Learning from the Greats: A Conversation with J. Prince

In a time when hip hop was purely East Coast and West Coast, a hustler from Houston set out to save his younger brother, and in doing so shaped the landscape of the genre bringing Texas to the table. Now, a veteran in the game, James Prince, more commonly known as J. Prince, is taking a step from behind the curtain to pass along the wisdom he’s earned throughout his life with his memoir, “The Art & Science of Respect.” During a visit to Austin, we sat down with J. Prince to learn more about his mindset and how he’s kept the movement going all this time.

In his book, J. Prince describes three characteristics that he believes are critical to success and longevity: heart, loyalty and commitment. Throughout his years, he’s met many people who either had them or lacked them, and for him, knowing the difference was key. But these traits aren’t always easily presented.

 Images courtesy of James Prince

Images courtesy of James Prince

“I’m able to discover those traits based on extending the opportunity and the opposition and the different pressures where business or streets are concerned,” he explained. “Some of these guys have been battle tested. Some of my friends, I already knew were battle tested; I already knew their tolerance level; I already knew their work ethic, so some I already knew about. The others, I had to watch and observe and see if they could pass the tests.”

The Prince family is large and close knit, with each person playing a role in the grand scheme of things, but not everyone is born into the family — and being born into the family doesn’t guarantee a seat at the table, according to J. Prince. That much has to be earned.

“I consider everybody pretty close if I allow them to be part of my family,” he said. “You have to discover each man’s gift because not everybody is gifted the same. Let’s give an example of a football team: In order to be my quarterback or to be my running back or whatever, you’re going to have to have special gifts that qualify you to be there. I’m not about to let you be there because you’re my cousin or you’re my brother. Where business is concerned, I don’t get it mixed up or twisted from a personal perspective. So It’s real simple with me; it may be kind of hard for others because people get caught up in their emotions where business is concerned, and I don’t have that problem.”

Being able to keep the business and personal aspects of the family separate has proven to be a strong move for J. Prince throughout his career. Despite his rough past and hustler’s mentality, he credits mental clarity as a factor in his stability over the years.

“If you’ve got a lot of confusion, a lot of bitterness and unhappiness at the very place you leave from every day, you can start your day off on the wrong feet,” J. Prince added. “I didn’t have that problem then, and I don’t have it now, and I won’t have it in the future, so my advice to a man is that you want to have a strong woman — a “soldierette” as I call them — by your side that’s equally yoked with you. That equally yoked part is important because, I never meshed up well with a nonbeliever. If my whole foundation is a belief in this God and her’s is a belief in another God then we’re gonna clash somewhere down the line because the foundation is not balanced.”

Individuals looking to earn a spot in the extended Prince family are still in luck, as J. Prince and his sons are always looking for the chosen few to join their ranks, but it’s not easy, according to J. Prince.

“Here’s the thing with the music game,” he explained. “I’m not as active with that as I was in the day, so they would have to earn that through one of my sons, but if one is interested in earning that in boxing, which is my first love, then that’s a direct conversation with me. But I don’t work with a fighter just because he says he’s a fighter — I like to work with the elite. I don’t like losing, don’t like getting in the ring if I know I’m going to lose, so I try to align myself with the elite.”

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In his book, J. Prince details his love for boxing and how music had mostly been a detour from his love in an effort to keep his brother out of trouble. Now, after a making millions through the music industry, J. Prince is able to focus more on his original passion — boxing, and making a lot of money with it. Having managed greats like Andre Ward and Floyd Mayweather, J. Prince is no stranger to success in the ring, but he’s not resting on his laurels anytime soon.

“The ultimate goal as far as I’m concerned is to see my fighters become millionaires,” he exclaimed. “That’s one of my goals. Every fighter I represent, I want to see him become a millionaire outside of the ring. From there, to become a millionaire there are calculated steps and different things that have to be taken to get there and it’s my goal: to protect them along the journey, make sure no one is cheating them, all the way up until we become champion and ultimately they can become a millionaire.”

While it’s easy to look at the life of J. Prince now and believe that he’s had a perfect record in business, the road to riches wasn’t a smooth one. The driving force behind him? Perseverance.

“I’ve learned from every business that I’ve been in — it was a lot of trial and error with a lot of things I’ve tried,” he explained. “Anybody that’s scared of failure will never make it anywhere. By no means do I want one to think that everything I tried, that I hit the lottery with it — it was trial and error. I tell everybody it took me seven years, eight years to really see a profit in the music game because I didn’t know what I was doing because I had to hit my head; I didn’t have anybody to help me or to point me in the right direction. But I figured it out. It’s something about knowing the formula to success. Once you really know those ingredients you can apply it to any business, all it’s about at that point is learning the lay of the land and the laws of the land, where that business is concerned and I’ve been able to diversify my portfolio into music into boxing into real estate and a few different areas because I got that formula down packed now.”

Now, a seasoned mogul across industries, J. Prince carries a name with more weight than most, and he continues to use his clout to influence the landscape in both hip hop and boxing. Despite being a legend throughout Texas, J. Prince has often maintained an understated presence, letting his force be felt behind closed doors.

“I’m a gifted individual,” he elaborated. “I believe my gifts come from up above. I didn't go to college. I didn’t go to any of these places that would really educate me about what I have, so I give all credit to God.And I’m self made. Dealing with me, you’re dealing with an individual that figured out how to turn nothing into something. If one can figure out how to turn nothing into something, imagine having something — it makes life much easier. It’s those kinds of situations, and then you have my mentality. I have the mental aspect of not selling out. A lot of people are moved by money and they sell out. And my track record, in boxing and music, is I could never be bought. I’d never sell any of my people out, and that’s important when you’re dealing with people’s money; to have an individual that you know isn’t going to play with his character or his word because of a dollar. That’s what makes me stand out like a sore thumb, because many are called, but few are chosen — and I’m a chosen one.”

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.