For a producer who redefined the art of sampling and raised the creative stakes in modern music, Prince Paul is a remarkably humble, easygoing, and quirky guy. He may not always get proper acknowledgement for his work, which flies over many peoples’ heads, but there’s no denying the fact that hip-hop heavyweights like The RZA, 9th Wonder, and The Alchemist have all been influenced by Prince Paul’s bugged-out blueprint.

The musician from Amityville, Long Island got his start as a naïve teenage DJ spinning for the the hip-hop unit Stetsasonic, but Paul was not recognized as a force in the game until he molded one of the most groundbreaking and influential groups in the history of hip-hop.

The formation of De La Soul, and its seminal debut album 3 Feet High and Rising, redefined the possibilities of sampling in hip-hop. Digger deeper than the typical funk and Jazz records, Paul cooped up up a crazy pop-culture gumbo that included country music and TV commercials too. But his eclectic sample sources were not the only eye-opener for the genre. Paul's creative use of skits—both as a way of providing comic relief and establishing a cohesive theme throughout an album—made a profound impact on hip-hop as well. And Prince Paul’s diverse array of production credits for artists like Big Daddy Kane, 3rd Bass, and Queen Latifah earned him props during hip-hop’s golden age.

The veteran producer has managed to survive and thrive amidst the constant onslaught of competitive newcomers. Prince Paul continues to build projects that reflect his restless imagination in thought-provoking and humorous ways. He’s spent much of the past year criss-crossing America with Scion A/V as part of the documentary series “Prince Paul’s Amazing Musical Journey,” which allowed this intrepid aural explorer to keep plugged in to the current music landscape. We caught up with the legend long enough to dissect some of his classic cuts.

As told to Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)