Prince Paul Stays In 'Business'

Excerpted from the magazine for

Concept albums are often tricky fare, especially in hip-hop. However, veteran producer Prince Paul has been able to create his own niche with his hip-hop-driven concept pieces. He takes on the music industry with his latest, "Politics of the Business," his debut for Razor & Tie.

Arriving May 6, "Politics" is tongue-in-cheek commentary on the state of the industry. A follow-up of sorts to his critically acclaimed "Prince Among Thieves" (Tommy Boy), Politics features a variety of veteran MCs and newcomers, including De La Soul's Trugoy, Gang Starr, Kardinal Offishall, Masta Ace, the Beatnuts, and Black Ice.

"After 'Prince Among Thieves,' the label said, 'Despite the critical acclaim, we can't sell this record, because you have no single,'" Prince Paul recalls. "I remember feeling bad. The rebellious side in me said, 'Oh, that's what you want? Then that's what I'm going to give you.' I decided to get a whole bunch of guest artists and [make] this real cheesy keyboard music. This was in 2000. What's really wild is that the label folded before I could put it out. So the joke was on me in the end, but that was the whole concept. Plus I figured it would be fun to mimic those styles." (Since ending its joint venture with the Warner Music Group, Tommy Boy continues as a smaller, independent label.)

In a case of life imitating art, Prince Paul had to deal with the politics of the business when bootlegged copies of the album started to surface. To combat the leak, he reshaped the album to include new edits of several songs, a change in the sequencing, special hidden tracks, and new vocals from Biz Markie to the song "Crhyme Pays." The album will also act as a key to a secret Web site where consumers can access exclusive downloads, remixes, and other surprises from Prince Paul's studio.

"I don't have a problem with downloading and bootlegging," says Prince Paul. "The only problem I have with that [situation is] that I gave it to the label in confidence, and that's when it got out. But the actual bootlegging doesn't really bother me because I come from a school of thought where if I hear an album first and I like it, I will buy the real one. When you download a copy, you're not going to get the real thing with artwork. I don't blame kids for wanting to hear a bootleg, because there is so much horrible stuff coming out... I'm pretty confident that people who hear the album will want to pick it up."

Excerpted from the May 3, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

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