Jewish MC’s have their ups and downs and there are many who tread the line between good and kitschy. Still, there are a few who keep the kitsch alive making my ears bleed with displeasure. As a Jew I both love and hate these MC’s, because we all have our inner conflicts with our Jewish identity. I saw many shows in my day and one of the most memorable was seeing Prince Paul and Kool Keith. Prince Paul DJ’d some great songs keeping the vibe just right as the weed smoke filled the air. Kool Keith killed it, bringing along some friends from his Analog Brothers album, and throwing his nonsensical and borderline insane rhyme style. One of the best parts of the night was when Kool Keith hurled baggies into the crowd filled with mouth watering fried chicken, some hawaiian punch and a wet nap to wash the grease off as he screams “Sex Style…….and dogs drink my piss.” Of course I love these guys, but I want to speak on the opening act of the shows, the first at Toad’s Place in New Haven and the second at SUNY Purchase College in Westchester, NY.
I really didn’t think much of him as he was performing this stream of words that usually didn’t rhyme nor make sense. This bespectacled Jewish fella rocking his lanky look a la DJ Stretch Armstrong, rocked his Jew fro with pride. MC Paul Barman had his kitsch as he doodled on a piece of paper trying to connect this freestyle rhyme form. I wasn’t that impressed, but I thought he had an interesting delivery. He veered away from the norm in his rapping style, painting vivid pictures. Being Jewish, I feel he pushed the ideas of the spoken word art along with the humor and wit of the best MC’s in the game.
All this changed when I first heard his first proper release in 2002. After hearing his deliveries in the clubs and venues I heard the truth backed by some incredible beats. MC Paul Barman ain’t no joke and the album is a testament to that. The album starts with the ringing joy of Hallelujah (a nice Jewish rejoicing during the rapturous prayers) segueing into the first song using the same sample of the loud choir chanting the perpetual Hallelujah!!! He then struts out with the strong impact on the following track, “Cock Mobster.” He flaunts his sexual prowess by naming off some interesting ladies and the many fantasies that could be. However, it’s a mish mosh mixing in lines about….”wanting to disrobe Lisa Loeb” and then changes the spectrum by adding a line about the famous female Jewish writer Cynthia Ozick stating….””Cynthia Ozick takes her cloths off quick.” Far out to add the lust of a nice Jewish singer songwriter with an abstract story teller. But that’s his talents, and a fresh look at how Jewish MC’s have been rewriting the rules for themselves and unabashedly productive and Jewish in their rhymes.
Wether it’s an introspective track with a slow melodic beat such as “Old Paul,” or the amazing howls on “Excuse You” he still keeps the complex words churning out. He also has a sense of humor such as his love odes to various women on “Cock Mobster” or commenting on the absurdities of the protest movements on the track “N.O.W.” It should also be noted that he has songs chock full of these quips and jokes, just check out the great rack “Burping & Farting.” No matter the case the album is a testament to his skills and how different he is when compared to the average MC, Jewish or non. It also doesn’t hurt having the seasoned veteran beatsmith Prince Paul produce a track. He also got help from the ubber underground-indie sweetheart MF Doom, who produced the tracks “Anarchist Bookstore,” parts 1 and 2, respectively. This is an interesting critique of the local College bookstores and their ends thanks to the machines of Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.
He makes some interesting points of comparison as well with regards to Jewish Americans and African Americans. This is all communicated loudly on his song “Bleeding Brain Grow.” In it he draws out the comparisons such as that both black women and Jewesses wear wigs, while shouting out the Jewish fantasy of landing a fine gorgeous black woman, as he says “I want a sista not a shiksa.” He would rather get down with a black woman as opposed to the typical plain WASP-y non-Jewish white woman. Interesting how he invokes the want for the exotic that many Jews presented in the past spanning from Woody Allen to the Zucker Brothers.
This is only his first album, and he is still making music while trying to turn heads and ears. I just wanted to show how Jewish MC’s come in many shapes and sizes with regards to their presentation in Hip Hop culture. MC Paul Barman at times was seen as a gimmick, yet I think he deserves a lot more credit. He can contribute to the Jewish tome of works while doing what Jews do best, tearing it all down. He can rap all the comedic yarns and cosmic slippery slop, yet he still keeps close to his identity. There is a perfect example of this in his track “Old Paul” as he rants in the chorus that “Old Paul gave rap a cold call, The Caucasoid had the whole block annoyed, It took big, gilded gold balls to smile at terror, And trial and error.” the chorus shows his chutzpa as he brashly shouts out that he’s fucking shit up by trying to change the game in a new way. Yet by the end of the track he also paints a vivid Jewish portrait of the endgame by settling down. He ends the great track by saying that “I dropped out of this foolish world, and married a Jewish girl, and we had five kids, and we all loved each other, The End.”
Here he is with the wonder producer Prince Paul:
Here’s a link to the song “Old Paul” from his LP Paullelujah:
And here is a live version of his song “Bleeding Brain Grow” from the same album: