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MC Paul Barman: Hip-hop for Neologists

Droppin' the Babble Gavel

Though it may not be because he's de-pantsing a fart storm, MC Paul Barman may actually be advancing the art form. Or, at least, he's bringing emceeing into territory that's yet to be traveled. His often non-sensical wordplays and tricky verbiage is often lost on many, and it may not make for the best record, but it is pretty damn impressive. Check this series of palindromes from "Bleeding Brain Grow": "Eve, Mika, RZA, Evil JD, Nasir is Osiris, and J-live, AZ, Rakim Cormega, Cage, Mr. OC." Check it - it's all there. His new album, Pallelujah!, was released in October to mixed reviews, and features Prince Paul and MF Doom, among others. Prefix writer Paolo Suarez caught up with the ultimate wordsmith during his recent tour with the Whirlwind Heat. Here's a clip of what went down.

 

[more:]
Prefix Magazine:
The original idea for this interview was to have you interview Kool Keith.

MC Paul Barman:
Oh, I'd be happy to.

PM:
Actually I wanted to do something elaborate and have you and Kool Keith play scrabble.

MC Paul Barman:
That would be fucking ill!

PM:
Ill, but it's too hard to put together. Maybe one day ...

MC Paul Barman:
I would love to do that. But I'm unbeatable. That's the problem.

PM:
You seem like you would be an amazing scrabble player. What do you score usually in a two-player game?

MC Paul Barman:
Well, I'm not ruthless you know? I'm not into doing inelegant crummy words. And I don't memorize archaic bullshit.

PM:
I'm sure you're sick of hearing this, but what was the reason for the long delay between your EP and the album?

MC Paul Barman:
You know I did a lot of different stuff in the middle. There was just a lot of chaos. There was chaos to make all the arrangements and then there was the chaos of creating the record ... and it took two years (laughs). Butt out.

PM:
Every article on you mentions that you went to Brown. But what did you major in?

MC Paul Barman:
Visual arts. I spent a lot of time at RISD across the street. Have you heard the new Johnny Cash by the way?

PM:
Yes. I like the production; it's so stripped down.

MC Paul Barman:
Man I think it's great. I'm so into it. It's the whole everything about it. The tear-jerking element is what gets me the strongest.

PM:
The cover of the Depeche Mode song. At first I thought it was a little goofy, but it grows on you.

MC Paul Barman:
I like "The First Time Ever I Saw Her Face" and I really like "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It's a mindblower.

PM:
Besides the Johnny Cash, what else are you listening to?

MC Paul Barman:
Steinski Nothing to Fear. Did you see the DJ Shadow show? Because Steinski and Double Dee did their first live performance ever. If I was in New York, I would have definitely gone to that. And his new record, Nothing to Fear is incredible. Have you heard the Willie Nelson/ Johnny Cash album Storytellers?

PM:
No.

MC Paul Barman:
That came in the little ad with the Johnny Cash record, so I'm dying to get that now. I like Willie Nelson a lot too. And I just got the Lee Perry box set that I always wanted. It's good driving music.

PM:
You've been doing a ton of illustrations and word games in several magazines. Like those celebrity-rhyming games. Do you have anything else being published shortly?

MC Paul Barman:
I'm waiting for something to come out in Herb. I did a bunch of drawings for them but I think they're going to be really tiny. Oh, and my new 'zine that comes with It's Very Stimulating. When you buy it off my Web site it comes with this 'zine called It's Very Stimulazy. It has lyrics and some new comics in it.

PM:
Are you going to compile all your stuff into a book or something?

MC Paul Barman:
Eventually. Now I think I want to do a strip that comes through my newsletter.

PM:
I was thinking that you should do a weekly strip in some papers. You know there are so many shitty ones. On your album you put down the Marmaduke strip.

MC Paul Barman:
(laughs) Yeah it sucks. I would love to do that. I think the characters in Vulture Shark Sculpture Park would make a great strip.

PM:
The liner notes with all the illustrations and lyrics are amazing. So you put that all together? Is that Al Hirschfeld of you a real Al Hirschfeld or did you do that one?

MC Paul Barman:
My designer Garland Lynn did that. We worked together to do the design for all the stuff. Have you seen the Cock Mobster 12''? You should see the cover to that as well. I could visualize the Hirschfeld but I couldn't execute it.

PM:
Yeah it's hard to imitate his style perfectly.

MC Paul Barman:
Yeah. Gar did a great job. That's my T-shirt too.

PM:
In your liner notes you thank the Macarthur Foundation. Are you trying to get a genius grant? Are you in line for something like that?

MC Paul Barman:
Well, if any secret nominee wants to nominate me ... um ... no comment.

PM:
That line on "Bleeding Brain Grow." That's one long palindrome?

MC Paul Barman:
Well, it's a series of palindromes. There's like five of them. One is pretty long.

PM:
How do you go about putting something like that together? How long did you have to work on that?

MC Paul Barman:
Well, I tried to substitute those into each other's pivots so that it would ultimately be just one palindrome. The Cormega one came to me instantly. I saw it on a billboard when his album The Realness was his new record and I noticed that by putting a "C" on the end I had two other rappers: Cage and Mr. OC.

The Pleased - San Francisco's the Pleased reluctant to be typecast RJD2 For fans of hip-hop deejays, Rjd2's latest is dead on
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