SXSW Music Keynote: James Prince
Rap mogul clearly needs to pen a memoir
By Kahron Spearman,
9:30AM, Sat. Mar. 19, 2016
“Fifth Ward is one of the most beautiful places in Houston,” smiled mogul James Prince, tongue planted in cheek. In a comfortable half-conversation, half-interview with close friend and Southern rap legend Bun B on Friday, the Rap-A-Lot Records CEO and businessman delved into the beginnings of the label, giving back, and his love for the home team.
Most of the story familiar or Google-able, there were some interesting, previously unknown nuggets. A man clearly in need of persuasion to write a memoir, Prince’s most intriguing answers came from who he did – and did not – manage to sign to his label. Jokingly asking if Mathew Knowles was in the house, he says Beyoncé’s father brought Destiny’s Child to Rap-A-Lot. Prince claims he offered a blank check, which may have spooked Knowles.
Two other could-have-beens: Oakland rapper Too Short and – of all people – Vanilla Ice. The latter was actually passed over to his business partner, who elected not to sign the platinum-selling (and highly marketable at the time) “Ice Ice Baby” rapper, because he didn’t think he was that talented. Too Short’s language – his derogatory lyrics about women – proved a sharp sticking point with women at the Rap-A-Lot offices.
Another fascinating note from Prince, a devout family man, was his decision to not allow his young children to listen to his product, explaining he “didn’t want hip-hop raising” his kids. Consistently quoting God-fearing aphorisms, and paraphrasing Proverbs 18:21 (“life and death is in the tongue”), there’s a clear spiritual lean to his determinations.