PRINCE PAUL as part of Doin' It, at Klinik (360 Adelaide West), Saturday (January 17). $15. 416-408-2646. Rating: NNNNN
When I call prince paul at his home in Long Island, he's at the dining room table enjoying a bowl of shrimp fried rice. I remind him that he invented the rap skit and can almost hear some rice fall from his mouth and hit the table as he reacts in horror. "Oh, no." He's probably thinking about flak he got for his last solo jump-off, Politics Of The Business. On the bitter concept record, the famed producer invited the likes of the Beatnuts, Chuck D, Ice T, Guru, Jean Grae and Dave Chappelle to help him parody shiny-suit rap and the industry that spits it out like shrimp fried rice.
It was kind of a rap version of Jewel's 0304 or U2's Pop, albums that made fun of the mainstream but conveniently sold big.
Paul's Politics wasn't as successful at doing either. The record was crammed with skits and, for the most part, the beats were shitty on purpose. But it taught heads something about Prince Paul: no matter what, he's immune to "going Diddy."
So don't expect any Mandy Moore collaborations from him. No amount of frustration that comes with staying obscure despite 20 years of production work with Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Gravediggaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Chris Rock will make that happen.
"Mandy Moore would never work with me," he says. "I'm too underground and too weird. Even the labels are, like, 'Paul isn't a money-making type of dude,' so they probably wouldn't even entertain my phone calls.
"I've tried sometimes to do stuff that's kind of mainstream, but some of the pop stuff is just so stupid to me that I can't be serious about it. I'd start laughing."
But if you think of Paul as a rap snob who sticks his nose up whenever he hears Louis Vuitton-style hiphop, think again, player. Paul's a Neptunes fan, and he didn't get all huffy on real hiphop's behalf when Redman collaborated with Christina Aguilera either.
He's feeling 50 Cent's record. He says Eminem is a solid producer. His favourite beat of 2003 was Prototype from Andre 3000's The Love Below, and he thinks Ja Rule should go back to singing, because "those little singing hooks he did - even though everyone disses Ja Rule - those were really catchy. I hate to admit it, but I used to find myself singing 'em."
But true schoolers need not worry. The upcoming show at Klinik Saturday won't sound like an hour of FLOW 93.5. And it won't be like the 1997 show he did in Germany when a grown man started crying and Paul made like Freud. Wait, what?
"We were ending one of the performances, and I remember looking down into the audience and seeing this guy just crying during our outro," he explains. "So I brought him onstage and was, like, 'Yo, what's the matter?' And he was, like, 'I don't want y'all to go! I wan't y'all to stay! You're so great!' He was in tears! So we had to extend the show another 10 or 15 minutes. I was, like, 'Wow, now that's really loving hiphop. '"