Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Gravediggaz -- "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" (1994)

And just when you thought
It was safe to make records
From the bottomless pit
The RZA, the Keeper, the Reaper
And myself the Undertaker
Pourin' gravy all on your brains
You know what I'm sayin'?

Actually, no . . . I don't know what you're sayin', Prince Paul.  I have no clue what you're sayin'.

But that's not unusual when you're talking about one of Prince Paul's productions.  The man has always been a little out there.  (To paraphrase the famous line from Heart of Darkness, "Mistah Prince Paul -- he cray!")

The young Prince Paul
Prince Paul's work deserves to have been featured on 2 or 3 lines long before today, but it's something of an accident that I'm discussing him today.

Most of time, my brain is full of so many songs that I want to feature on 2 or 3 lines that I can barely keep my eyes open.  That's been true recently, but a lot of the songs I'm currently carrying around in the ol' cerebral cortex are not quite ripe for posting.

So I fell back on a tried and true technique for coming up with a song to post about: I went to Wikipedia to get a list of all the people who were born or died on this date.  

Birthday girl Emmylou
Harris is 67 tomorrow
A lot of pretty interesting musicians were born on April 2 -- Marvin Gaye, Leon Russell, and Emmylou Harris are the most well-known, but the list also includes Leon Wilkeson (Lynyrd Skynyrd's bass player), Greg Camp (who wrote the Smash Mouth hit, "All Star"), and Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5's keyboard player).  

Some notable musicians died on April 2 as well -- including the fabulous drummer Buddy Rich, Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli, and Edwin Starr  of "War" fame ("What is it good for?  Absolutely nothin'!").

[NOTE: Don't think I don't see that smirk on your face, dear reader.  Yes, I am aware that today is April 1 -- not April 2.  As my regular readers know, 2 or 3 lines always publishes on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays.  Today is Tuesday.  But today is not April 2.  I suppose I could have simply posted this on Wednesday -- which is April 2 -- and pretended that nothing had happened.  But I prefer to be honest with my readers, even if I have to call out my stupid and incompetent staff as a result.]

[P.S.  Maybe I'll post a picture of my traffic department manager with a sign reading "I didn't get the memo that March has 31 days" hanging around her neck on one of those dog-shaming websites.]

[P.P.S.:  You may be thinking that this is all part of an elaborate April Fool's Day subterfuge.  Believe me, it's not.  I suggest you get out your old Occam's Razor, boys and girls.  But if you can't accept that this whole kerfuffle is a simple screw-up, feel free to spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what the joke is.  It's up to you.]      

Prince Paul at work
Prince Paul -- who was born Paul Edward Huston exactly 47 years ago today -- is the April 2 birthday boy I've chosen to feature today.  (Winner, winner, chicken dinner!)

Prince Paul's musical career got started in 1979, when he became a DJ for alternative hip-hoppers Stetsasonic, but his career really started to blow up when he produced De La Soul's very smart and very funny debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, in 1989.

Here's the official music video for De La Soul's "Me, Myself, and I," which features a personal appearance by Prince Paul:  

Miles Raymer of Pitchfork recently described what made Prince Paul's music unique:

Before Prince Paul came on the scene in the mid-1980s, rap beats were mostly made from flipped funk and disco breaks and booming 808 drum machines and not much else.  But . . . he demolished established ideas of what rap beats were and could be, radically broadening the form's sonic horizons with collages of samples lifted from psychedelic pop bands, obscure jazz outfits, kids' records, and anything else he could get his hands on.  In the process he laid down a foundation that producers from the Bomb Squad to Kanye [West] and beyond have built upon, and helped considerably to further the argument that hip-hop deserves to be considered an art form every bit as much as rock does. 

In 1994, Prince Paul formed the hip-hop supergroup Gravediggaz, which is usually credited with the invention of the "horrorcore" subgenre of rap.  

Gravediggaz brought together four rappers: Prince Paul (who went by the name of "The Undertaker"), Stetsasonic alumnus Frukwan ("The Gatekeeper"), Poetic ("The Grym Reaper"), and Wu-Tang Clan stalwart RZA ("The Rzarector").

"Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" -- the title is a shout-out to Martha and the Vandellas, of course -- was released on the group's 1994 album, 6 Feet Deep, which was originally going to be titled Niggamortis.  

As Miles Raymer of Pitchfork also noted, Prince Paul is also "responsible for another innovation that's become deeply woven into the form's fabric, although to a much more ambivalent response from listeners: the rap record skit, wherein the musicians take a break from making music to show off their comedic talents."

The best examples of Prince Paul's comedic talents are the two Handsome Boy Modeling School albums he did in collaboration with fellow producer Dan the Automator.

The Handsome Boy Modeling School albums featured a large cast of rappers (like RZA, Pharrell, and Beastie Boy Mike D), singers (like Cat Power, Jack Johnson, and Mike Patton of Faith No More), and comedians -- including the inimitable Don Novello (a/k/a Father Guido Sarducci).  We'll be taking a closer look at Handsome Boy Modeling School in an upcoming 2 or 3 lines.

Here's Don Novello's introduction to the second Handsome Boy Modeling School album, White People:

Prince Paul's most recent album, Negroes on Ice, is a collaboration with his son, DJ Pforreal.  (Maybe someone should do an album titled Negroes With Funny Rap Names.)

"Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" features a verse by each of the Gravediggaz's four MCs and samples a very odd assortment of songs (including the Super Session version of "Season of the Witch").

Here's "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. The rap/hip-hop scene is something I've never gotten into, but you did recognize on of my favorite ladies of song, Emmylou Harris. To honor her birthday (which is also that of Dr. Demento, and myself) I watched two different videos of "Two More Bottles of Wine". She's one of those singers who can have the guys in the audience "flying around in formation without planes" without dressing like a Hollywood Blvd. pavement princess. One fellow even said (in YouTube comments), "The reason why I've never married is I've never met a woman who looks like Emmylou Harris in 1979." And even today she's still lookin' good.