This morning we get a record from an artist more well know for his collaborations as a producer or performer in larger groups. However, this solo album of his released in 1999 is widely acclaimed in the hip hop genre – so he arguably made the most of his efforts. Oh yeah, and to boot – it’s a concept album…which of course is an RC staple.
Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves
Listen to it here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/playlist/Prince+Paul+Prince+Among+Thieves/75538971
Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Prince_Among_Thieves
Fun Fact: The album features cameos by Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, Chubb Rock, Biz Markie, De La Soul, Everlast, Sadat X, Xzibit, Kid Creole, Special Ed, Chris Rock, RZA and Buckshot. A single version and video were also produced, which have the feel of a film trailer. Although conceived as a story that could be filmed, an accompanying movie was never made. A Prince Among Thieves was well received by music critics upon its release. Music essayist Robert Christgau has cited it as “the closest thing to a true rock opera you’ve ever heard”.
Preconceived Notions: I’ve certainly heard things that Prince Paul has had his hand in- Gravediggaz is one of my favorite groups in hip hop. And he just always sees to have his name attached to stuff, as this particular album is supposed to be one of the high points of 90’s hip hop-I am definitely down to check it out.
After Listening: Some concept albums are so vague you can’t tell what’s going on and only through repeat listens do the real details come out. That’s not the case with this record – in fact, one of its downpoints is just how much exposition there is on here. As any 3rd rate English teacher can preach “show me don’t tell”…and too much of this thing is a bunch of different style pieces held together mainly by a narrative that is read to you like reading a script. Sure it lets you know what’s going on….but it has a very artificial feel to me. The rest of thing has some uneven performances. I mean lyrically I guess maybe I’m worn out- I could’ve guessed that most of this would be about a dude who tries dealing drugs, police abuse, eventual death with a lot of n and f bombs in between. Great, really original-there are high moments but over the duration of the thing the impact lessens greatly. And to top it off there’s something about Breezly Brewin’s (Tariq) voice that really irritates me….the story feels generic and flat. The positive points on the record are unsurprisingly production related…there are violins on here, and piano and some deep deep bass beats….and because of this diversity handled smoothly the album isn’t a complete loss.
Favorite Tracks: “War Party” – The aggression on here is catchy and clever the trade offs are timed well and there’s some juxtaposition against the backing which sounds like downtempo soul soul with a chopped up vocal sample.
The Call & The Other Line – The concept of these two skits/songs is actually a very unique element to the story. A guy bs’ing his girl or maybe himself one last time-and the female voice on her does a good job of making her part believable.
Least Favorite: The Men in Blue – The rhymes are weak, the backing is static, and the police corruption thing is a terribly played out idea.
Overall 2.84 I was disappointed by this-and maybe that stems from the iconic stature this album seems to have in the genre….but other than having some-briefly clever moments, this is just another record. The concept part of the album is handled so straightforwardly through blatant exposition that at 1st you don’t believe any of it, and then you wind up just not caring about it. I mean surely by 1999 the tale of someone being involved in drugs and getting shot was no longer groundbreaking or shocking right? Right? I seemed to enjoy the stuff that was mostly Horror City-perhaps b/c of my Gravediggaz predilection…and I did enjoy the overall range of production on this….mostly it’s too bad that the subject matter on top of the good to great production is so stale.
Prince Paul –A Prince Among Thieves
Preconceptions: Prince Paul produced a lot of 90s NYC rap I like, so this should be good.
After listening: Aww, guhdammit! A freaking CONCEPT album? Seriously?
Favorite Track: Mr. Large made me wish Josh had picked Chubb Rock’s The One for today’s album.
Least Fav: Every odd-numbered track is just poor dialog.
Overall: This Rap Opera drama is killing me with it’s Boyz in tha Hood storyline and amateur acting. The music is pretty good when we finally get around to it, but the bloated track list is so annoying that I have no interest in it. What a shocking disappointment.
Rating: 2.3 (would have been 3.5 w/o the community theater bits)
Prelisten Guess: 4.0
Extra Credit: Chubb Rock – Treat ‘Em Right
Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves – Its been forever since i’ve listened to this. And i now remember why. Because its not as good as it shoud be. It should be amazing, and it just flat out isnt. 2.1
Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves: 4 stars
Precon: Capital C concept album that I believe tells the story of a kid growing up in the inner city. A curiosity pick of mine, I’ve known about this for a while, I think I almost bought it at the Strawberries in North Haven about ten years ago, but I’ve never actually heard anything off it.
Favorite Track: Steady Slobbin’
Least Favorite: Mood For Love
Getting a Wu vibe from the rapping on Pain.
That’s definitely Paul’s signature on Steady Slobbin.
Oh man I wish I bought this all those years ago.
I’m liking this Breezly Brewin. Have to check out his other stuff.
Kool Keith as the crazy weapons dealer guy? Yes please. “Hides well in your anal or crutch area.” haha
Great beat on Men in Blue.
I’m not convinced this guy Sha isn’t Method Man.
Well it pulls off the concept part, maybe a little too well. I appreciate what he was trying to do though. I like how the interludes do most of the storytelling, setting up the songs, and then the songs can stand on their own while still being part of the story. Would definitely want to listen to this again, though not sure how many times I would listen to the whole thing. I’d like to try listening to all the songs separately and all the interludes separately just to see how it plays out that way. There’s a lot of good stuff amid these 35 tracks.