Prince Paul is not a household name, nor does he garner the respect in hip-hop culture that he deserves, but his resumé speaks for itself. He’s a pioneering producer who played an integral part in shaping the sound of some important hip-hop albums from the late eighties through the mid-nineties. He’s produced tracks for the likes of Big Daddy Kane, 3rd Bass, Slick Rick, Biz Markie (rip), MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, just to name a few. But he will probably most be remembered for his stint as the deejay (and part of the production team) for Stetsasonic and later for producing and molding the creative direction for De La Soul’s first three landmark albums (Paul was often referred to as the “fourth Plug” during his time with De La, who were part of the Native Tongue collective, which of course, A Tribe Called Quest was also a part of, so go ahead and check off Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post). Sometime during the making of De La’s fourth album, Stakes Is High (an album I’ll be breaking down in the very near future), Paul would amicably separate himself from the group and begin his solo journey. He would release his debut solo album, Psychoanalysis (What Is It?) in 1996.
Psychoanalysis was originally release on the small independent label, WordSound, but would be reissued by Tommy Boy Records In 1997 with different cover artwork and a slightly different track list (I have a copy of the Tommy Boy reissue, so that’s the version I’ll be breaking down for this post). The album wasn’t a commercial success, but it did receive positive reviews from the critics and would go on to become a cult classic amongst Prince Paul Stans.
The liner notes for Psychoanalysis reads: “This album is a compilation of senseless skitstyle material that was slapped together by Prince Paul for his own ill enjoyment.” This is my first time listening to Psychoanalysis since I bought it a few years ago, and based on Prince Paul’s disclosure, I’m fully prepared to experience some ridiculously loony shit.
Why Must You Hate Me – The album opens with a vocal sample of a therapist introducing himself as “your analysis,” then he lets whomever he’s speaking to know that he’s going to “analyze you.” Paul then brings in a loop of a vocal sample from of a male voice saying, “As long as I can remember people have hated me,” along with his mid-tempo instrumental built around somber guitar strums, setting the mood for a psychotherapy session.
Beautiful Night (Manic Psychopath) – This one begins with another soundbite from (who I believe is) the same therapist from the previous track, asking his patient to share an uncensored dream. Then Paul lays down a relaxed after hours jazzy instrumental and the patient spills his guts about all the guts that he’s spilled: he confesses to a couple of date rapes and a few homicides (I mean, the racist bartender kind of had it coming, though), while the therapist listens to the gruesome details and only response with an occasional “Yeah…mmhmm.” The hook is uncomfortably funny, and this ends up being some entertainingly bizarre shit that you’ll feel guilty for enjoying.
Open Your Mouth (Hypohalamus) – This short interlude features a decent instrumental with soundbites of a man saying, “Open your mouth, I’m going to put something nice into it,” followed by a snippet of a moaning woman. This cycle goes on for about forty-five seconds, before the therapist weighs in with his assessment, which is pretty comical.
Introduction To Psychoanalysis (Schizophrenia) – Over hard drums and dark chords, some dude (the liner notes credit him simply as “the flipper”) rambles on about being a fan of De La Soul and Prince Paul. He then mentions that he also does music and wants to become Paul’s apprentice, then out of nowhere he goes into a demented rant about delivering a pregnant heroin addict’s baby, hitting a girl with a wiffle ball bat as a kid, and somehow ends up talking about his lack of gettin’ ass and how he has some wild disorder that causes one of his nuts to get sucked up in his stomach just be for he cums, to which the therapist just casually replies “yeah, yeah.” This was wildly hi-larious.
You Made Me (A.K.C.) – Paul pieces together soundbites from a man and a woman, making the two converse and sound like they’re newly and madly in love. He backs the vocal samples with a beautifully breezy instrumental that sounds custom made for a rap love song. I have no idea what “A.K.C.” is an abbreviation for, but I do know that this instrumental is absolutely scrumptious.
Vexual Healing (Vacillation) – Paul brings the Caribbean vibes with this instrumental, while a Jamaican man and woman (credited as Del Rio and The Squid in the liner notes) separately ramble on about all kinds of randomness for nearly three and a half minutes. I’m not sure what the meaning of this interlude was, but I found the line “the child is black as a raisin,” delivered in a heavy Jamaican accent, super funny for some reason.
