Classic Material: Prince Paul "A Prince Among Thieves"
During the so called ‘golden age’ of hip hop, it seemed like there was an endless stream of classic albums being dropped constantly. One of the best, and likely most overlooked, albums to premier during that time was Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves. Now personally, I find Prince Paul to be a completely underappreciated if not emphatically underrated. Aside from being part of the groups Stetsasonic, Handsome Boy Modeling School, and the infamous Gravediggaz, Paul produced many memorable hits and most importantly set the stage for, in my opinion, the greatest hip hop group there is DE LA SOUL by producing their first three albums.
In 1999, Paul released A Prince Among Thieves, a brilliant concept album that follows ambitious young rapper Tariq (played by MC Breeze Brewin’ from the Juggaknots) as he struggles to collect money for studio time to finish his demo to present to RZA. The album is a veritable snapshot of the time and features acts such as Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, De La Soul, a young Xzibit, Kool Keith, and Chubb Rock. I think the features are the most special part of this because a roster of emcees of this caliber is something that we don’t see a lot of these days due to labels and contract restrictions. The album is built to play like a movie as each track progresses the story a little bit further.
My favorite track from the release is “Weapon World”, in which Tariq visits arms dealer Crazy Lou (Kool Keith) to sample his artillery wears which range from an organic transparent glock that uses rocks as ammunition to stylish nuclear headbands. The beat on this song is very hard-nosed and allows Kool Keith to stretch his lyrical limbs for some verbal gymnastics.
Another solid track is “More Than U Know” which introduces us to three of Tariq’s “customers” (De La Soul), who approach him looking to buy some product because their regular dealer got locked up. Despite the seedy topic of this song, it is very fun and playful and it echoes that classic De La Soul sound which by that time was gone (Prince Paul stopped producing for De La Soul after Buhloone Mindstate in 1993).
This is absolutely an important to have in your collection as it is one of the earlier concept albums, and certainly one of the best. The production is as clean as can be and it showcases one of the best producers to ever do it.