Prince Paul

If your appreciation of hip-hop goes any further back than the last few years, then you know about the genius of Prince Paul. That’s not to say he hasn’t done anything great in the last few years — he’s very consistent — it’s just that he’s not an artist who relies too heavily on image and bravado, and thus, he’s been overlooked lately.

Paul was there when there were no roots — now, he is the roots.

Paul was there when hip-hop didn’t need to hollowly remind itself to “keep it real.” So many fans of great new school stuff like Wu-Tang or Outkast have no clue about Prince Paul, and that’s largely because he’s kept it real.

For those who need to know (and if you don’t know, you do NEED to), Prince Paul is someone who can make you laugh by sticking his tongue directly out as opposed to hiding it in his cheek. From De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising, to Third Bass’s The Cactus Record, to the new Chris Rock comedy album, to his own warped-genius/perhaps-mentally-retarded Psychoanalysis record, Paul has answered the Zappa-poised question, “does humor belong in music?” with a resounding “hell yeah nigga.”

Also, as with Zappa, when the humor stops, the music is very often sublime and masterful. Monumental tracks from Slick Rick, KRS-One, Stetsasonic, Gravediggazz, Dr. Octagon, Big Daddy Kane, The Beastie Boys, and on and on, bear the ultra-charismatic stamp of Prince Paul production.

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Taking all this into consideration, it’s amazing that Paul made it to Florida. This was one of those events that your friends in New York or Chicago call you and tell you about and all you can do is say “well, it’s November and I can still wear shorts outside… ” Whooopie…

The Deep Concentration Tour also featured West coast DJ’s Cut Chemist, (who has a great cut on DJ Shadow’s Midnight in a Perfect World 12″) and Peanut Butter Wolf. Truth be told, Cut Chemist and Peanut Butter Wolf dominated the show. Paul did a satisfying amount of scratching and beat donation, playing more the role of inspirational presence, but Chemist and Wolf just fucked it up all over the place.

Armed with maybe six turntables and four samplers, Paul, Cut Chemist, and Peanut Butter Wolf used ’90s technology and sensibilities combined with a true understanding of the roots of hip-hop to put on a show that was equal parts old-school scratch battle and new school ambient cut-and-paste, short-attention-span music. Just when a beat would start to sink in, the script would be flipped, but the trio knew their sampling and record catalogs well enough to keep a seamless flow; never awkward (and I found out afterwards that this was the first time they’d improvised together.)

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You’ve heard the bold statements that seem like they could never be true ( at least to those who love rock music as much as I do); “RUN-DMC first said a DJ could be a band,” “who needs a band when the beat just goes?”… The Deep Concentration Tour fulfilled this prophecy. Perhaps the days are gone when the DJ hid up in the rafters… a faceless afterthought. The crowd at the show faced the stage transfixed and smiling as they danced. Local DJ’s leaned against the front of the stage checking the dexterity like guitar geeks at a Nuno Bettencourt show. The hip-hop environment HAS evolved, if only in certain circles.

Perhaps it’s uncouth to do this, since they’re advertisers in this fine mag, but much props to the Rubb, and especially promoter Jack Spatafora for bringing Tampa some true musical culture. This was just one of the many shows that have been put on at that club, that we may have had to go out of state to see, because nobody else around here could or would do it. The Rubb gets flack from some people because it’s a yupp-scale joint, but if you pull your head out of your rear long enough, you can hear what a nice sound system the yuppies bought us, to put on amazing shows like Prince Paul.

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