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As possibly the most critically acclaimed and creative concept album in hip hop’s storied history, Prince Paul’s “A Prince Among Thieves” stands as a testimony to the elasticity of the rap genre. The album which features guest appearances from legendary artists Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie and even features a cameo from Chris Rock who plays a crackhead, tells the tale of a young up-and-coming hip hop artist by the name of Tariq and his Judas-like friend True who betrays our protagonist in the worst possible way. Tariq, who has a meeting with the legendary RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan to discuss a possible record deal, needs to come up with quick $1,000 to finish recording his demo tape.
Unfortunately, True convinces Tariq to join the underworld of hustlers, pimps and prostitutes in order to make that fast money. Tariq’s life takes a turn for the worse and his downfall plays out much like the real life stories of the drug dealers and pimps from the drug-ridden streets of New York during the late 80’s and early 90’s crack epidemic. This thirty-five track masterpiece which spans an hour and seventeen minutes in length almost plays out like a full-length feature film with a well developed plot and some pretty interesting character developments and scenes sprinkled in between songs.
While most of the production is handled by Prince Paul himself and the majority of the album is written by the Prince, what’s even more impressive is that he crafted this classic without even laying down a single verse or line in the process. Most of the vocals come from the star-studded cast and the performances of both Big Sha and Breeze Brewin will continue to stand out as highly innovative for the culture.