To Get A Gun – This short interlude features a simple drum beat and vocal snippets taken from an old black and white movie (I’m guessing it was black and white, and I’m also assuming it’s from a movie) that justify the song title. Next…
J.O.B. – Das What Dey Is! – Paul pays homage and parodies Schooly D’s classic joint, “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” with this one. He recycles the bangin’ drums and the classic crashing cymbal break from the original, as Scully B, The Mic and Man Scientist break down the meaning of “J.O.B.” for all you broke mofos.
The World’s A Stage (A Dramady) – Omega Man cracks ComicView style jokes (shout out to BET), while a laugh track encourages him to continue. Some of his jokes are actually funny (i.e., the UCLA one and the Golden State Bridge one), while others are duds, but their corniness and randomness makes them hi-larious.
Booty Clap – This one pokes fun at 2 Live Crew and the Miami Bass music that they helped make popular in the late eighties. One guy plays the Luke Campbell role, and two others spit raps gettin’ their Fresh Kid Ice (rip) and Brother Marquis on for this hypersexual call and response parody that gets asses and dicks in the air. This was actually funny.
Drinks (Escapism) – This one finds a gentleman going to a bar to get a few drinks and unloading all his troubles into the bartender’s ear, while the backing melancholic music consoles him and the sarcastic reoccurring horn loop, empathetically pats the poor chump on the back. This was cool and I’m sure most guys can relate to some of the poor chump’s feelings and complaints.
Dimepieces – Mista Wells, Smile-Lee, Nephew Mike and Howard Who all come together to spit a whole load of misogyny with an early eighties flow over a minimalistic early eighties beat, and I wasn’t amused by their antics.
In Your Mind (Altered States) – This skit features a back and forth between a sound bitten truck driver and an animated Italian gas station attendant, who find themselves on two completely different wave lengths during their hi-larious exchange. If this one doesn’t move you to at least a chuckle, there’s something wrong with your funny bone.
2 B Blunt (A True Story) – Mista Wells and Scotty puff on a blunt while they exchange two bizarre stories (the one about the “veteniarial” diseased gym shorts was pretty funny), while the mellow guitar plucks in the instrumental will sooth your soul as you listen along and giggle.
Psycho Linguistics (Convergent Thought) – Over a plush and creamy backdrop, an uncredited male emcee raps from the perspective of a psycho ward patient and gets off some quality bars: “I don’t know, I guess it’s my thought process, fifty below the level of consciousness, S.O.S., ring the alarm red alert, When I’m rhymin’, sound the sirens, the whole works, cause they consider me m-a-d, Alfred E. Neuman got nothing on me, Public Enemy No. 1, now they got me in a cell, living hell, yeah that be my life, ‘cause mine don’t matter, so I apply mind over matter, while they mull matter over mind.” The instrumental includes scattered screechy notes that make it feel like you’re strolling through the unbalanced corridors of the mentally ill rapper’s mind. This was dope. Easily my favorite joint on the album.
That’s Entertainment!? (Aversive Conditioning) – Paul splices together a bunch of random and outlandish soundbites, all tied together by the master soundbite of a man saying, “We have a little entertainment planned for you today.” Psychoanalysis would have been fine without this interlude, but at least the decent instrumental will cause your head to mildly nod along to Paul’s lunacy.
Outroduction To Diagnosis Psychosis – The Mad Scientist returns to give shout outs and thanks the listener for listening to Psychoanalysis over an infectious toe tappin’ jazzy piano loop driven backdrop. This instrumental grows more gorgeous with each listen.
Beautiful Night (Automator Remix) – Dan The Automator replaces the cool jazz instrumentation from the o.g. version with dark keyboard, cello and violin chords that match the psychotic patient’s confession much better than the original. And we’re done.
Psychoanalysis (What It Is?) is a kooky ride through the partially perverted, heavily juvenile, one-hundred percent quirky mind of Prince Paul, placed and served over hip-hop beats. Over the course of the album’s eighteen tracks, Prince Paul will make you chuckle with guilt, laugh out loud, question his sanity and please your ears with a dope batch of instrumentals to back his foolish antics and hijinks. There are a few questionable or forgettable moments on Psychoanalysis, but the bulk of it is hysterically fun. If you don’t take Prince Paul’s content too seriously.