#70. I met Prince Paul (Tampa, 1997)

Plug 4

Prince Paul legendarily produced De La Soul and Stetsasonic — though the word producer feels incorrect, since Prince Paul’s face and voice and, most importantly, his sense of humor, meant as much to De La and Stet as Paul’s boundary-slaughtering beats. Paul stitched together quirky quilts of samples and skits, layers upon finely-detailed layers, beautifully unique comic savant shit. And Prince Paul originated it all without anyone’s example to follow. In the late 90s, we gasped upon hearing that De La had kicked out Prince Paul! Why would they do that? And how will they survive without Prince fuggin Paul? Paul went on to invent horrorcore with RZA as Gravediggaz, and to make some great, skit-heavy solo records. I loved the ridiculously stupid Psycho Analysis: What Is It?, and the first hip-hopera before Hamilton, Paul’s A Price Among Thieves.

All that to say, Paul remained one of my all-time favorites when my redhead friend Jack booked him, plus DJs Cut Chemist and Peanut Butter Wolf, at The Rubb in Ybor City.

Prince Paul for me is a figure. Meaning, when he popped out onto the stage behind the turntables, it took a second to get used to the idea that he wasn’t a cartoon, or just a symbol, but a real, funny looking person. I enjoyed the show, even if Paul didn’t do much but wander around smiling, making obscure/obtuse jokes into the mic while Cut Chemist and Peanut Butter Wolf went off. I don’t remember if Paul even spun any records. He was just there so we could all see him and shoot love and admiration up at him.

At some point, the smoky club became too crowded for me and I stepped out of the Rubb’s front door onto normally busy 7th Avenue. Must have been a Tuesday, so the street remained empty except, there on a brick planter bench six feet from the club’s door, sat one lone guy: Prince Paul. He looked right up at me and nodded.

“Whoa, Prince Paul! Aren’t you also inside on stage right now?”

“Yes.” He made a joke about the clones of himself that he brings on tour. Then he said, “Here I have something for you.” He took from his pocket a cassette wrapped in a cardboard sleeve, printed with a photo of Paul as a child, messing with a turntable. He didn’t explain what it was.

“Well, thank you Prince Paul. You have always brought a lot of happiness into my life,” I told him. He liked hearing it put that way.

The cassette turned out to contain a brilliant and hilarious 12-minute mixtape retrospective of Prince Paul’s career from Stetsasonic, up to the moment I met him. Between all his famous cuts, Paul’s mother talked about how everyone said her son was a genius (this was years before Jay Z’s mom provided a similar narration on the Black Album). I left that tape, personally given to me by Prince Paul, in my car’s tape player for weeks at a time, listening to that same 12-minute mashup over and over and over and over and over.

Michael Patrick Welch’s “132 Famous People I Have Met” series is FREE, but please consider donating to his VENMO (michael-welch-42), or to his PayPal account (paypal.me/michaelpatrickwelch2), so he can feed his kids, pay his mortgage, etc.

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