Album: 6 Feet Deep
Label: Gee Street
Prince Paul: “I met RZA in the ’80s after I recorded the first De La record. I met him through his manager named Mel Kwan, who came up to me like, ‘Yo, I got this artist. I think you might like him, and he’s a big fan of your music. His name is Prince Rakeem.’
So RZA and I sat down, we talked, he was playing some stuff he liked, I was playing him stuff I was into, and we just clicked. We got along really well. We bumped heads on a few ideas, but to me that just made the relationship better because we learned from each other.
Things weren’t panning out for me in the music industry. It was horrible. It’s funny, I went on this really big high, and all of a sudden, I got into this really bad low. I was young, and I didn’t understand why. One minute, everybody loves you, and all of a sudden I can’t even get anybody to pick up the phone.
“Poetic I met off and on, because he lived in Long Island. So automatically we came across each other. It turns out, he reminded me that the first time I met him was when one of his boys came by my house in high school to buy these big giant speakers used for them big block parties. And Poetic was apparently one of the guys who helped that dude to move the speakers out of my house. [Laughs.]
"Later on Poetic got signed to Tommy Boy, but him and I really started talking when I had other projects I was working on. He gave me a demo, which I still have, and he wanted to be a part of it. He had this group called Brothers Grym, consists of Poetic, his brother, and this guy named Pedro, who I just called Mr. Sims, because his last name was Sims.
“And during the same time, Frukwan said he left Stetsasonic. It’s kind of weird, between him and Daddy-O. They got into some beef, and he didn't want to be in the group. I’ll say that much. So Frukwan was floating around, recording demos for Tommy Boy, and I think Tommy Boy was planning on putting a solo record out for him, and it didn’t pan out. To me Frukwan was always super dope, so I kept in touch with him.
“Then it came time when things weren’t panning out for me in the music industry. It was horrible. It’s funny, I went on this really big high, and all of a sudden, I got into this really bad low. I was young, and I didn’t understand why. One minute, everybody loves you, and all of a sudden I can’t even get anybody to pick up the phone. All the people I worked with, the industry people, it’s amazing…
“The records weren’t popping as much. When I had 3 Feet High and Rising, that’s when people started noticing, and sales were increasing. And when sales started decreasing, so does your popularity. And by the time Pete Rock and Large Professor and all these guys were coming out, I had dedicated my time working on this label thing with Russell Simmons.
What really hurt me was when MC Serch came to me and said, ‘Yo, I’m working on an album,’ I think it was his solo record. And he said, ‘I told Russell I wanted you to produce some records, and Russell said, ‘Why you trying to get Prince Paul, man? He’s played out. He’s wack.’
"Since that didn’t pan out, I lost a good solid year of being a producer. And I was just getting dissed. I remember the final straw of what really hurt me was when MC Serch came to me and said, ‘Yo, I’m working on an album,’ I think it was his solo record.
"And he said, ‘I told Russell I wanted you to produce some records, and Russell said, ‘Why you trying to get Prince Paul, man? He’s played out. He’s wack.’ And of course, Serch had no tact in telling me that. And it all made sense like, ‘Okay, these are the same dudes who begged me to work with them, now it’s like I’m wack.’
“So I took all that frustration, and I started making these dark, depressing beats. And I was like, ‘Yo, I’m going to put a group together; I’m going to show everybody that I’m not wack. I’m nice.’ So I started finding guys in similar predicaments.
"I called up RZA, who was signed to Tommy Boy, and then got dropped, had legal problems, not having a good time. Frukwan, it was bad, I think he was making clothes out of his house at the time. Poetic was kind of making music, but he was working at a factory, living with his sister.
"So I thought of uniting people who felt were in similar mind frames, and I’ve decided to take their energy to make a group. We’re going to form this one single power, and after that we’re going to go about and do individual projects. It’d be an easy way to re-launch our careers.
“So I brought them to my house. I played them the music. They all got along. And we had to come up with a name, so we came up with the Gravediggaz concept. Honestly, I don’t even know why we used that name. I was just amped that everybody was there. RZA said he came up with it, but I say Poetic did.
"I remember when the name Gravediggaz came up, Rakeem said, ‘Yo, I’m going to be the Rzarector, the RZA.” He came up with that name at my house. [Laughs.] And Poetic was like, ‘I’m going to be the Grym Reaper.” You know, because he had Brothers Grym. And then Frukwan was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll be the Gatekeeper.’ And I just said, ‘Aight, then I’ll be the Undertaker. Let’s get going!’ [Laughs.]
‘Diary of Madman’ amazingly did well. I remember talking to Funk Flex, he was like, ‘Yo, I had to play this record. I didn’t want to play it, but I have to because it’s getting requested so much.’ Flex told me it was like the most requested record for like a week or two week. He even had a disgusted look on his face.
“When the singles came out they were received in mixed ways. At the time, Craig Mack was out, and Biggie was out. Everything was kind of getting more street-oriented. And there was Wu-Tang of course. So everybody was calling our sound “gimmicky.”
“But the good thing was that ‘Diary of Madman’ amazingly did well. I remember talking to Funk Flex, he was like, ‘Yo, I had to play this record. I didn’t want to play it, but I have to because it’s getting requested so much.’ Flex told me it was like the most requested record for like a week or two week. He even had a disgusted look on his face, like, ‘Man, I really don't want to play this, but I’m just getting bombarded with requests.’ It was nice because that record didn’t have a hook or anything. It was straight rhyming, but it received daytime play. I knew I won, kind of like when ‘Plug Tunin’’ was out on the radio.
“And RZA making Wu-Tang peak at the moment didn’t hurt either. It just made people more interested in us. So we did well. It wasn’t great. We just had this stigma of being a gimmick, which really bothered me. I was like, ‘Man, I worked hard for what? To get dissed?’ But like most of my records, it takes people ten years to appreciate it.”