When it comes to music moguls and industry icons, J Prince and his history stand unrivaled. With the cool confidence that has been known to inspire as well as intimidate–the founder and CEO of Rap-a-lot Records has a gentle humbleness that compliments his powerful presence. Prince, who is a self-made millionaire with an incredible history of major success in the music industry and with boxing, has worked to put so many great names on the map. He’s been at ground level with many and has laid the foundation for the Ghetto Boys, Drake, Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones, Andre Ward, and countless others. Now, he has a new book out called, The Art & Science Of Respect, where he shares an immense amount of knowledge from growing up in the 5th Ward of Houston Texas to his many experiences with people, that range from Suge Knight, Puffy, Lil’ Wayne, Pimp C, to Al Gore and more.
As the founder of Rap-A-lot Records, what started as a thought back in 1986, manifested into an incredible and legendary movement for the Houston, Texas native. Becoming a self-made millionaire was all part of his unwavering focus and courage to overcome the cycle of poverty for his family—he certainly went above and beyond that, and he did it through the love and guidance of God.
I had the chance to speak with J. Prince and find out more about what motivated him, how life shaped his thinking, and how he has been moved by the music and the world around him. Take a look at a portion of the interview below, and be sure to follow his movement on Instagram.
Let’s start with the title of your book and delve into how that came about, as well as how you came about having Drake do that compelling forward for the book. Was he the first one you thought of or were there others?
Yeah, I definitely thought of a combination of people. But I felt like Drake fit it the best where my forward was concerned. And I reached out to him and everything fell in place. It was an honor for him to do it. And I just moved forward from there.
What about the title, The Art and Science of Respect, how did that come about?
Well, as I analyzed a lot of different titles, I felt like respect was the one that complemented my movement the most. And I wanted to go a little further than just the word respect. And that’s when I reached out and kind of came up with art and science. And the art part is simply the things that we imagine, the things that we dreamed of having, visualized, and different things like that. And science is the knowledge and the ingredients that it takes to accomplish the art. And when those two things are in unison together, one has to respect it.
How important is it for you to listen to that voice that tells you when to make moves and when to fall back a little bit? And has there been a time—despite your good judgment of a situation in the industry, that you were wrong?
Yeah. Well, I feel that’s very important. It’s important for all of us as human beings to tap into that intuition, that discernment that exists in all of us. Some may even call it a spirit. I believe that we all have it. It’s a matter of tapping into it, the relationship, strengthening the relationship where those signs are concerned. Every person, I believe, if you think about it, there was a warning before a disaster. Or there was a warning before getting into a situation that you wish you hadn’t gotten into. And it’s those signs that we have to pay attention to. If it had not been for me being able to recognize the different signs of life, then I couldn’t be as successful as I am today. Matter of fact, I wouldn’t even be free, possibly not even alive. So that’s very important to read the signs and the signals that are given to you.
I definitely agree, and because “We Can’t Be Stopped” was the first Rap-A-Lot album to go platinum, I want to talk a little bit about the Ghetto Boys. Back in August of this year, the rap community and many others mourned the loss of DJ Ready Red. I’m not sure how often you guys were in touch throughout the years, but how do you remember him? Is there one particular experience that stands out about the kind of person that he was?
Well, you know, DJ Ready Red had amazing work ethic. He was a guy that tried to come up with beats 24/7. That’s something I remember the most about him was his work ethic in the beginning. He was about trying to find that hit song. And that’s what it takes to be successful in this game. If you’re missing that, you’ll never make it. So yeah, I remember that the most about DJ Ready Red.
You first started out with different members. How did that come about and how did it change?
Well, you know, it all begun with my brother. His name is Sir Rap-a-Lot. And I named the company after him. That’s how I got Rap-a-Lot Records. And from there, I came up with the name Ghetto Boys because I wanted to be a voice to ghettos around the world. And I felt like individuals would listen to Ghetto Boys all around the world. I came up with that name because of that reason. And from there, I put members together. And I kept going until I got it right. Because, as you know, the first set of Ghetto Boys, didn’t work out. I kept moving. I had that “I can’t quit” attitude. And with having that attitude, I was able to put together a formula that worked.
Can you share an experience with any of the artists you’ve worked with about their personal ability to handle constructive criticism or just to simply follow directions when you noticed things were off and you actually brought it to their attention?
