Paul is a character who equally adds as much character to his projects. He’s hip-hop royalty and has made some of the dopest, most endearing albums ever– most of which have aged so well, especially in the face of rap records that worsen with time. I was stoked to speak with Paul recently for EGOTRIP’s sample flip series (DJ Spinna and Jake One have been recent subjects).
Read/listen to it HERE and check out the Underdog flip at the end! Below is the rest of our rather lengthy talk, touching briefly on his career points and some current items. Thanks Paul!
Of all the revered MCs you’ve worked with, who struck you the hardest?
I know a lot of rappers and they can all rap in their own way. All those dudes I’ve worked with are just so talented. Look, there’s a laymen’s MC and there are MCs of different calibers. Out of all them, Slick Rick impressed me the most; he had a way about him, he just rhymed with no effort. I remember meeting him early in the morning at the studio and he was just sitting down laying down tracks with perfectly delivered lines with a coffee cup in one hand [laughs]. So casual and natural and delivering perfectly. That’s an image I won’t forget of Rick.
What’s your favorite solo release of yours?
None of ‘em! [laughs] Probably Psychoanalysis because it was so dumb! It was made primarily for my friends and I and I was just gonna do like 1000 copies and kinda put it out to see what happens. I think besides 3 Feet High and Rising, Psychoanalysis brought about the most good things for me and is probably one of the more pivotal records of my career.
What do you remember most from the Stetsasonic years?
I just remember being so young and full of ideas and just being in awe. Imagine a time when making hip-hop records wasn’t something everyone did. Back then, you could name like just a few groups that made rap; it was popular but not commonplace. I remember the experimentation and digging and just meeting cats. These days you can type in ‘hip-hop’ and ‘1979’ and find out everything about it. But back then, you had to go through it.
Your project with Justin Warfield is one that doesn’t get talked about too often. How did that come about? Talk about it a bit.
I used to get a lot of requests from label heads who’d try to hook me up with their artists. I had heard Justin on some early joint and thought sounded kinda like Q-Tip and eventually met him. He was young at the time, probably 18 or so, this was like ’91. He was kicking it with Jarobi all the time so I’d see him around and he said ‘why don’t you oversee my album?’ I actually told him no because it was right before my son was being born and I didn‘t have time like that.
We just kept in touch and it eventually happened. He was so young, so green and just happy all the time [laughs]. He came at me with so many ideas! I have weird ideas too but he just had so many psychedelic ideas and elements. After I first heard the finished album, my mind was geared towards something else at the time and I thought it was just okay. I recently heard it again appreciated it a lot more.
With the recent Odd Future explosion, many have begun crediting your Gravediggaz project for ushering in the Horrorcore. You agree with that? What was your main motivation for the project? How was RZA?
I know Odd Future keeps talking about how they’re not Horrorcore and for some reason I always get lumped into that. But even before Odd Future, we were the ones saying we ain’t horrorcore [laughs]! The album was just a middle finger to the industry and some fun, dark stuff RZA and I wanted to do. I don’t think it invented Horrorcore or anything that people have given it credit for. RZA a homie so we were just havin’ fun.
How was working with other respected producers? Like Automator for example. Touch on those Handsomeboy projects.
That was just me and Automator at the time knowing each other and just doing what two geeky hip-hop nerds who know music do. We bonded through the show “Get A Life” with Chris Elliot actually [laughs]. We’d talk on the phone and giggle like highschool kids. We went to Tommy Boy and pitched it and they were like ‘yeah’ and we were like ‘really?’. So it was just something we made up as we went along. We’d ask each other if this song was ‘handsome’ and whether you ‘could be on the catwalk’ or ‘eat some fine dining’ to it [laughs].
Before and after the Handsomeboy projects, you linked up with Oakland’s Hiero crew, recently producing Souls of Mischief’s Montezuma’s Revenge. How did you link up with them?
I used to come across those guys before they put out Del’s record, like ‘92. I met them because Jive was supposed to sign the Gravediggaz and the woman who was the A&R was either gonna sign them or the Pharcyde. I guess that was the West Coast quota they had to fill [laughs]. I remember seeing those guys around and they’ve always been really cool, really nice and really respectful. It was just a conversation like ‘ yo, let’s do a record!’ and years later they called me on it. That Souls of Mischief record is exactly what I wanted; I wanted to do the record that should’ve came out in ’94, like this should have been their second record right after ’93 Til.
What did you think when you heard Stakes Is High? It was the first De La album without you behind it.
It’s kind of like a nostalgic moment to me actually. And is probably my favorite De La record! I’d play it for my son all the time along with Illmatic. I mean Illmatic isn’t exactly a record you play for a 3-year-old anyways [laughs]. But it means more to me than just a record I wasn’t on—it just has such a good feel. I remember Pos playing me “Blown Comet” and remember thinking it was nuts! I think Trugoy made that beat for Biz [Markie] but he ended up passing on it. It’s probably my all around favorite De La record.
We touched on Odd Future earlier. What are your thoughts on those cats?
MCs these days are just alright. I’m not mad at Drake or anything, but Earl [Sweatshirt] is in a league of his own; different perspective and just so bizarre yet so smart. I was like, he’s so dope! If he was out and recording he’d overshadow Tyler [the Creator]. Odd Future, to me, makes stuff that’s either kind of forgettable or incredibly genius. You don’t get great records these days.
Speaking of new vs. old, talk about Gil Scott’s recent passing and how his work struck someone of your generation.
It’s crazy because you don’t even have to be in that era to know how great it is. You could put on Michael Jackson for a 1-year-old and they’d be happy. This is the same way. It’s just so good and there’s so much to get out of his music. Besides the obvious ones like “Bottle” and “Whitey Moon” the compositions and everything was so thought out. Today everybody is very carefree with their music unlike the ‘60s and and 70’s where you have so many social issues weighing on you daily so obviously the music reflected that and I think, in a way makes it better. Gil was simply so intelligent, so slick, and so thought out.
So if you could team up 3 rappers and produce a super project, who’d it be?
Hmmm, I take DOOM, Earl Sweatshirt and MC Hammer! They’d be called WTF! [laughs]