Artist: Prince PaulTitle: ItstrumentalRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Brolin Winning
A card-carrying member of the "all time greatest producers" posse, Long Island legend Prince Paul has dedicated nearly 20 years of his life to making incredible, game-changing albums. From his early days with Stetsasonic, through the formative De La Soul era, onto horrorcore pioneers the Gravediggaz, and a long line of quality concept albums (Psychoanalysis, A Prince Among Thieves, So How's Your Girl, Politics of the Business), he remains one of the most unique and unpredictable artists working today. For his latest endeavor, he concocts another wildly imaginative aural journey that has very little in common with contemporary "normal" hip-hop, whether found on 106 & Park or your local messageboard.
Itstrumental (Female Fun) follows the MVU (Mental Victims Unit) on the lookout for Paul, who is bouncing around New York, hooking up with various homies and dropping some nice instrumental tracks along the way. The guest roster is varied and predictably left field, no Pharrell collabos or Nate Dogg hooks here. Cut-and-paste icon Steinski lends a hand on "Flattery," a strings and dialogue laced pick-up lesson that sounds like something from the Lovage sessions. The Black Italiano gets his props on "My Friend The Popmaster," and MC Paul Barman drops his nerdy flow on a pair of tracks, most notably "The Night My Girlfriend Left Me," a heartbreak jam propelled by chunky drums and soft keys.
Paul flexes his skills with instruments for the minimalist freak show "Live @ 5," and comes correct with some chill guitar loops on "Yes, I Do Love Them Ho's!" Minor-key harpsichords and clacking rimshots set the tone for "Profit," which could almost work as a Mobb Deep joint, while the melancholy pianos and dusty drums of "And The Winner Is?" make a great backdrop for the race-relations vocal clips. Arguably the best track on here, "Gangsta's My Style" is ridiculously solid, all thick beats, throbbing bass, and weird chime action.
Like a lot of his more recent work, there are several tunes on here that might be a little too far out-there, too inside-joke, for people to fully get into. "I Want You (I'm An 80's Man)" is great if youre a fan of breathy, synth-meets-808 throwback R&B, but could be construed as a bit over-the-top. Likewise, "The Boston Top," a dancehall ode to Boston Crème donuts featuring Mr. Dead and Newkirk, is either absolutely hilarious or painfully annoying depending on your point of view. Regardless, Itsrumental remains an enjoyable and thoroughly eccentric album from one of the most important figures in the history of hip-hop. A big part of Prince Paul's charm and appeal is his unwavering ability to make hyper-original, bugged-out music, and he certainly accomplishes that here.