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.
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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.