By: Lauren Whiteman | @itsmewhiteman
James Prince is no stranger to pressure.
Throughout his lifetime he has faced pressure from poverty, the streets, manipulative record execs, and the DEA, but those campaigns have proven themselves over and over again to be unsuccessful. In his new memoir Prince tells us early on that “the fifth of Houston’s six wards was a den of wolves, which raised me to eventually lead the pack.”
And considering the silence from both Drake and Pusha T when it comes to their feud lately, it looks like J. Prince is still leading it.
As both a Hip Hop fan, and a Texas girl, I was familiar with James Prince’s work before I could place a face with the name. As the founder of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot records, he produced and worked with artists such as The Geto Boys, Scarface, Z-ro, and UGK, who have all been staples in the Texas hip hop scene.
With his new book, Prince joins the list of Hip Hop power players who have taken control of the narrative surrounding their lives and told their stories on their own terms.
I’m not really into audiobooks or e-books. There’s something about turning physical pages, and the smell of the pages that takes reading from an activity to an experience for me. But when a friend sent me a link to the audiobook for J. Prince’s new memoir on Apple Music, I decided to give it a spin.
I finished it twice in a week and a half.
After a forward penned and narrated by Drake, James Prince narrates the rest of the book, his southern drawl comfortably familiar to those of us from Texas, but at the same time, helps the listener understand the respect and fear people have for him. Each syllable is steady, calculated, and intentional, and even when you knew what would follow, there was a sense of needing to brace yourself for what might come next.
The memoir chronicles the story of how James Prince’s desire to buy his mother a vacuum and a house progressed into him being a successful entrepreneur in music, boxing and multiple other enterprises. And while he is well known throughout Houston, his leadership, determination and demeanor have also gained him respect from some of the most prominent names in Hip Hop and Black culture. At various points in his career, he’s had the ear of Tupac, Biggie, Maxine Waters, Floyd Mayweather and Larry Hoover.
The Art & Science of Respectis a literary experience. It’s a lecture course that grips you and peaks your curiosity, gives back stories on some of Hip Hop and boxing’s pivotal moments, and gives a crash course about the importance and value of being intentional and firm in all your endeavors. It’s a lesson plan on the importance of keeping your faith in God strong, and uplifting the community while you do it.
By telling his story, Prince drops gem after gem, combining the knowledge he gained in the streets with the corporate knowledge he gained during his various endeavors to share invaluable lessons:
1. The importance of sacrifice and not being too comfortable: J. Prince wanted for nothing before starting Rap-A-Lot because of various businesses above and underground. Eventually he was led to leave the streets behind and downsized his material possessions in order to put as much as possible into the label. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always secure, but he trusted his gut and it paid off.
2. The importance of planting and pruning: James Prince started Rap-A-Lot Records as a way to keep his younger brother, an aspiring rapper, out of the streets. It paved the way for more local artists to come on board and have an entry-point to the rap game. But when that same brother started showing that he wasn’t taking the work seriously enough, J. Prince cut him from the label. He would not be the only one. Over time, Prince would cut ties with other artists, partners and associates in order to give Rap-A-Lot its best chance.
3. The importance of staying true and loyal to who and what matters: When the rap game was so heavily focused on East and West, it was easy to wonder whether or not people should go to where the action is. Ultimately, J. Prince decided not to compromise Rap-A-Lot’s Houston connection by focusing on the perceived benefits of being in New York, and instead continued to build a Houston sound that attracted national attention.
4. The importance of pouring into the community that made you: While James Prince admits that he has built a reputation for being ruthless, he takes time to outline his concern for his city. He recognizes the brilliance of street guys and gave them the opportunity to go legit and gain the skills and experiences to compete in the corporate game without losing who they are. He supported ministry work and promoted safer sex initiatives through his condom company, Strapped. Prince also created a boxing gym to provide more outlets for children in Houston’s fifth ward, and more opportunities for them to experience being poured into by older community members.
The Art & Science of Respect is a masterclass and should be considered required reading—or listening—for any professional or entrepreneur. From the aspiring corporate CEO’s, to up-and-coming artists and creatives, to our people whose enterprises still exist in the streets, whose work, as Erykah told us, ain’t honest but it pays the bills.
This book is more than just a group of story lines behind the music Texas knows so well. Thisis the story of J. Prince the man, who is deeply intelligent, and even more aware. The man who was inspired by reading the book Think and Grow Rich, and was asked by Puff Daddy to negotiate a truce during the East coast vs. West coast rivalry that laid the groundwork for the culture to lose both Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.
His memoir is a testament to what happens when you prioritize the principles of Heart, Loyalty, and Commitment. It shows the outcome of demonstrating an uncompromising commitment to your people, your faith in God, engaging in good business, and ultimately, an uncompromising commitment to your city. When this is your foundation, you gain more than respect.
You become a Legend.
Lauren Whiteman is from Dallas, she eats Rudy’s, it’s been a while since she’s been to Big T though. She has a couple of degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is now an educator in the Dallas area. Lauren’s work focuses on advocacy, student development, and the miseducation of Black and African American students in higher education. She’s a TEDx presenter and hopes future generations never forget what to do for the 99 and the 2000. For her twitter shenanigans, visit @itsmewhiteman.