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In the meantime, the bulk of Thought Balloon's beats and engineering comes from Memory Man, a producer based in Austin, Texas. "I definitely had a knee-jerk reaction when I first heard him back in 2000," he says of Barman. "I had to listen a few times just to see what Prince Paul saw in this guy. But once I got it, I got it." The pair collaborated over phone and e-mail for two years, attempting to fuse jazz and classical elements with the rapper's aforementioned lyrical tricks. (The album also contains songs for tykes, a Creedence Clearwater Revival interpolation, and beatboxing.) Still, the music is not particularly experimental or attention-demanding; the idea is for Barman's flow to dominate. "There's an inherent humor in his rhyming that is best served when the beat is the straight man," Memory Man says. "When it gets too goofy, then it's all just too goofy."
Prince Paul agrees, to a point: "I don't really think he's goofy," he says of Barman. "I think he's brilliant."
"I've always subscribed to the notion that there's a tradition of innovation in hip-hop," Barman himself adds. The rapper clearly believes he's ahead of his time; he's closer to it right now than he's ever been.