check Paul on Facebook by clicking here.

To read my "Reconstruction" with Paul where he breaks down De La Soul's first three albums, click here.

Click here to see what he has to say about Stakes Is High, De La's fourth album.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Speak Ya Clout: Prince Paul on Montezuma's Revenege Part 1

As a writer, some of my proudest moments have come from compiling “Reconstructions” for The Smoking Section. Writing these articles involved interviewing an artist about a particular song or album that meant a lot to me. I often had a list of questions that I wanted to ask the rapper or producer I was interviewing about the process behind the music. Getting answers to these questions from the artists themselves often gave me a sense of clarity as well as new insight into their work.

While I no longer write “Reconstructions” for The Smoking Section, I have had the recent good fortune of being able to talk with some of my favorite artists for my own blog. As a result, I’m deciding to launch a new set of interviews titled “Speak Ya Clout”, which will be in the same vein as the “Reconstruction” series.

My first installment of “Speak Ya Clout” is an in-depth breakdown of one of my favorite albums in recent years; Soul’s of Mischief’s Montezuma’s Revenge. Prince Paul graciously played the role of interviewee and helped me to shed light on some of the more intimate details regarding the album’s creation. Read on, as Paul drops science on his most recent artistic feat.

Please support Paul as well as the Souls of Mischief by copping the album.

DJ Sorce-1: Much of your early career involved co-producing De La Soul’s first three albums. Lately, you’ve done conceptual albums like A Prince Among Thieves and Politics of the Business, where you were working with a wide variety of artists. Was re-adjusting to group dynamics and figuring out how to work with Souls of Mischief difficult at first?

Prince Paul: That wasn’t really difficult. What was difficult for me was getting them all on the same page. Although they are a group, they haven’t worked together on an album in a long time. They’ve done a lot of Hiero stuff here and there, and they’ve done tours, but in terms of working on an album, they haven’t done that in a while.

From what I understand, some of their records were done with them laying down their rhymes at different times. So to get them in one place at one time and to be of one mind was more of a challenge than anything else. It’s like being a coach. You try to get everyone on the same page, with the same goal, and have everyone do what they’re supposed to in order to win.

DJ Sorce-1: Did you enjoy making Montezuma’s Revenge?

Prince Paul: It was a challenge, because I haven’t worked with a group since the Gravediggaz. That’s the reason I wanted to do the project to begin with. I’ve done so many projects in recent times where it was mainly just me and I got people to come in and do stuff here and there. So it was a challenge, but it was fun.

The whole thing came about when Opio opened up for Handsome Boy while we were on tour. I asked him what was going on with Souls and I said, “Tell the guys that I want to produce the next album.” He was like, “Yeah!?” I didn’t think they’d actually call me on it. Next thing you know, they were like “Ok, we’re ready to do the album!” (Laughs) I was open to do it, because I said I wanted to. But people always pop junk and say they’ll do some sort of project and never do. So I was surprised that it actually ended up happening.

DJ Sorce-1: From what I’ve read, you and the group rented a house and did a lot of the recording there. Is that true?

Prince Paul: Yeah. You hear a lot of albums now where the producers change from track to track and all the songs sound different. It doesn’t sound like a cohesive album. People say albums don’t sell anymore; it’s the single that sells. Regardless of what sells, I like to listen to an entire body of work. In order for us to make a cohesive album, I suggested that we take time out and be at one place when we recorded. I actually forget if I suggested that or if they did.

Anyway, we came up with the idea to rent a place and work there, away from where we all live. That way we could just concentrate on music. Man, the house we rented was a grimy spot. There were ants and stuff. I was sleeping on the floor on a mattress. In the back yard there was a tree with some kind of animal skull embedded in it. The whole experience was really taking it back.

DJ Sorce-1: Wait…an animal skull? (Laughs) Was it from the previous owners?

Prince Paul: I guess one of the previous renters put it there. Living together was very sitcom-ish. Cell phones didn’t work because we were way out there. Only one company got good service. None of us had service plans with the one cell phone company that worked, so we had to get a pay per minute phone and share it. It really made me appreciate my home and all the hard work that I’ve done to live comfortably. But it was good that we made the album like that, it built camaraderie.

DJ Sorce-1: Sometimes stripping things down to the bare bones can spark the creative process.

Prince Paul: Being in a situation like that definitely gives you a lot more focus. When I was a kid, I could make music all day and not worry about anything else. Things that bothered me as a kid seem minute as an adult. I used to worry about getting the right rims or being able to buy a jack from Radio Shack for the back of my mixer. Now those are minor things. When you get older, things change. I have to cook dinner for my son, make sure the dishes are done, and pay the bills. Your focus shifts. Being with the group in that house…there was nothing to think about but music.

