Prince Paul’s solo debut, Psychoanalysis, was, according to Paul himself, “a record that nobody was supposed to hear.” Talking to Wax Poetics magazine in 2002, Paul recounted how in 1996, a decade into a brilliant career as a member of Stetsasonic and the Gravediggaz and producer for De La Soul and dozens of other artists, he’d grown so disillusioned with hip-hop that he decided to retire and open a Jiffy Lube or a Dunkin’ Donuts.

Toward that end, he made Psychoanalysis with the intention of killing his career. “This record was supposed to seal my fate,” Paul said. “Everything on it is—I won’t say horrible—but it’s not meant for people to like.”

That much is clear. The first track is just a beat and the repeated sample “As long as I can remember, people have hated me.” The second track is a spoken word/R&B number with a sung chorus that goes, “It’s a beautiful night for a homicide…a beautiful night for a kill.” Psychoanalysis proceeds to riff on sex, depression, guns, drinking, drug use and everything in-between, all over music skipping through any subgenre of hip-hop that crosses Paul’s mind.

“J.O.B. (Das What Dey Is!)” lifts the beat to “PSK What Does It Mean?” by Schoolly-D for an anonymous posse cut satirizing old school MCs flexing their wealth. “Dimepieces” channels Mantronix as the setting for an increasingly bizarre series of sex boasts.

“The World’s A Stage (A Dramady)” is a heavily laugh-tracked stand-up comedy routine with jokes like “So I saw your mother the other day, right? She had on a sweatshirt. It said UCLA on it. I was like ‘Goddamn! I didn’t know you went to college!’ She said, ‘I didn’t. My name is Ucla.’”

Not surprisingly, this didn’t sell and gained little notice from critics. Allmusic dismissed it: “He may have gotten a few laughs out of it, but listeners will be left out in the cold and find themselves asking if there is a point to all this.”

But it found an audience with other artists, notably Chris Rock, who contacted Paul and began working with him on his next album. Paul said, “The irony of it is that it resurrected my career instead of burying it.”