Super-smart hip-hop maverick or self-consciously wacky novelty act? Brown graduate and Prince Paul protégé MC Paul Barman suggests a little of both on his much-buzzed 2000 debut EP It's Very Stimulating. Self-deprecating, whip-smart, and adventurous, Barman is a true hip-hop original, a brainy clown with a demented flow that suggests equally the scatological obsessions of Kool Keith and the anything-goes raunchiness of a borscht-belt comic. Whether proposing tongue-in-cheek school reform on "School Anthem" or dissing frat boys on "MTV Get Off the Air, Part 2," Barman's brainy, geeky sensibility, self-deprecating sense of humor, and off-the-wall pop culture references are undeniably original and singularly refreshing. But Barman also has a dispiriting tendency to lay on the shtick a little too heavy, relying on the novelty of his subject matter to compensate for hip-hop skills (breath control, timing, delivery) that are sometimes downright amateurish. And for every pop-culture reference that's genuinely funny, ("I don't have to be in a Ken Kesey state/To create something you can appreciate" is a particular highlight), there are several that seem to exist solely to illustrate that Barman's Ivy League education didn't go to waste. Legendary producer Prince Paul's production is stellar throughout, however, full of the irreverent humor and inventive sampling that has become his trademark. Ultimately, It's Very Stimulating is little more than a simultaneously tempting and frustrating appetizer for Barman's first album, a work that will go a long way toward determining whether Barman is indeed a forward-thinking hip-hop genius or just an over-educated novelty act with a good vocabulary and too much time on his hands.
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AllMusic Review by Nathan Rabin
feat: Mr. Len
feat: Princess Superstar