DJ Sorce-1: Nowadays, not to knock rap music, but it seems like albums are constructed more haphazardly than they used to be. What steps did you take to ensure that Montezuma’s Revenge sounded like one fluid body of work?

Prince Paul: If people are true fans of Souls of Mischief, which, coming into it, I was, they know what they want to hear on this record. I sat and analyzed all the records they’ve put out, even the solo projects. I tried to figure out what I liked and what I didn’t like. I told them, “I’m going to make what should have been your follow up to 93 ‘Til Infinity. I’m going to make a retro record and scale back technology.” To do that, I decided to use an SP-12, ASR-10, MPC-2000, and MPC-60. We decided to take it back and see how it worked. The only high tech thing we had there was Pro-Tools to do recording and tracking.

DJ Sorce-1: But in terms of beat making, you weren’t using Reason or Ableton or anything like that?

Prince Paul: No, everything was pretty bare bones. One of the songs that A-Plus had done was made with Reason. Everything else was just audio out, no digital…real dusted. Even our Pro Tools rig was dusted. I used an old titanium G-4 Mac laptop. It was all recorded on a laptop with an M Box.

DJ Sorce-1: You mentioned studying previous releases from Souls. What did you like most about their previous albums and what did you think needed the most work?

Prince Paul: In my opinion, the best aspect of their previous albums was their rhymes. Production and direction changed on each record, but the quality of rhyme was there. The thing that I wanted was for them to sound like they were of one mind again. The first album, their rhyme styles were so incredible. They were all over the place, playing with different rhythm patterns.

On later albums, everything got simple. I asked them, “What happened? Ya’ll went backwards.” Their reason for switching it up was that everyone was biting their style and they didn’t want to do the early Soul’s style anymore. I told them that they were the best at that style and I wanted them to go back to flipping it. I think it’s important to show off your lyrics by flexing your rhyme style. That’s what I think really needed to change.

DJ Sorce-1: I noticed that the vocal samples that you used really set the tone for records like “Poets” or “La La La”. Was it your intention to bring it back to a sample based sound to compliment their rhyme style?

Prince Paul: Yeah, in order to make a follow up to 93 ‘Til Infinity, Montezuma’s Revenge had to sound like it was from the same era. The only keyboardy stuff from that era was Dre, but even he was blending samples and keyboards together on The Chronic. He wasn’t only using keyboards. So I had to come with the sample based mentality. Again, I approached this album more or less from a fans point of view.

DJ Sorce-1: Where is the vocal sample in “Poets” from?

"Poets"- Souls of Mischief


Prince Paul: I sampled the record, looked for it again later, and I couldn’t find it. A lot of times when I’m naming a sample file I’ll just write the first word of what the original song is. When you’re recording samples to use, sometimes you’ll tell yourself, “I don’t need to write down what record this came from, I’ll remember what it is.” Clearly you won’t. You’re fooling yourself. I lost it, and now I can’t find the original song.

People ask me what record I sampled for "Flattery" on my Itstrumental album. I tell them, “Eh, I don’t remember.” Some of them will say, “You’re lying, you just don’t want to tell me!” I remember it was a 45’, but I put it in with a stack of other stuff, and now I can’t find that record either.

DJ Sorce-1: Are you still taking the time to clear all of your samples?

Prince Paul: Oh yeah, of course. I don’t practice sampling that much nowadays, unless it’s on an under the radar type of record. For this particular album, I gave all the samples to the guys in the group to have them cleared. So, except for the one sample that I can’t find, everything else was given to them. For me, personally, something has to be really dusted or bizarre for me to use. I want people to go, “Man, what is that?” I’m not going to go to my collection and say, “Ah, Michael Jackson. Let me loop up "Thriller".” I don’t do that.

When I first started and I was flipping stuff with De La, there was a unique few who were really into records and samples. I kinda got blamed and credited for people record digging. People said, “Ok Paul, ever since you got on MTV and showed that Mickey Mouse record, it started a whole revolution of kids looking for beats, samples, and loops.” I guess someone needs to be blamed for it.

Now a lot of stuff I use is pretty dusted. A lot of kids, even the ones who really dig, don’t know what the records are. If I do use anything, it’s not going to be obvious. If the person I sampled heard my record, I’d want them to go, “Whoa, I made this?” It has to be something that weird. If I can, I’ll chop the sample and dust it out.

