Prince Paul speaks about Kool Herc, the birth of hip-hop, and Google’s celebration

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While some old school hip-hop fans never tire of arguing over who “created” hip-hop, there is no denying that it was Kool Herc’s jam thrown on August 11, 1973, was a pivotal party that helped get the aural revolution started. To celebrate the forty-fourth anniversary of that boogie-down night, Google celebrates with hip-hop-inspired Doodle (designed by Def Jam icon Cey Adams) that clicks through to feature an interactive turntable, iconic breakbeats, and hip-hop history content. Partnering with Mass Appeal, producer Prince Paul was commissioned to supply the project with three different beats constructed from records featured in the Doodle.

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“The challenge was that all the beats had to be 110 bpm, which is a disco tempo, but I figured out how to make it funky,” Prince Paul says. “I tried to find a bridge between the original school and what I do. The end result, I think, came out pretty cool.” The respected producer began his career as DJ for Stetsasonic and later gained fame as the producer for De La Soul, 3rd Bass, Gravediggaz. and Vernon Reid; his solo albums include Psychoanalysis: What is It? and A Prince Among Thieves. “There are a lot of young rap fans who think the music started with G-Unit, so hopefully this project will give them a chance to learn a bit of history.”

Although Paul was only six years old when Herc stepped behind the turntables in August 1973, he has since become close to the pioneering turntablist. “The first time I met Herc, it was like shaking hands with Jesus,” Paul says. “One time, he took me to his family’s house in Long Island. He said, ‘Man, I got a bunch of 45s nobody has ever heard.’ I was amazed that Herc was even talking to me, and then we’re at his mom’s house looking through a chest of records. It was unreal. If it wasn’t for Herc, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t have a job as Prince Paul. Every time I see him, I tell him thank you. Herc is the greatest dude ever.”

Still, having developed a love for the music, once the Long Island native got old enough to catch the train with his crew, he’d ride Bronx park jams to see Afrika Bambaataa and Jazzy Jay, and go to Brooklyn (where his grandma lived) to check out Grandmaster Flowers and Pete DJ Jones.

Prince Paul and Red Alert at Latin Quarter

Prince Paul (in back with mic) and Red Alert at the Latin Quarter in 1987. From the book No Half Steppin’ (Wax Poetics Books), courtesy of Paradise Gray.

 

“I also spent a lot of time at Latin Quarter just watching the DJ spin and listening to the music,” Paul says. “When we went to the parties in the Bronx, a lot of time we just went to certain neighborhoods and listened for the bass and follow that sound down the block and hope nobody beat us up. It wasn’t as easy as pressing a button on the computer. We had to look for the music; there was journey to find the music.” Besides the talent behind the wheels of steel what made an old school jam special?

“It was all about power in them days. Who had the most speakers stacked, who could blow away everybody else.” Currently, Prince Paul is working on various projects while also planning an upcoming tour of Brazil with his group Brookzill!; their album Throwback to the Future was released last year. “To me, guys like Herc, Grandmaster Caz, and DJ Flowers were superheroes. Those were the guys that inspired me, and it’s time for them to get their accolades. Hopefully, this project will encourage young hip-hop fans to dig deeper.”

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