(AllHipHop Features) Prince Paul was the man behind the boards for influential tracks from Big Daddy Kane, Queen Latifah and Boogie Down Productions, but it was his work with the groups Stetsasonic, De La Soul, and Gravediggaz that made him one of the legendary producers to emerge from the era of late 80’s/early 90’s Hip Hop.
With a production stat sheet full of classics and numerous solo projects including the groundbreaking albums A Prince Among Thieves and Itstrumental, Paul’s place in the annals of rap is cemented, so it was time for New York native to enter into the second stage of his career.
That opportunity came when Scion A/V recruited Paul to serve as host of their new interview web-series The All Purpose Show. The program highlights the rising stars of Hip Hop like A$AP Rocky, Stalley, and Rockie Fresh as Paul and his “Ill Out Crew” question the artists about their beginnings, projects, and motivations.
AllHipHop caught up with Prince Paul for part one of an exclusive interview to talk about his conversion from performer to talk show host, if he’s officially putting music on the back burner, and at what point does the drive to make money as an artist cross the line into selling out.
AllHipHop.com: What led you to want to get into hosting Scion A/V’s “All Purpose Show?”
Prince Paul: The cool thing is Scion, about a year ago, connected with me to do a little series of me traveling, interviewing new bands. It was interviewing bands and me trying to be inspired again by listening to music. At this point for me, being in the music business so long, it likes, “Eh, been there, done that. That’s cool. That’s alright.” I did that project and I guess I built a knack for interviewing people, so I was approached with the idea of doing a talk show format where I can interview a lot of the new artists. I was like cool. I wouldn’t mind doing that. It would be a challenge for me. Honestly, I’m really super, duper shy, so it was let me see if I can go beyond what my personality is. It’s been fun. To me that’s what life’s about, getting out of your comfort zone at times.
What was the transition like going from being an artist to now being a part of the media where you’re asking the questions?
Being an artist is great and being asked questions is really cool, but I think for me, especially being an artist, when asking artists questions I can really, for the most part, know how they think with some of the situations that they go through like recording, dealing with labels, dealing with fans, dealing with booking.
A lot of times after these interviews I feel really sad for them, because I’m thinking to myself you don’t know what you’re getting into. They’re like, “Man, I’m having a good time. I was drinking, having fun,” and then I’m thinking “I predict you’re going to end in about a year.” [laughs] So the insight in being an artist interviewing artists you can kind of gauge personalities, and I hate to say longevity, but you’re like “this guy is going to have a hard time” or “this guy is going to be great.”
Have you ever had a heart-to-heart conversation like that with one of the artists you’ve interviewed?
Talking with Stalley I felt like that. Definitely, talking with Killer Mike I felt like that. Killer Mike is a really good guy. Most of the people, not all, but most of the people have been really cool. I even like it more when someone gets on and they have no idea who I am. It either shows how old I am or how young they are. They’re looking at me like how do you know? Well, I did have a few records out back in the day. It always makes it interesting to me.
Does this new gig mean you’ve moved past making music?
Making music is always going to be part of who I am. I can’t escape it. Is it me making music trying to be competitive, tour and all this other stuff? Probably not, but I still work on music. I have this Brazilian record that I’ve been working on. I went out to Brazil and recorded for this album that should be out next year. I’m doing this other project that I’m not really at liberty to speak about yet. I put together a band with Rhettmatic and Mr. Len that we’re launching pretty soon, so music’s always going to be my interest. Am I going to lean on it to live off of it? Probably not, because I don’t think anybody can predict music as viable source of income not unless your name’s Jigga or Kanye.
You mentioned that you’re doing another collaborative project. If you could pick any artist that’s out now to do a full album with who would you choose?
Two people that I can think of, maybe three. One would be DOOM. We were supposed to have done an album years ago. I just couldn’t find time in my schedule to properly do it. I can kick myself, because it would have been before a lot of the other collaborative producer albums he did. It would have been the first of the batch. I kind of dropped the ball on that. If I could do one with Nas I would be really happy. A lot of beats I make I think Nas would sound really good on. Lastly, with Jay Z. It’s funny because being a producer your ear goes such-and-such would sound really good on that. That’s how I’ve always worked.
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Now that you’ve expanded into other forms of media, have you considered finally making a Prince Among Thieves full feature film?
That was the intention. When I first made it I was inspired by Master P’s I’m Bout It, I was like this movie is so poorly shot and it’s popular. I could do that with more star power. I tried to pitch it to Tommy Boy, and they apparently didn’t see the vision. I was like we could make so much money, but they were like yeah, yeah Paul, we’re going to put this million dollars in whatever group that they had. Then at some point Chris Rock bought the rights to it, but he didn’t do anything with it. So it sits and it sits. If I had the opportunity, if somebody said hey I have a small budget or wanted to get a Kickstarter going, I’d love to put that together.
At one point you had an imprint with Def Jam. Would you ever be interested in starting another label since you have so much experience in the game now?
No. One thing I’ve learned that, and thank God I’ve been in the business professionally since 1985, is that money and grinding aren’t everything. Peace of mind is more important than any possible thing out there. In the highlight of my career, when I was making the most money, the stress level was so freaking high for me, because one, I’m a perfectionist.
The other part of it is I’m not like a lot of people in the music industry who [think] morals are second, money is first. With that being said, it didn’t necessarily make me a great businessman, because I have a certain line of loyalty and respect, and I work really hard. Not saying not everybody’s like that, but work ethics are very different for the music industry. So I was miserable. Now I’m at place where I’m comfortable. Adding a label onto that, do I need the stress? No.
Was it the situation of having to deal with business side of the music industry that led to your Itstrumental album which had theme of dealing with depression?
Yeah, definitely. For me it was tough because I was me running my own business and hiring people under me and making sure that they’re fed and they’re good. I was taking care of my mom and my family and kids, so it was a lot of stress. The hard part about it is that I don’t make commercial music. Records I’ve made have somewhere along the line have become commercial. So to stay true to what I do and be creative and do all this experimental stuff and try to make an income is difficult.
From project to project I really have no idea what it’ll do. Most people can go, “we’re going to take this record put it on whatever T.V. show, we’re going to license it out to these movies, get Lady Gaga to sing on it,” and they can kind of project that it’s going to sell 100,000. With me I don’t even know if one person is going to like it, but I don’t want to sell out either and do all this other stuff that I’m not into. It’s always a tough struggle between being an artist and being a wise businessman. That’s stressful. It’s rough talking business with a peace sign in your hand and somebody’s got a gun. You gotta get a gun too, so we can talk on the same level. You gotta change your whole swag up.
Like you mentioned, as an artist you’re always battling against the idea of creating art and then also wanting to be able to support yourself from your art. Where is the line drawn between making a living off of the thing that you love and “selling out” to reach a certain level of wealth or fame?
To me the sellout point is when you just go “’f’ it, I’m just going do what I need to do to make this dollar. I really don’t like country western rock but that’s what’s popping now so that’s what I’m gonna do.” That is the point where you go against what your heart says as an artist. Not everybody can really call themselves artists. To me art is a heart thing. It’s where your heart is at.
I give Kanye West a lot of credit too, because he goes against his own grain. He uses his popularity to sell records, but he’ll make one record different from the next. He’ll do 808s & Heartbreaks different from Graduation which to me was kind of bold, especially in the height of your career. People like you a certain way, and then doing something different jeopardizes what career you have. That’s pretty bold. People don’t give him enough credit for that.
Follow Prince Paul on Twitter @DJPrincePaul