I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ll re-play samples with instruments. I learned how to interpolate, change the sound, and dust it out so that when I’m re-playing certain samples, it sounds like a direct sample from a record. By the time I figured out and perfected that craft, people got hardcore electronic and less vinyl sounding. It took me years to perfect, and then people were like, “We don’t use that. We use these sterile sounds that come from a keyboard.” I can flip something and make it sound just like a record, but that doesn’t account for too much that will sell in today’s market. (Laughs) Go figure.

DJ Sorce-1: Are you mostly playing instruments now?

Prince Paul: Yeah. I have a guitar, bass guitar, and a whole lot of analog keyboards. What’s cool is that a lot of modules and virtual instruments in computers sound real. It depends on how you play them. I played a beat recently for someone and they said, “Where’d you sample it from?” They were surprised when I told them I played it. That was like the ultimate compliment. I wasn’t using anything that dusted to make the beat; just keyboard module stuff. I learned a lot when me and Dan (The Automator) were recording stuff for Handsome Boy Modeling School.

With me, a lot of stuff happens by mistake. I’ll randomly do something in the studio and go, “Wow, that sounded pretty good.” A lot of guys will sit down, think of a beat in their head, and then figure out how to go about making it into a song. Very little of my music has been done like that. I wish I could hear something in my head and make it work. But it never comes out like that…ever.

DJ Sorce-1: Did you come in with the beats already, or was it more that you were making them on the spot with the group there?

Prince Paul: All the stuff was pre-made. I brought in some music, and I had everyone in the group bring beats. I told them what the direction the music should be. Their first record had a few people within the group doing all of the production, so I didn’t want to use outside producers. I felt it would change the sound of the album. I wanted to keep it within the group.

We sat down and started selecting beats. We started out with something like 30, then we narrowed it down to 20, and we kept narrowing it down. Eventually, we had a group of beats that we felt fit together. I took the beats we chose, recorded them onto Pro Tools, and manipulated them so that it sounded like one cohesive thing. I would replay some samples on old dusty keyboards and I also re-chopped a lot of things.

When I read reviews, some of them will say “Prince Paul didn’t do this song, someone else from the group did.” Little do they know, I took their samples and flipped them hard. Domino said to me at one point, “Wow, you made me sound really good. Thanks man.” (Laughs) I’m not saying they couldn’t have done production on their own; I just put a lot of work into those songs.

The intention was to make the album sound like it was all of one mind and one place by doing what I do…flipping it out a little bit. In order to make a good record, in my eyes, you gotta put ego aside. Sometimes you get people who produce records who say, “I want to write everything. I want this. I want that.” They want all the credit. I don’t mind about credit or who does what. The main object of the album is to make it really good. If you make a crappy record, it doesn’t benefit anyone. But if you make something decent, we all win.

DJ Sorce-1: Right. Why does it matter who gets credit if it’s total shit?

Prince Paul: Exactly. Rarely do I look online, but I was checking the online feedback, which mostly looked really good. But again, a few people said, “Paul didn’t do this, Paul didn’t do that.” Ultimately, that doesn’t bother me, as long as they feel like the product came out good. I kind of laughed though and thought to myself, “Little do they know how much work I put into this record."

DJ Sorce-1: Yeah. When I was looking for interviews after listening to the album, I remember thinking, “Where’s the interview with Paul?” I remember how detailed your memory of the 3 Feet High and Rising sessions were, and those were over 20 years ago. I was surprised that there wasn't an extensive interview with you about the album.

Prince Paul: It’s funny; I’ll probably remember all those things from 3 Feet, but this record I did a couple of years ago, I might forget. (Laughs) We did this album a while ago, and I was talking to Tajai about this recently. Everyone was going retro a few years ago, and all of a sudden the 80’s and 90’s were cool. I thought it would be perfect timing. But then it came out two years later. (Laughs) It’s a throwback record, so it doesn’t really matter, but I think the timing would have been better if it had come out a little bit earlier.

DJ Sorce-1: I remember hearing about the album a while ago, I think as far back as 2006. What was the reason for it getting delayed?

Prince Paul: I have no idea, because the guys in the group put it out themselves. I’m not sure if it had to do with distribution or they had a time line for when they were releasing different people’s albums from the Hiero camp. There are a bunch of people in Hiero, so they might have wanted to release some other material before putting it out. But like I said, it was a throwback record, so it wasn’t like we had tons of auto tune on it and releasing it late threw the timing off. (Laughs)

To read Part 2, click here.