Mm-hmm. Yeah, well, I had to deal with that a lot because in the hood, in the streets, there’s a lot of insecurity that goes on with a lot of individuals. Then I had to figure out how to deal with a lot of that. One of the ways and one of the messages from all of it was admitting to them that I wasn’t a perfect person. One of my angles of teaching and getting the homies to ride with different things I was doing, was admitting my handicaps in the beginning, but also showing them my track record of what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished. I did it by humbling myself and being able to embrace new ideas and new things. So, that is part of the blueprint I use to break those bondages and barriers that egos and pride will get in the way of and stop your movement.
Who had the biggest ego of everybody you worked with?
You know…that’s an interesting question. You know, I didn’t ever really put a name to that. And egos will pop out in strange places. It’s hard for me to recall. But sometimes ego is not a bad thing if you direct the energy properly, or redirect it. So yeah, I kind of viewed it like that. But a lot of those guys had ego situations in different areas.
So, looking back on those first interactions with Drake, what was the turning point for you to start feeling what he was doing? Was it one moment or was it an accumulation of many?
Well, when my son Jas used the word “buzz” was the first moment. Because as I was speaking with him, almost trying to discourage him about Drake, he used a word that I had taught him and that was said in many marketing meetings for Rap-a-Lot and he heard me emphasize and talk of buzz every week. And he hit me with that very word that I had taught, and it got my attention. Everything changed at that moment because I wanted to know where he was buzzing. Tell me more about this buzz now. Because I understood the importance of a buzz. He told me Canada and I lost interest again because that’s too far. And I really didn’t think much on it, but then he confirmed it. I thought about it because it got my attention again enough to move forward with him from that day on.
What’s the biggest message that you want your children to take away from your life as a man, as a father, and as a human being who’s just being human?
I would say respect. I would like for them to remember me that way. And I would like for family, friends, to remember me as a man that they respect, a man that earned his respect, and a man that demanded his respect. And I will be happy with that.
What message of encouragement do you have for people who are going through the worst of the worst moments?
I would advise them to understand the cycles of life. I think I mentioned in my book, either you in a storm, you just got out of a storm, or you’re on your way to a storm. And every season is important because if it doesn’t rain, the grass won’t grow, won’t grow at all. So it’s important to understand the cycles. So, therefore, you don’t get overexcited and wanna do anything drastic because it’s temporary, whatever it may be when darkness is concerned. And you have to understand that and understand that the sunshine is gonna eventually come out, and the harvest gonna come, and the fruit gonna be there to pick and you can eat from. So yeah, those are the words I would like to give.
I want to talk a little bit about that Drake and Pusha T beef that has been talked about and talked about and talked about some more. And I don’t wanna get into the reason behind it, but based on the long history you’ve had with Drake, I know you called him and you told him that after the last thing Pusha T put out, you didn’t want him to respond. In your experience, you’ve seen how damaging industry beef can be. Were there any other reasons why you advised him not to respond?
No. I mean, when beef goes beyond the guidelines where rap is concerned, then it’s bad for business, it’s bad for people personal lifestyles. It can have an effect on many things. So, in my mind, I thought about all of it. I just didn’t think about the one dimensional part of it. I thought about the overall portrait. And with me having the ability to think and think pretty good, I couldn’t sit back and let that happen. Not on my watch, and allow us to start destroying one another.
Music evokes emotion and it brings back things to your memory and it can increase or even decrease your adrenaline. So I want to ask you, just on a broad scale, how are you personally moved by the music?
I think it depends. I listen to Gospel music and that moves me in a way where a lot of other music doesn’t. So, when it comes to Gospel music, some of that music has inspired me in the midst of hard times. It encourages me and inspires me. It uplifts me to move forward with a different spirit, a different emotion. Other music, like hip-hop soul music, some of it make me wanna get hype and cut a step. And then some of it makes me just wanna think. So, there you have it. That’s what music does to a lot of us.
Yes, it definitely does. J Prince, it has been a real pleasure talking to you today. Our conversation was incredibly insightful and your book is definitely a must read. From the pictures, you share in the book to the amazing stories about your life and the people you’ve come to know over the years—everything contained in those pages is absolutely powerful. So thank you so much for sharing some of your life with me today.
Hey, thank you for having me.
You’re welcome. Take care J Prince and continued success in all that you do.
I appreciate you.
For the full and complete visual and audio version of this interview, click here!
Desirae L. Benson is a writer, content editor, magazine columnist, and entertainment media host based on the west coast. She hosts her own show featuring four different segments with celebrities, musicians, and people of prominence. To find out more, visit her on Facebook and IG by using @DesiraeBBB
All images by Diwang Valdez