On '99's rap musical A Prince Among Thieves and his smart collaboration with Dan the Automator on Handsome Boy Modeling School's So... How's Your Girl?, Paul superbly combated commercialism and creative paralysis. With Prince, he concocted a hilarious lacerating satire on the rap game; with How's Your Girl?, the project's high-spirited originality and good-natured fun (combined with great tunes) proved that hip-hop was far from breathing its last.
Paul wants Politics of the Business to have a more blunt and pessimistic outlook. And although folks like Dave Chappelle help buoy the mastermind's sense of humor, much of the new album is weighed down by a sullen resignation. His fantastic last two records failed to change the world for the better, and apparently Paul has taken that disappointment quite personally.
If his attitude affects the bounce of the music, it doesn't totally dampen the flow. Gang Starr's Guru confidently helms "Not Tryin' to Hear That," while underrated icon Masta Ace lends his hard-earned cynicism to "So What." But the delights and surprises are in short supply.
Neither an homage to old-school styles nor a sure step into the future, Politics of the Business tells a sad story most true fans already know: The bad guys won the rap wars.