Politics of the Business

by: Prince Paul

Creatively speaking, Prince Paul reached a career high point with A Prince Among Thieves, but he had a monstrously difficult time assembling the follow-up. Preceded by a four-year wait and a change of labels, Politics of the Business is essentially a concept album about following up a concept album, one whose glowing reviews weren't matched by its sales. Aiming for the bottom line in response, yet with tongue planted in cheek, Paul's productions on Politics are mostly forays into the "hip pop" sound he alludes to in the liner notes. Lyrically, however, his guest rappers -- a mix of current underground heroes, neglected old-school figures, and up-and-comers -- spend their time blasting hip-hop's commercialism and easy betrayals. There are bits of effective satire along the way (Dave Chappelle is hilarious as a label exec), and a handful of terrific moments that offer sly twists on current urban radio trends. But as a whole, Politics of the Business never quite jells into the cohesive statement it wants to be. Too much of the music sounds strangely dispirited; not that it's awful -- it just lacks the spark and energy you'd expect from an artist who, even when he's off, is rarely anything less than interesting. Speaking through his mouthpieces, Paul sounds weary and bitter; even if you agree with his observations on the rap industry, it's hard to relate when his concerns get so insular elsewhere. The liner notes sigh about 9/11 and his neighbors' annoying dog in the same breath, and the title of "Chubb Rock Can You Please Pay Paul the $2200 You Owe Him" feels more awkward than bitingly funny (what's more, it recycles the backing track from De La Soul's "Pease Porridge"). It's touches like those, along with too many tracks that just don't register all that much, that make Politics of the Business feel depressingly cynical and half-hearted. Prince Paul is still one of hip-hop's most overlooked geniuses, but it's disheartening to hear him so disheartened. ~ Steve Huey

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