Turn My Teeth Up!

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Once widely hailed as a visionary, hip-hop producer, Prince Paul has lately gone searching for his missing muse. Aside from his second Handsome Boy Modeling School collaboration with fellow producer Dan the Automator in 2004, Paul’s 21st-century output has been riddled with crippling bitterness (the ill-conceived concept album Politics of the Business) and meager tunes (Itstrumental), and his earlier brilliant work with De La Soul (not to mention his A Prince Among Thieves hip-hop musical) now seem long ago and far away. So perhaps sensing he’s a bit of a has-been, he decides to regroup on Turn My Teeth Up! with a collection of equally washed-up talents.

Baby Elephant is a makeshift trio comprised of Paul, his frequent collaborator Newkirk, and Bernie Worrell, the legendary keyboardist who made his name with Parliament-Funkadelic and the Talking Heads. Turn My Teeth Up! is constructed as a tribute to Worrell – the album contains testimonials to his genius and snippets from a documentary about him – and the songs are appropriately keyboard-centric, moving from reggae to hip-hop to hard funk. But Paul’s recent creative dry spell continues. His usually potent sense of humor barely shines on a series of mediocre skits, and while the proper songs contain some stellar moments featuring such aging eminences David Byrne, Nona Hendryx and George Clinton on vocals, others get bogged down in noodling instrumental indulgences. Worrell’s legacy is secure enough that it doesn’t need anyone else’s championing; Paul’s, on the other hand, isn’t on such stable ground anymore.

Tim Grierson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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