James Prince Opens Up About Drake, Beyonce and New Memoir 'The Art & Science of Respect'

By
James Prince
Mindy Best/Getty Images

Behind every famous musician is a lot of other people making that magic happen.

For Drake (and many others), one of those people is James “J” Prince, the founder and CEO of Rap-A-Lot Records, who, along with his son, Jas Prince, is thought of as the driving force behind the rapper’s success. Earlier this year, Prince penned his memoir, The Art & Science of Respect: A Memoir, with the “In My Feelings” rapper writing the forward. The famed promoter and boxing manager sat down exclusively with ET to discuss his book, his rise from the ghetto and his illustrious career in the music industry. 

Prince is an extremely private man, and considered by many to be the godfather of the rap music industry, as he influenced musicians like JAY-Z, Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, in addition to boxer Floyd Mayweather, who Prince managed as the first client of his 18-year-old management firm, Prince Boxing. Despite often letting others take the spotlight, Prince decided to pen his memoir because he wanted to lead by example. 

“I wanted to be a voice, beginning with ghettos all over the world, a voice to those that dream big and have little resources. I wanted to be one who fertilized the seeds of those dreamers,” Prince explains to ET. 

The CEO was able to make the difficult transition in his early life from the streets to the boardroom, but it was his early experiences that made him able to work with and relate to a wide variety of talents. “In the hood where I’m from (the 5th ward of Houston), I had the opportunity to mingle and socialize with a lot of colorful personalities. I was able to bring a lot of things that I learned from the hood into corporate America and I guess use it from a different angle, from a different point of view,” he says. “That gift is what set me apart.”

It is that transition that Prince was most excited to write about. “That’s the part of the story that really changed my life the most," he shares. "If I hadn’t made that deal, my story would have ended and I would have never accomplished everything I have in the musical realm, or the boxing realm and many other things. That was one of my highlight moments.”

But while writing, Prince also learned some things he did not realize, particularly after he told Drake that he wanted him to write the forward. Drake, who thought the opportunity was an honor, had been picking up on things from his mentor that he never would have known. “Drake took me down memory lane to some things I didn’t know he was paying attention to,” he says. “He was watching and observing everything, and for him to make a statement that he wanted to do for Toronto what I had done for Houston -- it truly really meant a lot to me.”

The 54-year-old has certainly done a lot for the neighborhood he grew up in. For over 20 years, he’s worked to promote hip-hop and art throughout the city, which celebrates an official James Prince Day to thank him for the recreation center he built and the work he has done in education and testing for HIV/AIDS in the black community. 

Though he has had much success, Prince, who has a movie and documentary series planned for 2019, also admits he's made some mistakes, notably passing on the opportunity to work with Destiny’s Child.  “Mathew Knowles, Beyonce's dad, and another woman who was managing Destiny’s Child at the time wanted me to be involved in their beginning stages," he recalls. "I had to turn that down because I didn’t want kids around the gangster movement I was putting together with my hip-hop artists. I was in a different frame of mind as a young 20-something-year-old than I am now, but I am extremely happy of the road to success they have taken and everything they have accomplished.”