Paul Edward Huston, (born April 2, 1967) better known by his stage name Prince Paul, is an American disc jockey, record producer and recording artist from Amityville, New York. Paul began his career as a DJ for Stetsasonic. Since then he has worked on albums by Boogie Down Productions, MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane and 3rd Bass, among others. Major recognition for Prince Paul came when he produced De La Soul's debut album 3 Feet High and Rising (1989), in which he pioneered new approaches to hip hop production, mixing and sampling, as well as by adding comedy sketches.
In 1994, Paul returned to rapping, joining RZA and Frukwan in Gravediggaz, a project that debuted with 6 Feet Deep. His first solo album, Psychoanalysis: What Is It?, came out in 1997, followed by a second album, A Prince Among Thieves, in 1999. Later that year Prince Paul formed Handsome Boy Modeling School with Dan the Automator and they released the album So...How's Your Girl?.
Life and career
Prince Paul was one of the original members of Stetsasonic. He joined the group in 1984 after he impressed founding group member Daddy-O with his routine in the "Brevoit Day Celebration" DJ battle in Brooklyn. Daddy-O was struck by Paul's energy, stating that he was performed his routine with Liquid Liquid's song "Cavern", "like he was mad at the turntables."
He produced tracks on 3rd Bass' 1989 debut The Cactus Album and De La Soul's first three albums, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989), De La Soul is Dead (1991), and Buhloone Mindstate (1993). De La Soul is Dead received the coveted five mic album review from The Source (magazine).
According to Paul, 3 Feet High and Rising (1989) had a budget of about $20,000 dollars and took a month and a half to make. In Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique (2007) Paul reflected on his work with De La Soul by saying, "“If there was ever a sign of the existence of God, De La Soul would be that proof to me. I’ve never had such a perfect fit in any other production situation.”
In 1990, Russell Simmons gave Prince Paul an imprint under his Def Jam label, however the only album, It Takes a Nation of Suckers to Let Us In by Resident Alien, was never officially released.
He, along with Frukwan of Stetsasonic, Too Poetic of Brothers Grimm, and The RZA of Wu-Tang Clan compose Gravediggaz. The group was formed after Paul's relationship with Rush Management fell apart between 1992 and 1993. The group had difficulty shopping their first album, Niggamortis/6 Feet Deep (1994), but were eventually picked up by Gee Street records.
In 1995, Prince Paul co-produced guitarist Vernon Reid's solo debut with Teo Macero.
In 1996, he appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation CD, America is Dying Slowly, alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, and Fat Joe. The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African American men, was heralded as a masterpiece by The Source magazine.
In 1996, during the early recording sessions for Stakes Is High, De La Soul and Prince Paul decided to part ways. Although Paul was not involved in the making of the album, he has praised it in several interviews, once stating, "I was going through a serious transition period in my life when that album dropped. I was trying to figure out the next thing I was going to do; I was going through a custody case for my son, and I was running out of money. There were a lot of things going on at the time and in a sense, that album pulled me through everything."
After this he released two solo albums: Psychoanalysis: What is It? and A Prince Among Thieves, featuring Big Daddy Kane, Xzibit, Kool Keith, and Everlast.
Prince Paul formed Handsome Boy Modeling School with Dan the Automator and their album So... How's Your Girl? featured Sean Lennon, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Alec Empire, and Don Novello. He was also paired up with Deltron 3030 on their self-titled album for the song The Fantabulous Rap Extravaganza. In 2000, Prince Paul produced MC Paul Barman's début EP It's Very Stimulating, followed by another Handsome Boy Modeling School album, White People, with guests including the RZA, Linkin Park, Tim Meadows, and John Oates.
Prince Paul's 2003 album Politics of the Business again featured many guests such as Chuck D, Ice-T, the Beatnuts, and Wordsworth. The latter also collaborated on a track Paul composed for the SpongeBob SquarePants Movie soundtrack.
Several songs by Paul have been featured only on compilations such as Om Records's "Deep Concentration" and Bill Laswell's "Altered Beats".
His most recent release is the album Itstrumental. It encompasses a range of genres, relying heavily on past samples, especially from A Prince Among Thieves, and combining it with lighthearted skits about his depression. He also produced the album The Art of Picking Up Women by the Dix, which combines some of hip-hop's misogyny and boasting with 1960s-style R&B.
Paul was the host of XM radio's "The Ill Out Show", until the station was dropped following its merger with Sirius. The show presented news, classic songs, and interviews with various hip-hop artists.
One of Prince Paul's more recent projects is Baby Elephant, a collaboration with Parliament and Talking Heads keyboardist Bernie Worrell, and longtime Paul associate Don Newkirk. An album Turn My Teeth Up!, released in September 2007, features George Clinton, Shock G, Yellowman, Reggie Watts, Nona Hendryx, David Byrne, and Gabby La La.
In 2008–2009, Paul collaborated with Oakland rap group Souls of Mischief on the album Montezuma's Revenge (2009). The idea for the album came about during a Handsome Boy Modeling School tour when Paul told Souls of Mischief member Opio, "Tell the guys that I want to produce the next album.” The album was recorded in a rented house and many of the beats were made with vintage equipment, including a Emu SP-12, Ensoniq ASR-10, Akai MPC-60 and an Akai MPC-2000. Paul stated in an interview that his two favorite songs from the album are "Proper Aim" and "Morgan Freeman Skit".
Style and influences
Paul credits Public Enemy as being a significant influence on early De La Soul production, saying, "Early Public Enemy production used layers upon layers and layers, and their arrangements were always super duper incredible to me. We were kind of like students to what they did."
He is known for sampling from a wide range of genres. Rapper Biz Markie once said of Paul's production style, "Prince Paul's contribution to hip-hop is that you could use records that weren't by James Brown or just break-beats." While Paul continues to utilize samples, he has expanded his production to include live instrumentation, including guitar, bass guitar, and several analog keyboards. To combine elements of sampling and live instrumentation, Paul now re-plays some of his samples with instruments. In a 2010 interview he described the process by saying, "I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ll re-play samples with instruments. I learned how to interpolate, change the sound, and dust it out so that when I’m re-playing certain samples, it sounds like a direct sample from a record." Paul has credited the process of working with Dan the Automator on the Handsome Boy Modeling School project as helping him learn a great deal about production.
Paul has talked about his fondness for vintage equipment in several interviews. One of his favorite pieces of vintage equipment is the Akai S900, which he credits for having a unique sound, saying, "Even though it's big and bulky, nothing sounds like that. It’s pretty flexible, it's easy to work, and it's easy to truncate your sample and get things tight...When you look at all this new technology, everything sounds very sterile. Everything is clean and super quiet. It kind of lacks something. When I plug that in, it's like, 'Wow, this is hip hop.'"