When Mass Appeal sat down with Prince Paul prior to the madness of the now historical Hurricane Sandy, it was overcast and 61 degrees with a light drizzle in New York City. Little did we know, it was literally the calm before the storm when he arrived at George Brown Studio in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood to discuss Negroes on Ice, his new album co-starring his son, P.ForReal, a DJ in his own right and sophomore at Clark Atlanta University. Clad in a fitted hoodie, jeans and sneakers, the legendary producer/DJ sat down with us to talk about his last few albums, his latest release and the current musical landscape.
Mass Appeal: If we put a gun to your head and only gave you five seconds to answer, and said you can only take one Prince Paul record with you into the afterlife, which would it be?
Prince Paul: Man! Gravediggaz 6 Feet Deep! That’s based on the fact it reminds me of so many struggles I was going through at the time. R.I.P. to my man Too Poetic, he was a really dear friend of mine . . . That was a grind out record. It meant a lot to me. [De La Soul's] 3 Feet High and Rising and Psychoanalysis are the other two I’d really have to struggle with, but yeah, that’s probably the first one that comes to mind.
What do you enjoy most about the recording process?
The best part is the initial idea. For a hot second, I fantasize of all the things I can do with it. That to me is the most exciting time. It’s almost like when you first meet a girl. When you first see her, you just look at the whole package and you’re like, oh, my God! And that’s how I feel with an idea. I can see so many things I can do with it.
All your records are so different from one another. What’s going on with the perspective of Negroes On Ice?
When I listen to my records it’s like having a diary. People will listen and get all kinda’ things out of it. But for me, it depicts where I am and where I’m going and that’s why everything is so different. A lot of people stick to a formula, or stick to a sound. For me as an artist, everything kinda points to a moment and what I was feeling at the time. I was different when I was 19 or 20 making De La Soul than I was when I made A Prince Among Thieves. I’m a different person in a different place and that’s how the music is. It’ll have a hint of me in it, because it’s me but I’m a different person. If I’m depressed, that’s how the music is going to sound; kind of like Gravediggaz. If I’m experimenting and life is just so ill, it’s gonna’ be 3 Feet High and Rising. Another point of slight depression or if I’m going through some crap with a girl, I make Psychoanalysis. With this new record, it’s the same thing. It’s the relationship I have with my son at this given time. Just having fun and sorta’ reliving my youth vicariously through him. Time went by fast, man! It’s a blessing!
Tell us about your record collection.
I use Afrika Bambaataa as my guideline as a record collector. As far as skill wise, you always look at DST, Grandmaster Flash. Guys like that. Jazzy Jay. I always thought of records. Nobody had a better collection than me other than Bambaataa and Kool Herc. But Bambaataa clearly was eclectic. Most of my collecting is from the ‘80s. Then I bought out this record collector in the ‘90s. His entire collection and He had a garage-worth of records his wife made him get rid of. He used to be at all the record shows. His wife told him he had too much stuff in the garage and he had to get rid of it. So he met me at a record show and told me he had like 40 or 50,000 records and said he’d sell me everything for mad cheap. It was under $1000! So I’m so recorded out! I have records I haven’t even listened to! I have so many records I don’t even think I’ll be able to listen to them all in my lifetime, because I have so many. I just have too many records.
Are you influenced by the sound of today at all?
There are songs and artists I listen to and think it’s pretty cool. But we created this urban thing. When I recorded Negroes on Ice, sonically I told myself I’m going to make it fit into the style of what’s going on. Not necessarily the style of music, but the way it’s recorded and quality of the sound . . . as far as new hip-hop is concerned, one thing I got into was Earl Sweatshirt who’s down with Odd Future. Lyrically and musically I was impressed.
Has anything you worked on in the past had any influence on this new joint?
Everything. You’ll find a lot of similarities between this and A Prince Among Thieves. It’s a lot of storytelling, yet silly with less characters because it’s more of a perspective of my son, though I do have a few people chime in. There’s Chris Rock, Rosie Perez, Ice T, Freddie Foxxx and Peanut Butter Wolf.
What impresses you most from other artists and producers?
Anytime I hear a producer and I can’t figure out how they did something. I get more impressed with that than anything. I get caught up in the mystique and mindset of how things are done. To me, that’s the brilliance of artistry.
How did the title Negroes on Ice come to be?
It has nothing to do with any historical perspective. Someone asked me and my son to do a gig at the Knitting Factory because they knew we were both DJs. They thought it would be cool to have a father and son DJ a party. He was going by Paul Fresh at the time and we were thinking of a group name. Somehow, Negroes on Ice just came out. It was funny! We kept using it. Seeing how edgy it was for both whites and blacks, we just kept it.
You’ve worked with a wide variety of artists in the past. Any new faces you’re working with on the new record?
Breeze Brewin’s [of the Juggaknots] on there again, because that’s my man. And there’s Soce the Elemental Wizard. He’s an openly gay rapper and he’s Jewish, which makes it that much more interesting!
So do you have any other projects in the mix?
You know what I’ve been doing is a lot more online content. I’ve been working with Scion. I’ve done a few things in the past with them. I had this thing where I was traveling throughout the U.S. looking for different things to inspire me musically, which was more their vision, so Scion gave me another opportunity where I’m hosting this talk show, which will be on soon with them. I’ve also been writing a screenplay, which I feel safe to say will be a full-length movie that we’ll probably start filming next year some time. So yeah, I’ve been more about writing. That’s always been more my thing, anyway. Music is for fun! Yeah, I have a few more projects I’m working on–I have this Brazilian project I’m working on, Negroes On Ice, which is out now and I want to do another record. Like a real Prince Paul record. You know, a serious record. Like I did A Prince Among Thieves and Gravediggaz. I have all the music; I just have to figure out who I can get to work with me. Everything is different now. Before I had a budget, and I could tell people I would pay them. Now it’s like, ‘Who Loves Music?’” Let’s travel, make t-shirts, the whole thing!
When’s your birthday?
April 2nd. I’m the same days as Marvin Gaye and a couple others. All the weirdoes are pretty much Aries! We got Biz Markie, Q-Tip, Psycho Les and Kook Herc. Oh, and Grandmaster Caz, and Freddie Foxxx.
You and Kool Keith should do a record!
That would be kinda’ nice! It’s cool with me; the money still comes green!
OK, so what does this album mean for you on a personal level?
On a personal level, it’s having the opportunity to work with my son and giving him a taste of what it’s like to have material out there on something you worked really hard on. Hopefully, when the next generations pass and people look back, it will show a bonding. I’m hoping he’ll do the same with his son. It shows a bonding and a love. And if it doesn’t show that for other fathers, hopefully it will show in my family to continue that way. I want my kids to be responsible.
So there you have it– the inside scoop on Negroes on Ice, a record that dropped only a week ago, plus hints of new material brewing for the near future. Things are happening, only with Prince Paul, it’s like an RSVP only at times- exclusive material for exclusive people. Refined ears await, as Prince Paul evinced no inclination to slow down the creative process, with a fount of material yet to come. Hip-Hop is alive and well.