February 23, 2022

Prince Paul "Prince Among Thieves" (Feb. 23, 1999)

Leave it to the inventor of the rap album skit/interlude to take hip-hop to new conceptual heights. Almost ten years after De La's alterna-rap opus 3 Feet High and Rising, producer Prince Paul one-ups his own creation with an all-out rap musical, A Prince Among Thieves, the stylings of which border on a new rap sub-genre: hip-hopera. For all who grew weary at the mention of the word "skit," don't worry; the album's lean narrative, coupled with Paul's soulfully accurate production, makes for a well-polished venture into, literally, ghetto theatrics. A Prince Among Thieves takes us into the life of Tariq--played by Breez (of Juggaknots and Indelible MCs fame)--an aspiring rap star on the verge of a deal with Wu-Tang Records. Being a grand short of a flawless demo, Tariq seeks the aid of True (played by newcomer Sha), a close friend and former rhyme partner who, aside from his legal gig, deals in street pharmaceuticals for ghetto don Mr. Large (Chubb Rock). Instead of loaning Tariq the cheddar, however, True recruits him to hustle for a week, further opening this story of hope and betrayal. Giving a nod to classic rockers The Who's breakthrough rock opera Tommy, ...Among Thieves stocks its cast with a "who's who" of rap music's past and present: on "Weapons World," Tariq encounters Big Lou (Kool Keith), a sexually eccentric gun runner; on "Count Mackula's Theory," Big Daddy Kane makes his appearance as the title character who's also the pimp of Mr. Large's crew; even Everlast pops up as a crooked cop on "The Men In Blue." Other cameos include Xzibit, Sadat X and Kid Creole; as well as De La Soul. Though an offbeat piece of work--obviously not your typical LP or soundtrack--...Among Thieves delivers all the requirements for a bangin' album: thoughtful beats and rhymes. Paul provides the right track for the appropriate mood, while Breez, already a storytelling virtuoso in the underground, adds visual depth, while most every member in the virtual "cast of thousands" more than justifies his appearance in this presentation. For those looking for hip-hop's new frontier, this is definitely it. But if you're afraid of where the mind of Prince Paul can take you, then simply act like you don't know. - The Source (March, 1999). 

One of the greatest albums of all time! No debating it.