Wednesday, March 03, 2004

#55) Prince Paul - A Prince Among Thieves (released in 1999, I bought it on CD that year. The rave reviews and my appreciation of Handsome Boy Modeling School, who I don't like as much now, got me to ignore my rockist wariness about buying rap albums, which I considered quite filler-happy)

Everybody hates rap skits, but that’s mainly because listeners (and the rappers making them) haven’t realized the cinematic potential within. Psychoanalysis (What Is It?), the solo debut from De La Soul producer, was filled with innovative skits, and his follow up, A Prince Among Thieves, was a rap musical, complete with a coherent storyline (a tragedy about two aspiring rappers) and an all-star cast. Paul smartly used unknowns Sha & Breeze for the lead roles - they’re strong enough to compete with the presence of folks like Kool Keith (as an unsurprisingly surreal weapons expert) and Big Daddy Kane (as the unsurprisingly pimptacular Count Mackula), but don’t bring the baggage of fame. The consistency of this album is startling when you consider its breadth. The music is hook-heavy, the jokes are rich (check out the slow jam and the Chris Rock cameo) and “More Than U Know” may well be the best De La Soul song of all time, with the trio delivering incisive crack metaphors over a beat that Puff Daddy would have rode to the top 10. Prince Paul wanted to turn this album into a movie, but I think the stage is where this album belongs. It’s so good, I want to see people interact with the show.

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